Steeler Needs:
1) Defensive End
2) Offensive Tackle
3) Power Running Back
4) Cornerback
5) Wide Receiver

1st Round draft probability


Who Will the Steelers Draft?
Pre-Draft Analysis - 2008

Consensus opinion heading into this Steeler draft is that the team needs Offensive linemen, especially with the loss of All-Pro guard Alan Faneca. Even with Faneca in 2007, the team's offensive line play slipped.

However, with the recent signing of Justin Hartwig, that need is less pressing. Last year's free agent disapointment Sean Mahan should slide from Center to Guard, giving the team three ok players at the position (Kemoeatu and Simmons are the others). It is unlikely the Steelers would add a fourth Guard to the active roster via a high draft pick.

At Tackle this year, the team is set with Marvel Smith and Willie Colon. As a back-up, the team has Trai Essex, who performed well in his Playoff start against the Jags. Still to be resolved is what to do with Max Starks who was given the transition tag, meaning he will count about $7 million against the salary cap unless the Steelers sign him to a long-term contract. Interestingly, the Steelers can take-back the offer any time before July. This leaves the door open for the team to use a high draft pick on a stud Offensive Tackle. This year's draft class is deep at Offensive Tackle and Marvel Smith is set to become a Free agent at the end of the season.

The Steelers have greater pressing needs, in my opinion, than Offensive linemen. As injuries showed at the end of last season where the team lost four of the last five games, the team is held together by threads. Many of its Starters are talented, but getting old and the depth of talent behind them is thin.

Steeler Draft Strategy
General Manager Kevin Colbert wasn't lying when he said the team could pick a player at any position in the 1st round except Quarterback and Tight End. The team could use help at all positions besides those two.

The Steelers, on the other hand, do not have any glaring holes they need to fill which gives them the luxury of flexibility and patience on draft day. I could see the team drafting an Offensive Tackle in the scenario described above, a Power Running back to compliment Willie Parker, a Wide receiver to replace the b$%ch-slapping Cedric Wilson, a defensive lineman to eventually replace Aaron Smith, an Inside Linebacker to replace James Farrior in one year, or a Cornerback to replace Deshea Townsend. And don't forget about Free Safety where Anthony Smith regressed and Ryan Clark's spleen injury may end his career.

As always, look for their first round pick to have been very productive in a big-time college program. Draft Odds below...

Defensive End The Steelers don't truly have a #1 need this year, but the way the Jags ran all over the Steelers without Aaron Smith bumps up this position on my priority list. Besides, head coach Mike Tomlin said that the team needed to get "younger and bigger" up front.

Chris Long - 6-3, 275, Virginia - The son of Raider legend Howie Long is a top 5 pick
Kentwan Balmer - 6-4, 310, North Carolina - Enormous potential, never translated into college production. 1st
Phillip Merling - 6-4, 275, Clemson - Player in 4-3, but could be a 3-4 end since he played the run better than the pass. 1st round
Frank Okam - 6-5, 335, Texas - Probably a Tackle, but he was a force in college. Looks like Shaun Rogers. 2nd-3rd round
Dre Moore - 6-4, 307, Maryland - Great motor and strength. Improved every year. Visited Steelers 3/17/08, 2nd-3rd round
Red Bryant - 6-4, 315, Texas A&M - Maybe better suited as a Tackle, but he's a pure run stuffer. 2nd-3rd round
Calais Campbell - 6-7, 290, Miami - Potential is huge, like his frame, but he may be just another Steeler DE bust, like fellow Hurricane DE, Orion Harris. 2nd-3rd round
Kendall Langford - 6-5, 290, Hampton - 3rd-4th round
Kenny Iwebema - 6-4, 275, Iowa - Hard worker who would fit in well as a 3-4 end. Could add more weight. 4th-5th round
Keilen Dykes - 6-5, 295, West Virginia - Visited Steelers 3/17/08, 4th-6th round

Offensive Tackle
3 of the four Steeler Offensive Tackles are not signed past this season. Given that Tackles command very high salaries, the Steelers will most likely spend a high draft pick on this position.

