Steeler Needs:
1) Tight End
2) Linebacker
3) Cornerback
4) Wide Receiver

1st Round draft probability

Who Will the Steelers Draft?
Pre-Draft Analysis - 2005

Guessing the Steelers' needs after a 15-1 season is prerry hard. This team nearly won the Super Bowl because their team was solid and didn't have any holes. Even with the right side of their Offensive Line gone via Free agency, the Steelers aren't looking for immediate help in the O line through the Draft. The Secondary, which perpetually gets blamed for Steeler losses, is very deep, if not overwhelmingly talented. The needs of the Steelers is to re-stock their depth team wide, except at Quarterback and Running Back. They have starters at every position, but very little depth behind them, which makes guessing a 1st round pick (#30!) almost comical. Still, that's what die-hard Steeler fans live for in the off-season...

Steeler Draft Strategy
The Steelers deviated in 2004 from the prior strategy of drafting proven players from big, Division I programs on the first day (rounds 1-3) of the Draft. What hasn't changed is drafting young men who are great people first and outstanding football players second. That eliminates several players with questionable character flaws. With so many ways to go, the Steelers will most likely pick the best player available who won't bust, and is a very solid player, like 2003 1st rounder Kendall Simmons. IMHO, avoiding another disaster like Jamain Stephens (1996 1st round pick) is very important.

Tight End
The choice of Tight End as the team's most important need in itself says how little the Steelers actually need a player at one position. Still, Offensive Coord' Ken Wisenhunt likes to use 2 TE formations to run and throw the ball on 1st and 2nd downs. The Steelers need players who can block effectively on the line and still be a threat in the passing game. At the end of last year, Jerame Tuman was the only player on the team who fit that description. Currently, the Steelers have only Tuman, 1st year man Matt Kranchick and journeyman Marco Battaglia on the roster. Matt Cushing just signed (4/8/05) and can play Fullback in a pinch, but he doesn't scare anyone on the field.

Heath Miller – 6-5, 255, Virginia -- A big-time receiving threat who might be able to block but hasn't had to in college. 4.6 speed and nice hands. Scored a very high 39 on the Wonderlic. Injuries have led to rumors that he is worn out and used up. Visited Steelers 4/13/05. Mid-late 1st round.
Kevin Everett – 6-4, 250 Miami -- all-receiver and no blocker at this point. Like K. Winslow and J. Shockey before him, 2nd round
Alex Smith
– 6-5, 250, Stanford -- A hard worker who has good speed and nice hands. Desire to block at this stage in his career is a big ?. 2nd round
Joel Dreessen – 6-4, 255, Colo St. -- The Steelers like Colorado players, hard worker, good blocker. 3rd round

Outside Linebacker
The Steelers have 4 starters and nothing after that. Alonzo Jackson needs a miracle to become a dangerous player and James Harrison can't start a whole season, although he played GREAT when given the opportunity. The team also has to look to the future. Joey Porter isn't getting any younger and neither is team MVP James Farrior. In this year's draft there is a lot of depth at linebacker. As always, the Steelers will be looking for LB's who fit the 3-4 defensive scheme:

Shawne Merriman - 6-4, 270 Maryland -- Top 15 pick
Erasmus James -
6-4, 265 Wisconsin -- Looks like Baltimore's Terrell Suggs, but more stout. Played DE in college. mid 1st round.
Demarcus Ware - 6-2, 240 Troy State -- He is being touted as the next Joey Porter, but it's a big leap from Troy State to the NFL. Played well at Senior Bowl. Late 1st round.
Darryl Blackstock - 6-3, 240 Virginia -- Played in a 3-4 at a major school and was excellent as a pass-rusher. Durable (started last 38 games) and productive (19% of tackles were for a loss). late Late 1st round.
Rian Wallace - 6-2, 240 Temple -- Small school prospect, 3rd round
Jonathan Welsh - 6-3, 240 Wisconsin -- Played LB for only 2 years in college. Has great speed (4.5) and quickness. 100% effort guy. 3rd round

2004 saw a changing of the guard in the secondary: 4 new starters. The result was a much better defense. Willie Williams is not a long-term answer at corner, but he thrives in the new rules. Last year's #2 pick Ricardo Colclough should take over for him by the middle of the season. On the other side, Deshea Townsend played very well in 2004, but doesn't have 4.4 speed anymore. Ike Taylor looks lost sometimes and isn't a physical player. If the Steelers can improve their pass rush from the linebackers, this unit will be fine. Getting a new, speedier player to eventually replace Townsend would be a good idea.This year's Draft prospects are deep and fast:

