March 11, 2009
By Donald Starver
Note: This is the fifth installment in a series. If you haven’t already read earlier installments, please click the links below
In our last installment in this series, we talked about what the Steelers’ top priority should be in the upcoming draft. Most fans probably think that the Steelers’ top priority is the offensive line, and most mock drafts reflect as much. However, I argued that the Steelers’ top priority should actually be the defensive line.
Having established what the top priority should be, I now want to move on to the Steelers’ second priority in the 2009 NFL draft.
I can hear some of you saying, “finally, he’ll address the offensive line”! Ummmm, no. In my opinion, the offensive line is not the Steelers’ top priority in the 2009 draft, nor should it be their second priority. Nope, that honor falls to the defensive backfield.
The Steelers need DB’s much more than they need offensive linemen. No, I haven’t been smoking crack. I’m completely serious. The Steelers have their entire starting offensive line from the Super Bowl returning next year. Every single player will be back. Moreover, they also have lots of young talent waiting in the wings to challenge the starters for playing time.
Last year’s 4th round draft pick Tony Hills will have a year under his belt, and will actually know what is going on. Trai Essex looks like he’ll still be around, even though he hasn’t been able to win a starting job after 4 years with the team. Jason Capizzi is huge, and seems to have potential. Doug Legursky also shows promise. As does Jeremy Parquet.
In addition to all of those players waiting in the wings, the Steelers will almost certainly take at least one offensive lineman in the upcoming draft. So offensive line is covered. Sure, they’re not world-class, but they’ll do.
Contrast that with the Steelers’ defensive backs. Unlike the offensive line, the DB’s did lose a starter. Cornerback Bryant McFadden signed a free agent contract with the West Pittsburgh Cardinals.
We all know that Ike Taylor is the Steelers’ most talented cornerback. But Bryant McFadden was probably their most consistent cornerback last year, and he was definitely the best in run support. He will certainly be missed by the Steelers.
Backup cornerback William Gay did get a lot of playing time last season, and Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau feels that he’s ready to step in and replace McFadden. But Gay is not as good as McFadden.
Frankly, I still question the mental competence of William Gay. After all, he’s the same guy who wore a NY Yankees cap and Arizona Cardinals colors to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Super Bowl victory parade. How smart can the guy be if he can make such an inexcusable (and unforgivable) faux pas? (Note to William Gay: our baseball team is the Pittsburgh Pirates, and our team colors are BLACK AND GOLD!!!).
Deshea Townsend is still on the roster as a backup, but Deshea has never been an incredible talent. Deshea has remained in the league because he is one of the smartest players on the team. He’s neither big, nor fast, but he seldom makes mental errors, and he never gets caught out of position. That is a great asset to have as a backup, but Deshea is in his 13th year in the league, and it’s time to yield to younger, faster legs.
What would happen if Ike Taylor ruptured his achilles tendon and had to miss the 2009 season? The Steelers would be screwed, that’s what would happen. They have no other cornerback on the roster who can defend top-tier wide receivers, and they have almost no depth at the position.
The situation is not quite as bad at the safety position, since they didn’t lose a starter. However, the Steelers did lose depth at the position when safety Anthony Smith was allowed (or should I say, “asked”) to leave.
Troy Polamalu is All-Universe, and Ryan Clark is solid. Their positions as starters are basically guaranteed. No worries there.
Tyrone Carter is the only other safety on the Steelers’ roster with any actual NFL experience. Last years’ 6th round draft pick, Ryan Mundy, spent most of the season on the practice squad after being released during the Steelers’ final cuts.
Tyrone Carter has always played competently when called upon. However, I have always felt uneasy having to rely on a 5’9″ safety. Sure, lots of 5’9″ guys flourish at cornerback. But not many do at safety.
Earlier, I listed a slew of young, aspiring offensive linemen waiting in the wings for the Steelers. As you can see, we have no such list at defensive back. We basically have an old man, a munchkin, and a practice squad player. That is our depth in the defensive backfield. Does that make you feel either comfortable or confident? Me neither.
That is why if I were Kevin Colbert, my second priority in the 2009 NFL draft would be defensive backs, NOT offensive linemen.
(If you enjoyed this article, please consider leaving a comment below. Also, please subscribe to our blog by pressing the orange button below. Thanks.)