Steelers Address Some Needs, But Not All – By Mike Spell
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|Saturday, May 05, 2007
By Mike Spell
Steelers Fever Columnist
Does it get better than the draft … all the speculation, the last second dealings, the shockers?
This draft had all of this and more. The Steelers, not surprisingly, drafted linebacker Lawrence Timmons with the 15th selection of the first round. It was a very good selection.
Timmons fills an obvious need at outside linebacker that was created by the release of Joey Porter. Timmons, at this point in time, is number two on the depth chart behind James Harrison. Head coach Mike Tomlin has stated that he plans to use Timmons as a situational pass rusher and special teams player.
Tomlin also stated that is the plan with second-round selection Lamar Woodley. The standout defensive end from Michigan will be moved to outside linebacker where his explosive speed off the corner will be turned loose on passing downs. Woodley brings some serious attitude to a defense that may need some after Porter’s departure.
The Steelers brass felt that the lack of a pass rush led to the problems in the secondary. Further proof of this belief was the selection of only one defensive back, William Gay, and in the fifth round no less.
It is hoped that the speed of Timmons and Woodley will provide the needed rush to force the opposing quarterback to make bad decisions. These two selections should form the foundation of a new, young core upon which the Steelers can begin building. It is no secret that the defense, particularly the linebackers, is in need of some youth and speed. The Steelers did an excellent job of addressing that need.
Defensive end Ryan McBean also will provide some youth and depth behind Aaron Smith and Travis Kirschke, while Gay will compete for a spot on the nickel and dime packages.
The same cannot be said about the situation in the backfield. The Steelers still lack quality depth behind Willie Parker. Najeh Davenport has not proven that he can be that big back that can pound out yardage in short-yardage scenarios or that he can stay healthy. The Steelers chose to pass on several productive backs, such as Tony Hunt and Antonio Pittman, who could have been very productive as backups to Parker.
Where is the commitment to the power running game that Tomlin has been preaching? Where is the back that is going to loosen teeth and rattle helmets as he hits the line? Could it be free agent Kevin Barlow? While I do like the selection of Matt Spaeth in the third round, a beast of a blocker who can also make a catch, the Steelers failed to address this aspect of the running game. Perhaps this is a signal that the offense is going to rely more on the pass, a bit of a scary thought the way Ben Roethlisberger struggled last season.
The selection of guard Cameron Stephenson is a solid pick providing some depth. It may also signal the fact that Alan Faneca, whose unhappiness with the team is well chronicled, may not be back after 2007. Time will tell.
The selection of Dallas Baker in the seventh round may also provide some depth at wide receiver and special teams if he is able to fight his way onto the team.
While the offense may have been somewhat neglected, not a running back and only one receiver taken, special teams were not. Both Timmons and Woodley are being penciled in to help provide some serious pop on the coverage teams. The fourth-round selection of punter Daniel Sepulveda also sent this point home. The writing is on the wall for Chris Gardocki, as no team is going to carry two punters and this move will save the Steelers some cap space. Most experts believe that Sepulveda was the highest-rated punter, but to trade up in the fourth round to get him is probably a bit of a reach.
So to sum up this draft, the Steelers definitely upgraded the overall talent level but left many wondering why they failed to address the running back and cornerback positions. Does the front office and coaching staff really feel that Ike Taylor will turn things around? Are they really that confident in Davenport? If so, on what basis?
Overall, I would give the draft a B. The players the Steelers selected were very good, but the lack of addressing several areas of need raises some concerns.