MMQB: Steelers Draft Needs Include WR, Offensive Line Help

Noah Strackbein

PITTSBURGH -- Even after a successful free agency week, the Steelers have gaps to fill as they prepare for the 2020 NFL Draft. 

So far, the team has added Stefen Wisniewski to compliment the offensive line, Eric Ebron to fill the tight end need and Derek Watt to replace the newly released Rosie Nix. Still, Pittsburgh's offseason isn't perfect, and there's more room for improvement as they look to add rookies. 

As they prepare for the 49th pick in the NFL Draft, their needs consist of mostly the same things they did before free agency. Breaking down all of the AFC North's draft needs, Sports Illustrated's Andy Benoit addresses the Steelers as a "win now" type team with a closing window they need to work fast in. 

Where their outlook for the draft starts is on the offensive end, finding a receiver. Benoit says it's not time to give up on James Washington, JuJu Smith-Schuster or Diontae Johnson, but the truth is they can use more help. 

Ben Roethlisberger’s return fulfills Part A of improving this passing attack. Getting him a reliable weapon opposite JuJu Smith-Schuster would be Part B. The Steelers can be (mostly) pleased with receiver Diontae Johnson’s growth as a rookie and they shouldn’t give up on 2018 speedster James Washington quite yet, but this team’s Super Bowl window is now, while Roethlisberger is still here, the defense is loaded and the O-line is stable. The blunt truth is Pittsburgh can’t put those hopes in the hands of an incumbent receiving corps that far too often last season could not compete against press-man coverage.

From there, the next item on the list is to secure more offensive linemen. Wisniewski is a good "fallback" option, according to Benoit. But if the Steelers are going to keep their o-line as strong as it's been in the past, they need to add a younger and more reliable option to the mix. 

Benoit also suggest moving Matt Feiler to guard for the season - a move many have considered with the re-signing of Zach Banner. Still, adding more depth is next if they're going to secure their window. 

GM Kevin Colbert must also get out in front in maintaining that “stable” offensive line. A replacement is needed for retired veteran Ramon Foster. Stefen Wisniewski, who is slated to start there now, is a fallback option. It would be prudent to find a new offensive tackle, too, since starters Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler are in contract years and coming off hot-and-cold seasons in pass protection. Feiler got a few snaps at left guard in 2019, so a quality rookie right tackle could perhaps kick him inside, killing two birds with one stone.

As for the defensive side of the ball, replacing Javon Hargrave is obviously number one. Chris Wormley provides work on the outside, but isn't a true inside defensive lineman. 

Finding someone to sit on the nose is a necessity for Pittsburgh. 

Cornerback is also listed as a position of need for the future. Steven Nelson and Joe Haden have earned the respect of the NFL, but Nelson is taking a $14.4 million hit from the cap in 2021. So, the solution is to find a replacement now to save money for the future. 

At cornerback, the Steelers are set for 2020 with Joe Haden on the left and Steven Nelson on the right. But in 2021, Nelson is slated to cost $14.4 million against the cap. Nelson has improved, particularly against deep balls, since his days with the Chiefs, but it’s hard to justify that kind of cap number for someone who is no more than a No. 2 corner. The Steelers could shave more than $8 million off that cap hit by cutting Nelson in 2021.

As for targets with the 49th pick, the Steelers have a few. During Day 2, plenty of star-studded players will remain on the board, leaving Pittsburgh with options during their first two picks.

Top Targets:

  • Michael Pittman Jr., WR, USC
  • Bryan Edwards, WR, South Carolina
  • Vann Jefferson, WR, Florida
  • Davon Hamilton, DT, Ohio State
  • McTelvin Agim, DT, Arkansas
  • Noah Igbinoghene, CB, Auburn
  • Troy Pride, CB, Notre Dame
  • Stanford Samuels, CB, Florida State

MMQB's look at the entire AFC North. 

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