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The Pittsburgh Steelers joined their AFC North rivals, the Baltimore Ravens, sitting at home watching the playoffs from their couches. A rare postseason miss for the Steelers can only mean the team will make the necessary changes in the offseason to return to contender status, and the Black and Yellow usually do it through the draft.
Revamping the roster begins and ends with building from the inside out. Both the offensive and defensive lines need help, as free agency will likely mean an end to Brett Keisel’s and Ziggy Hood’s time in Pittsburgh. On the offensive line, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, and David DeCastro comprise a strong interior presence, but the team will likely need to pick up a tackle sometime in the early or middle rounds.
The staples of the Steelers secondary — Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, and Ike Taylor — are all getting up there in age. Taylor and Polamalu may have some tread left on their tires, but Clark is an impending free agent and the team won’t overpay to retain the veteran. They’ll need to address cornerback early or bank on finding a sleeper later on.
The Pittsburgh Steelers 2014 draft needs begin with offensive tackle, defensive tackle, and cornerback with their first pick, and all three positions offer quality prospects that early in the round.
The offensive tackle crop is as good as any, with Greg Robinson and Taylor Lewan potentially available when the Steelers are on the clock. Robinson is an agile, powerful blocker with room to develop into a premiere pass-protector in the league. Lewan is probably ready to start Week 1, which may be demanded of the tackle the Steelers draft.
Notre Dame’s Louis Nix III is a popular name mentioned in connection with Pittsburgh. Injuries derailed his last season in South Bend but, when healthy and in shape, Nix was a force against both the run and the pass, able to pressure the quarterback while taking up space and absorbing blockers. Nose tackle is an integral part of the Steelers’ success on defense.
Should the team opt to go after a corner, they may have their pick of one of the top two prospects. Justin Gilbert is this year’s ballhawker, who can also lend a hand as a return specialist. The Jim Thorpe Award winner, Darqueze Dennard, is being touted as this year’s shutdown corner. The team could also elect to wait until the second round to see if Lamarcus Joyner or Marcus Robertson fall into its lap.
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