In order to attempt a prediction at what Dorsey might do in the Draft at CB and Safety, it’s worth looking at the WR landscape in the division first because we will need to defend those elite WR’s twice a year, and our ability to match up with them matters.
The WR landscape in the AFC North changed drastically this offseason with the departure of Antonio Brown. He has dominated games for several years and wrecked our buzz more than a dozen times by putting up yards, TD’s and highlight plays that made us look stupid. And rightly so, our secondary has not been excellent for years. He was not a size receiver, he was a match up nightmare based on speed, agility and route-running. VERY difficult to defend, but also no longer in the division.
But let me point to JuJu Smith Schuster as exactly why the Steelers can never be counted out on the WR game, as they added him when problems cropped up with Martavius Bryant, but Antonio Brown was at the top of his game and getting almost all of the balls. This absolutely proves these guys value WR big time…look at their last 6-7 draft classes. WR chosen in Round 2 or 3 almost every year.
I believe the Steelers value size, but speed first. They have to figure out how to reproduce Brown’s production (1,500 yds and 12 TD average over the last 5 years!). JuJu is capable of doing more, he only had 7 TD’s last year on 166 targets (rather inefficient). Wouldn’t surprise me at all to see them grab Marquise Brown in the 2nd Round or Mecole Hardman on day 3. Maybe someone like Jalen Hurd would also appeal due to his versatility and upside.
Right now Baltimore doesn’t have shit at the WR position. Their best player is Willie Snead…yikes! So knowing these guys have always had a hard time attracting Free Agent WR’s because of their run-heavy scheme, they will also hit the draft hard to get a difference-maker. I am guessing they will go after speed and route-running first but could possibly double up on the position and find a later round size/speed combo guy. I see them jumping on someone like N’Keal Harry, Kelvin Harmon or Parris Campbell.
Down in Cinci, the land of Red Heads and Losing Playoff Games, there has been a quiet lack of production out of one AJ Green for the last 5 years…nobody seems to talk about it, but he’s not putting up Pro Bowl caliber stats for a while. Look at this mess:
Is AJ Green a Pro Bowler because he produces yardage? Isn’t he supposed to be the alpha receiver who can score with those incredible physical talents he has? Where the hell are all his touchdowns? Is Tyler Boyd stealing his show? Spoiler alert: Boyd scored 7 TD’s on 1,000 yds and 108 targets. Again, moving the ball, not putting it in the end zone. John Ross maybe? The invisible man? He scored 7 TD’s on 210 yards and only 58 targets! That’s efficiency! Overall, they seem balanced but not getting it done. Who is the alpha on this team? Just asking for a friend..
Cinci could easily fall in love with one of the size/speed guys early on Day 1 or 2. I think since the John Ross experiment is only just starting to develop into real production, they might go for someone like Terry McLaurin who has insane speed or Myles Boykin who is a size/speed/explosion freak that could contribute big if he can catch the ball better.
All of this division drama must be part of the equation for Dorsey and Co. and it most assuredly is. Our three rivals are not going to sit there and pretend it’s ok not to have a passing game. They will all use higher draft picks this year on WR’s. Even Cinci I think will pop a 2nd rounder since there will be good sized guys who can run (maybe not catch) in that range, like Myles Boykin. AJ Brown has been linked to Baltimore, so has DK Metcalf. The Steelers as always are very quiet but ready to draft excellent talent when they need it. They really need CB help, but could see them having a WR rated higher and use their 1st Round pick on Metcalf. They value TD’s my friends as the aforementioned Antonio Brown rained TD’s onto Steeler Nation for years.
In our world, the CB room got immensely better with the addition of Denzel Ward, and TJ Carrie played ok, not allowing a TD on any of his completions given up. But we absolutely need to add at least one guy who can start right away, and possibly a depth player as well. Ward scares all of us with his tackling technique that has produced two concussions already.
This draft is full of guys that can play early, all the way down into Round 5 and top of Round 6. I want to see us draft CB and SS/FS early and double down on one or both of these positions when it’s all said and done. Great mid-round talents available for both positions. Our division is going to quickly become a challenge again, I can feel it. This is a decent WR class after Round 2, as the drop off is not as big as it usually is.
We are going to be up against size, speed and route-running. Ward can handle speed and route-runners, but doesn’t hold up great on size receivers. Terrance Mitchell is only adequate as a back up to Ward. TJ Carrie is not our answer at CB2 either. We need a really solid outside press guy to play CB2 and since we let Boddy-Calhoun go, we also now need a slot CB. That’s where speed and route-running can kill us. Who can fill that role with the combination of man coverage, zone coverage and explosive click-n-close skills? What guys are we seeing that can start early and play outside press on larger receivers and TE’s? This is where we need to focus.
At Safety, the WR situation applies as well. Losing Peppers hurts, but can be replaced. Kindred is a great back up at SS, but not who you want starting every rep. Also, we have lousy depth behind Damarious Randall at FS, literally no one. This is all very concerning and will need drastic improvement. Combine our back field issues with the lack of talent at LB and I think we can guess where this draft is headed!