Jake Long - 6-7, 315, Michigan - I hear people say he's as good as Jonathan Ogden. We'll see. Top 5 pick.
Ryan Clady - 6-6, 310, Boide St. - Did not play in a big Conference, but is a pure LT. Top 15 pick
Chris Williams - 6-6, 315, Vanderbilt - Great pass blocker with lots of experience in a major college conference. 1st Round
Gosder Cherilus - 6-6, 315, Boston College- Has experience at both Tackle positions. 1st Round
Branden Albert - 6-7, 315, Virginia - Played as a guard in college (except two starts), but with his size and athletic ability he looks like a Left Tackle to me. 1st Round
Jeff Otah - 6-6, 340, Pitt - Huge guy who may be limited as only a Right Tackle. Coach Dave Wanstadt called him, "the best offensive lineman I've ever coached." Another example of why Wanny's not in the NFL anymore. 1st-2nd Round
Carl Nicks - 6-5, 345, Nebraska - Another Right Tackle who doesn't have a lot of college experience but has great athleticism. 2nd Round
Sam Baker - 6-5, 310, USC - 3rd Round
Oniel Cousins - 6-4, 308, UTEP - raw prospect from Jamaica who has improved. 3rd-5th round
John Greco - 6-5, 305, Toledo - Played LT in college but will probably play left guard in the NFL. 3rd-5th round
Anthony Collins - 6-5, 317, Kansas - Played both right and left Tackle. 3rd-5th round
Tony Hills - 6-5, 310, Texas - 3rd-5th round

Power Running Back
With the signing of Mewelde Moore as the team's punt returner and 3rd down back, Najeh Devenport's days may be numbered. The team still needs a power back to compliment Willie Parker and move the chains on 3rd and short.

Rashard Mendenhall - 5-10, 225, Illinois - Scored a ton of TD's in college. 1st round
Jonathan Stewart
- 5-10, 235 Oregon - Big, fast, powerful. His broken ankle is causing concerns. 1st round
Jehuu Caulcrick - 6-0, 258, Michigan St. - Huge ball carrier who exceled as a short yardage back scoring 21 TD's in 2007. A poor man's Brandon Jacobs.
Xavier Omon
- 5-11, 230 NW Missouri - Had 37 TD's in 2007!
A very tough runner. 4th-6th Round.
Jalen Parmele - 5-11, 225, Xavier - Working class type of back who can move the chains and is a good blocker. 4th-6th Round.
Peyton Hillis - 6-1, 240, Arkansas -Good pass-catching fullback who would be a good special teamer. 4th-6th Round.

Ike Taylor is back to 2005 form and Deshea Townsend has held off Bryant McFadden at the other corner. But the position could use a "fear" corner. Someone whom Offensive Coordinatorsand Quarterbacks fear when they consider which corner to challenge.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie - 6-2, 185, Tenn. St. - Extremely fast (4.3) and quick (6.74 3-cone drill) for someone so tall. Would be an excellent slot corner and could be a dominating cover man for a generation. He held the opposition to a miniscule 3.54 yards per pass attempt, the best of any collegiate defensive back over the last three seasons.Top 15 pick
Antoine Cason - 6-0, 190, Arizona - A complete corner with speed (4.45), smarts, quickness, hands and tackling ability. Can also return punts. 1st Round
Leodis McKelvin - 5-11, 190, Troy - Great punt returner who may not be a top Corner. 1st Round
Mike Jenkins - 6-0, 200, S. Florida - Started as a Free safety and he may be best suited there. Good tackler with good speed (4.4), but marginal quickness. Jenkins' time in the short shuttle was the slowest of any CB at the combine. 1st Round
Aqib Talib - 6-2, 200, Kansas - Was recruited as a safety. Got beat by some average college WR's deep. Maybe better as a Cover 2 corner who can face the play. Visited with the Steelers 3/20/08. 1st Round
Justin King -6-0, 185, Penn St. - Top speed (4.3) but had a poor senior season when he was asked to play 1 on 1 without safety help. Mike Tomlin attended his Pro Day workout 3/19/08. 1st-2nd Round
Brandon Flowers - 5-10,190, VA Tech - Physical and agressive lacking elite speed. Two-time All-American. 3rd-5th round
Tyvon Branch - 6-0, 200, Connecticut - Awesome speed (4.3), poor hands. Called secondary signals and may be a better safety. 2nd-5th round
Orlando Scandrick - 5-11, 188, Boise St. - 4.3 speed, suspect hands. 2nd-5th round
Tracy Porter - 5-11, 185, Indiana - 4.37 speed, first player in school history to return a punt, interception and fumble for touchdowns in his career to go with 16 interceptions. Tackling desire is a question. 2nd-5th round
Patrick Lee - 6-0, 195, Auburn - 4.4 speed, but started only one year, raw. 2nd-5th round
Terrence Wheatley - 5-9, 180, Colorado - Shutdown corner with speed (4.37) and return ability. A poor man's Pac-Man Jones. 2nd-5th round
Charles Godfrey - 6-0, 205, Iowa - Physical player who started as a safety. 4.45 speed. 2nd-5th round
Terrell Thomas - 6-1, 198, USC -Good, physical corner when he was healthy. May need to move to safety. 4th-7th round
Chevis Jackson -6-0, 190, LSU - Like other LSU corners is a bit slow, but physical. 4th-7th round

