Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Steelers all-in on Big Ben
By Scott Brown
PITTSBURGH -- Another public affirmation of the Steelers' commitment to Ben Roethlisberger provided more proof that the team plans to go all-in on its franchise quarterback.
Kevin Colbert's comments Wednesday about the organization needing to do its part to help Roethlisberger dovetail with recent ones the general manager made about the Steelers having to surround Big Ben with as much talent as possible to maximize his remaining years.
And they again point to the Steelers fetching the tall wide receiver Roethlisberger has long coveted or a game-breaking one early in the 2014 NFL draft.
The offense around Roethlisberger is mostly set, but it could use another wide receiver, especially if Emmanuel Sanders, who started opposite Pro Bowler Antonio Brown last season, signs elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent.
A draft class that is deep, in general, looks particularly strong at wide receiver. And the Steelers, picking at No. 15 overall, could have their choice of wide receivers after Clemson's Sammy Watkins -- from rangy ones such as Texas A&M's Mike Evans and Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin -- to smaller but polished ones such as Southern Cal's Marqise Lee.
The Steelers theoretically could help Roethlisberger by taking a left tackle with their first pick. But it's not a glaring need after the way Kelvin Beachum played in 11 starts last season, and the Steelers have invested two first-round picks and two second-round picks since 2010 on their offensive line.
It's time to let new offensive coach Mike Munchak, one of the best hires of the offseason, to get the most out of those players, particularly tackles Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert.
Any number of positions on defense also could be addressed with the first-round pick, and even if the Steelers target a pass-catcher at No. 15, they might find North Carolina's Eric Ebron too tempting to pass on if he is still available.
The NFL scouting combine, which starts Thursday, should provide more clarity for the Steelers. They will get an extended look at the underclassmen as a group and will presumably fill in more blanks as they start to assemble their draft board.
It is too early to tell where the Steelers will find help for Roethlisberger in this draft. But it has become clear that giving him the best chance of succeeding in the coming seasons has become as much of a priority for the Steelers as addressing a defense that is in need of reinforcements.