´ Steel Curtain Rising: Steelers Draft Needs at Defensive Line

Who gets the game ball for the Steelers win over the Texans?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Steelers Draft Needs at Defensive Line

Having discussed the Steelers draft needs at tight end and quarterback, running backs and wide receivers, and offensive line, we now turn our attention to the defensive side of the ball.

Steelers Needs at Defensive End

The Steelers drafted Ziggy Hood with their first round pick in 2009 and drafted Cameron Heyward with their first round pick in 2011, therefore they can't possibly be thinking of drafting a defensive lineman early in the 2012 NFL Draft, right?

Not quite.

Yes, the Steelers have worked hard to stock themselves to inject youth into their defensive line, and while Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward both need to develop more, the team has good depth when you pair those two with Brett Keisel.

But Brett Keisel turns 34 this year, and the Steelers have very little in terms of proven talent behind their top three defensive ends, as evidenced by the playoff loss vs. Denver (although any 3-4 team that loses both a starting end and a nose tackle is going to struggle.)

We should also note for the record that the Steelers have Al Woods under contract. Woods hasn't done a whole lot, but Mike Tomlin appears to like the guy.

The Steelers need to continue to stock their bull pen at defensive end, but realistically they won’t look to do so until relatively late in the draft.
  • Priority of defensive end for the Steelers in the 2012 NFL draft: Medium/low
Steelers Needs at Nose Tackle

Casey Hampton has been the rock upon which the Steelers defense of the last decade has been built, figuratively, if not literally. Alas Casey Hampton’s time in the NFL is coming to an end. Coming off an ACL injury, he agreed to a massive pay cut.

While Casey Hampton's paycut assured that he will make the team in 2012, one can also read into it that if Hampton had not agreed to the pay cut, the Steelers may have simply cut him. It is conceivable that Hampton might have another year in him, assuming he avoid injury in 2012, but either way “Life’s Work” is fast closing in on Big Snack.

Besides Hampton, who might not even start the season, the Steelers have Steve McLendon, who signed in 2010 as an unrestricted rookie free agent. McLendon looked solid in the time he has played, but it’s doubtful he can be counted on as a long-term answer.

The Steelers also have Corbin Bryant and Elisha Joseph on their roster at NT. The former was a training camp phenomena, for a while, the later remains a total unknown.

All of this points to the Steelers urgently needing to groom a successor to Casey Hampton, ASAP.
Word from the Draft Nicks is however, that the nose tackle is especially thin in the 2011 NFL Draft class.

The Steelers shouldn’t and probably won’t reach to fill this need. And that’s a good thing, because when you reach, Troy Edwards happens. But that doesn’t alter the reality that in an ideal world, the Steelers would address nose tackle very early in the draft.
  • Priority of defensive end for the Steelers in the 2011 NFL draft: High
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