Wide Receiver
Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes are the starters. The Steelers do not have a big WR who can go over the middle, besides Ward. Cedric Wilson is gone, so the team also is looking for slot receivers. Nate Washington needs to get better - no news there. There are several tall wideouts this year.

Malcolm Kelly - 6-4, 225 Oklahoma - Fantastic hands. Big and can break tackles. Was very productive. 1st Round
Devin Thomas - 6-2, 215 Michigan St. - 4.40 speed who leaps well and returns kicks. Very nice hands and a willing blocker. Started only one year. Looks like Jerrry Rice to me. 1st Round
James Hardy - 6-5, 220 - Looks like a more physical Plexico Burress. 1st-2nd Round
DeSean Jackson - 5-10, 170, Cal - Super small and fast, I think he's too small. 1st-2nd Round
Limas Sweed - 6-4, 210, Texas - coming off a fractured wrist. Good speed (4.5). 1st-2nd Round
Andre Caldwell - 6-1, 200, Florida - The brother of Redskins WR Reche Caldwell is a Hines Ward clone. Dominating blocker who also is a very good receiver with great speed (4.37-40). Threw a TD PASS in the SEC championship game in 2006. 2nd round
Early Doucet - 6-0, 210, LSU - Nice first name. 2nd-3rd round.
Mario Manningham - 6-0, 185, Michigan - Not very fast or big, desire questioned. Productive player. 2nd-3rd round.
Donnie Avery - 5-11,192, Houston - Awesome 4.3 speed and very quick. Can return kicks. 2nd-3rd round.
Earl Bennett - 6-0, 205, Vanderbilt - Smart route runner, good hands. Not afraid to go over the middle. 3rd-5th round
Jordy Nelson - 6-3, 215 , Kansas St. - A Weegie Thompson-type, big white guy who has great hands and runs great routes. Had 1,606 yds. and 11TD's last year. 5th-7th Round
Arman Shields - 6-1, 190, Richmond - Not a super big guy, but a great athlete with speed (4.4), explosion (38 inch vertical) and quickness (6.67 3 cone drill). 5th-7th Round
Darius Reynaud - 5-10, 200, West Virginia - Explosive Slot receiver who can return kicks. Reminds me of Troy Edwards, 5th-7th Round
Adarius Bowman - 6-4, 220, Oklahoma St. - Adarius is coming off a knee injury and is not fully healed. Also some character issues, but a lot of athletic ability. 5th-7th Round

Steelers First Round Draft Selection Probability*:

Pre-Draft Odds
Actual Draft Position
Gosder Cherilus, OT - 1:8  
Aqib Talib, CB - 1:8  
Devin Thomas, WR - 1:10  
Branden Albert, G/OT - 1:10  
Kentwan Balmer, DE - 1:10  
Justin King, CB - 1:10  
Jeff Otah, OT - 1:15  
Jonathan Stewart, RB - 1:20  
Dre Moore, DL - 1:30  
James Hardy, WR - 1:50  
Chris Williams, OT - 1:100  
Ray Seals - 1:1,000,000,000  
*Probability is based upon who is likely to be available, and whom the Steelers may pick from the players still available at the #23 position. It is not an indication of whom the Steelers like best, or whom Mark Berger likes best.

updated 03/22/08

©Mark Berger,