It’s no secret that the Pittsburgh Steelers need to add players in free agency and the NFL Draft, especially on defense.
So why has there been so much buzz about the Steelers taking a receiver in the first round? From fans on Steelers message boards to experts on respected sites such as our very own FanSided, it seems like there is a strong desire to go receiver. Let’s examine why.
This begins on Feb. 14, when Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette hosted a web chat and was asked a question about the Steelers’ receiver situation. The bit that readers took high interest in was this: “Their intent is to take a tall receiver early — they have already indicated that to Ben Roethlisberger“.
That report gained more steam when Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert went on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh as Colbert talked of getting Ben the weapons he needs to optimize his final years. This got experts and fans talking as Roethlisberger has expressed his desire for a tall receiver for most of his career.
It just so happens that those big, strong and tall receivers are some of the top receivers in the upcoming draft. Both Texas A&M’s Mike Evans and Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin measure over 6-foot-4 and weigh over 230 pounds, along with showing a great ability as tough red-zone threats. The praise being thrown to these guys has been high to say the least.
In a perfect world, the Steelers would be able to draft one of these guys, sadly they can’t for very different reasons.
The Steelers can’t draft Evans, because to be frank there is no way in the world he falls to pick No. 15. Barring a trade up or some crazy events, Evans should be a surefire top-10 pick.
His great size, red-zone ability and excellent speed means that teams in need of a receiver like the Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions will want a receiver like Evans. If Evans falls, he’s the pick no doubt, but he’s not falling to No. 15 unless some drastic events happen.
As for Benjamin, the Steelers can’t draft him either. I understand that he has a lot of raw talent and at times he looked brilliant, but when you invest a pick in the first two rounds, let alone the first round, and you have much more pressing needs at other positions, you better be sure the kid pans out.
Benjamin does not have top-notch speed as evidenced by his 4.61 40-yard dash time at the scouting combine. He also struggles with his route running and tends to drop the easy catch, which signifies lack of concentration. What Benjamin possesses is great size and physicality coupled with a tremendous ability to make the catch in traffic.
These are great qualities and in another situation they would be enough. Unfortunately, the Steelers need almost every position bolstered on defense. Despite the transition tag being put on Jason Worilds and the re-signing of Polamalu, there is still the issue of keeping underachiever Ziggy Hood or injury-prone (and possibly retiring) Keisel.
The problem of cutting Ryan Clark and having the inexperienced Shamarko Thomas not only start, but also play his natural position is still there. The glaring issue that William Gay may be the best cornerback and Taylor is at the end of his career can’t be ignored, either.
The Steelers have done a great job of bringing in talented mid-round receivers under Colbert, as proven by Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace and to a lesser extent Emmanuel Sanders. While Markus Wheaton hasn’t been seen much, coaches are very high on him and I also see a lot of potential in him. At the minimum he’s another Sanders, which isn’t that bad compared to other receiving corps in this league, but I see more in him.
The Steelers should bring in a tall receiver for Ben as it would give them a dynamic they have not had in a long time. With the type of quarterback Ben is, with a strong arm and an ability to extend the play, a big red-zone target would be beneficial for his career and the Steelers’ success.
The Steelers should go back to their bread and butter of the mid-round receiver. You may be able to get an Allen Robinson or a Martavis Bryant. Both of them have some faults, but drafting wideouts later gives you two picks to address the defense.
You could even make a trade and get another second round pick which could bring you Jordan Matthews, one of my favorite players in this draft. He has some faults, but with a great organization, culture and coaching staff behind him he could be a game changer for the Steelers.
If Evans doesn’t fall that you have to go defense at the very least with your first-round pick, although it would be wise to spend your first two picks on defense. As much as Benjamin’s measurables jump off the charts, he just is a luxury the Steelers can’t afford at this moment.
While Ben, analysts and diehard Steelers fans desperately want that big and tall receiver that has star potential, we need to be realistic and work on the foundation of the house before we can put in the shiny new big-screen TV.
Don’t agree? Think I nailed it on the head? Let me know, tell me what you think, comment on my post and we can discuss. Your opinion is valid no matter if you agree or disagree, and I love a good debate just as much as I love a good discussion.
Josh is a staff writer for City of Champions. Follow him on Twitter.