Pick #25 — Pittsburgh Steelers
Had it not been for injuries to practically everyone in black & yellow last season — and some unfortunate fumble luck in the playoffs — this team may have been a surprise Super Bowl participant. Even with everything working against them — including losing their top two running backs, having their QB playing with an injury to his throwing arm, and losing their wideout on a reckless concussion-inducing head injury (many of which occurred in that brutal playoff game against the Bengals) — this team was still the one closest to knocking off the Broncos out of any team which faced them, and could have challenged both New England and Carolina if given the chance.
But of course, even with that success, they can’t just rest on their laurels. The return to health of their main contributors on offense will be a great start to their chances in 2016, but there are some obvious areas in need of improvement that could be exploited by their opponents yet again this season if they don’t improve upon them.
With the year-long suspension of Martavis Bryant (and the possibility of long-term problems related to this same type of issue), another receiver should be picked up somewhere. The offensive line can’t bank on Maurkice Pouncey to stay healthy, nor should they sit still with the current tackle situation (if not fixing it for this year, then at least preparing for the future at that spot). A corner (or two) has been a necessity for practically forever, they could use another safety, and a nose tackle would be a welcome addition too.
Let’s first agree that a corner isn’t going here; with the Steelers’ draft history, it is unlikely they add one in the first (even if they did, he probably wouldn’t play for awhile; apparently their scheme is so complex that their coaches don’t trust young corners to be able to handle it). They probably don’t go offensive line either; it seems they will hope the current players stay healthy and step up. The main receiving types are off the board as well.
I could see a safety here (apparently that spot doesn’t get the same level of scrutiny from coaches as the corners do; go figure), but the talents available point to the better move being to target one of the remaining defensive linemen who have lasted to this point.
Rankins, Reed, Butler and Billings remain from the top tier.
The word on Rankins tends to sit mostly on him being best in a 4-3, so he’s out. Butler is probably the most intriguing of the group, but he’s more of a 3-4 end instead of the nose tackle type needed here.
This leaves Billings vs Reed.
Reed has his limitations and will likely only be reliable as a run stuffer; Billings has potential, but his “extreme” youth gets talked up a lot, and teams may not believe he’s mature (physically and mentally) to handle the rigors of the NFL right away.
The Steelers don’t feel like a team that wants to wait on the potential of Billings to maybe happen; with Reed, they would be getting an instant contributor at a needed area.