Found December 31, 2012 on SteelBlitz Steelers Blog:
The Steelers defense has some older players as everyone knows and year after year Steelers fans have heard how that age was going to result in poor play. However, for the second straight season the Steelers ranked first in the NFL in total defense showing that age hasn’t caught up with them yet. Even so in 2013 the Steelers could be fielding a much younger defense. Due to cap limitations the Steelers are almost guaranteed to be looking to cut outside linebacker James Harrison, who will be 35 next season. Middle linebacker Larry Foote, long-time nose tackle, and back-up safety Will Allen are all free agents. Allen is the youngest of the three at 30, but will be 31 by the start of the 2013 season. Another cap casualty could come in the form of the 34 year-old Brett Keisel, who started at defensive end for the Steelers again this season. That leaves the oldest players on the defense as the two safeties, Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark, as well as corner-back Ike Taylor. The starting seven will likely consist of Jason Woilds taking over for Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Cameron Heyward, Ziggy Hood, Steve McLendon, Lawrence Timmons, and some combination of Sean Spence, Stevenson Sylvester or a draft pick/free agent next to Timmons. That would leave the recently 28 year-old Woodley as the oldest player up front for the Steelers defense. It also means that the only positions left to fill with youth are the safety spots and Ike Taylor’s spot as the top corner. Keenan Lewis, who is also a free agent, will be the number one corner of the future if the Steelers retain him. Behind him are a young group of promising players in Cortez Allen, Curtis Brown, Josh Victorian, Rob Golden, and DeMarcus Van ****. Unless Lewis bolts in free agency corner doesn’t seem to be a pressing need for the Steelers in 2013. So where will the Steelers be looking to draft for defense in 2013? The most logical and necessary spots are outside linebacker, middle linebacker and, of course, safety. These three positions could be targeted with the top three picks in the draft for the Steelers. At number one the Steelers, most likely, would love to have Manti Te’o the top middle linebacker prospect out of Notre Dame. It is unlikely, however, that he will drop to the Steelers at number 17 (the spot they are locked into after yesterday’s win over the Browns). Another middle linebacker to keep an eye on in the first round is Alec Ogletree of Georgia who should be around when the Steelers make their selection. The Steelers may also try and grab an elite edge rusher in the first round to replace James Harrison if they aren’t ready to give Jason Worilds the starting job. Guys like Dion Jordan of Oregon and Barkevious Mingo of LSU could both be options at 17. Safety is a huge need in this draft with both Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark potentially entering their last years with the team in 2013. As of now there are not elite safety talents in the draft deserving of a middle-of-the-first-round-pick. However, there are many very good safety prospects expected to go in the second and third rounds. Guys like Eric Reid of LSU, TJ McDonald of USC, Kenny Vaccarro of Texas, and Bacarri Rambo of Georgia could all be options for the Steelers. If the Steelers decide to go outside linebacker in the first round they could still find a solid middle-linebacker a few rounds later. One potential prospect is Shayne Skov of Stanford who is currently projected as a third round pick. A draft of Mingo in the first to replace Harrison, Reid or McDonald in the second to replace Clark, and Skov in the third to replace Foote would in just three rounds reload the Steelers defense for the future. The real questions right now: What is the plan for Jason Worilds? Where do the Steelers plan to play Sean Spence (their 2012 third round pick? And will they make any plays in free agency? Worilds was second on the team in sacks with 5 and played well as a back-up for Woodley and Harrison. If the Steelers have faith in him to be the successor to Harrison there is no need to draft an outside linebacker in the first round. Spence was rumored to be a potential safety, but is more likely to be a middle linebacker which is his normal position. If the Steelers see Spence as a future pair with Timmons they may bring Foote back on a one year deal and have him split time with Spence in 2013. In 2014 Spence would then be ready to take over next to Timmons. As for free agents there are a couple of intriguing names out there. One that the Steelers should definitely kick the tires on is Rey Maualuga a middle linebacker who has plays for the Bengals. Maualuga has lost snaps to rookie Vontaze Burfict and may not be retained in free agency. If the price is right Maualuga could be the perfect compliment to Timmons in the middle of the Steelers 3-4 alignment. The post Steelers Defensive Draft Needs: Replacements for James Harrison, Troy Polamalu, and Ryan Clark Must be Addressed appeared first on SteelBlitz.
1 Comment:
  • Any chance we can cut Woodley? He is officially done. Absolutely no production from him when it counted. Hurt the last two years and cannot get to the quarterback.

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