PacMan Jones – 5-10, 185 West Virginia -- Great speed (4.38 40), quickness and can return punts, early 1st round.
Antrel Rolle 6-0, 195 Miami -- Very big, physical corner. Not related to the Ravens' Samari Rolle. early 1st round.
Carlos Rogers – 6-0, 195 Auburn -- Won the Jim Thorpe Award (Nation's top College defensive back), 4.35 speed. Ready to start in the NFL today - and then some. Mid 1st round.
Justin Miller 5-10, 200 Auburn -- Feisty, fast (4.37), well-built corner who can also return kickoffs (3 TD's). Arrested for disorderly conduct 4/13. Mid 1st round.
Fabian Washington 5-10, 185 Nebraska -- Small, but super fast (4.3). Not a lot of big game experience. Should have played another year of college. late 1st round.
Marlin Jackson – 6-1, 196, Michigan -- Would have been a top 20 pick last year, but NFL rules changes has dropped this big, physical and very experienced corner. A native of Sharon, PA would love to play for Steelers. late 1st - early 2nd round
Corey Webster – 6-0, 205 LSU -- Big cover man is a converted QB, a bit raw, 2nd round.
Eric Green – 5-11, 195 Virginia Tech -- Experienced 5th year senior has good quickness and coverage skills . 2nd round

Wide Receiver
With Hines Ward, Cedric Wilson and Antwaan Randle-El on the team, it is unlikely that the Steelers will invest big money in another Wideout. However, Ward and Randle-El are not signed past this year, so if a talented, big receiver falls to them at #30, they will pounce. The Steelers need to eventually get a tall wideout to replace P. Burress. Lee Mays is big, but his hands are not soft.

Mike Williams - 6-5, 230, USC - What Plaxico Burress could have been: he can catch the tough ball, like a high red-zone pass, that Plex dropped in the playoffs. Top 10
Braylon Edwards - 6-2, 210, Michigan - Looks like another David Terell to me. Top 10
Troy Williamson - 6-2, 200, S. Carolina - Big time deep threat, career average of just under 20 yards per catch. 1st round
Roddy White  - 6-1, 205, Alabama - Very fast, durable and experienced. 1st round
Mark Clayton - 5-10, 185, Oklahoma - Very productive, smooth, but small receiver. Reminds me of Peter Warrick.
Vincent Jackson - 6-5, 240, N. Colorado - He looks like a TE, but runs and catches like a WR. Put up HUGE numbers in college. Is bigger and faster than Plaxico Burress. Very intriguing guy. Scored a very high 33 on the Wonderlic test. late 1st -early 2nd Round
Reggie Brown - 6-1, 190, Georgia - Not very fast or very big. I don't like him that much. Looks like Travis Taylor to me. 2nd Round
Matt Jones
– 6-6, 240, Arkansas -- Former QB who has 4.4 speed and nice hands. A big project who could bust. 2nd round
Mark Bradley - 6-1, 200, Oklahoma - He gets lost in the excitement over teammate Mark Clayton, but I like his NFL potential more because of his size. Reminds me of Keary Colbert from last year's draft. A quietly productive WR. late 2nd-3rd round.
Terrence Murphy - 6-1, 195, Texas A+M - A slender and quick speedster who reportedly works hard and has a good attitude. Runs good routes, but hands are suspect. Has potential and needs time to develop. late 2nd-3rd round.
Craig Bragg - 6-1, 185, UCLA - A Steve Largent type - not real fast but very productive. Not flashy - just great hands, great route running and a passion for the game. 3rd round.
Cro Thorpe - 6-1, 190, Florida St. - Very fast receiver who battled a broken leg and poor QB play, 3rd round

Steelers First Round Draft Selection Probability*:

Pre-Draft Odds
Actual Draft Position
Heath Miller, TE - 1:4
#30 - Steelers  
Fabian Washington, CB - 1:6
#23 - Oakland  
Roddy White, WR - 1:8
#27 - Atlanta  
Jusitn Miller, CB - 1:12
 #57 - NY Jets
Darryl Blackstock, LB - 1:12
 #95 - Arizona

Marlin Jackson, CB - 1:15

 #29 - Indianapolis
Vincent Jackson, WR - 1:20
#61 - San Diego  
Alex Smith, TE - 1:40
#71 - Tampa Bay  
Demarcus Ware, LB - 1:50
#11 - Dallas
Shaun Cody, DE - 1:50
#37 - Detroit  
Matt Jones, WR - 1:100
 #21 - Jacksonville
Reggie Brown, WR - 1:150
#35 - Philadelphia  
Troy Williamson, WR - 1:250
#7 - Minnesota
Bennie Cunningham - 1:1,000,000
*Probability is based upon who is likely to be available, and whom the Steelers may pick from the players still available at the #30 position. It is not an indication of whom the Steelers like best, or whom Mark Berger likes best.

updated 04/24/05

©Mark Berger,