The Steelers have the eighteenth pick in the draft, courtesy of their 8-8 record. Optimism stems from Ben Roethlisberger returning after missing most of the season when he was sorely missed. His presence could pick up the performance of those around him. There is also a defense that could be one of the best.
Pittsburgh has six picks in the draft: no first, a second, third, two fourths, no fifth, a sixth, and a seventh. The first and fifth round pick is for Minkah Fitzpatrick. Their pick in the third round is compensatory with their own going to Denver in the trade to draft Devin Bush.
I list the needs below, including major, for depth, and areas they are unlikely to look at. I may add categories for a particular situation.
Major Needs (No Particular Order):
Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger has had an outstanding career, but missed nearly the entire season and is now 38. In his place, Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges started and struggled. Also on the roster are Paxton Lynch and JT Barrett. Roethlisberger’s successor will need to be addressed; if not this year, it may happen next year.
Running Back: James Connor missed some time being injured and fourth-round pick Benny Snell ended up having nearly as many carries. Derek Watt comes over from the Chargers to play fullback and join his brother. Jaylen Samuels, who caught 47 passes, and Kerrith Whyte are the main reserves. There are questions about Conner staying healthy and whether Snell can be a full-time back. If the right back is available, the Steelers can easily make a pick.
Offensive Line: This is a talented line that wasn’t as effective as in the past. Age is creeping up, with three starters hitting their thirtieth birthday by the season opener and left guard Ramon Foster announcing his retirement, currently leaving a hole. Tackle is in good shape with Raul Villanueva (32) and Matt Feiler (28) having good years. Right guard David DeCastro (30) also had a good year. Center Maurkice Pouncey (31) had a down year and left guard is open for competition. Chukwuma Okorafor, a third-round pick in 2018, may move to guard from tackle or free agent signing Stefen Wisniewski may start. Also in reserve are tackle Zach Banner and center JC Hassenauer. Villanueva and Feiler have expiring contracts. A lineman is needed, but the Steelers do not have an abundance of picks early on.
Outside Linebacker: On the surface, the duo of TJ Watt and Bud Dupree combined for 26 sacks and 30 tackles-for-loss. Both of them are in the prime of their career. However, there is no depth, while Dupree was franchised and could be gone next year and Watt can be a free agent in two years. The current reserves are Ola Adeniyi and Tuzar Skipper. Anthony Chickillo was released and remains unsigned. Don’t rule out an early pick going here.
Inside Linebacker: Devon Bush was their first-round pick and a player to build around. His partner is currently Vince Williams. The second team is Ulysses Gilbert and Robert Spillane, while Mark Barron was a cap casualty. There is a strong need for depth and a potential starter.
Wide Receiver: There are three who contributed last year: Juju Smith-Schuster, third-round pick Diontae Johnson, and James Washington. Smith-Schuster missed Roethlisberger, going from 111 receptions to 42. Johnson led the team in receptions while Washington caught 44 and averaged 16.7 yards per reception. The other receivers on the roster are Ryan Switzer, Deon Cain, Johnny Holton, and Amara Darboh. Another receiver could be added here and Smith-Schuster can become a free agent, but it is not a big need.
Tight End: Signing Eric Ebron from the Colts may be a shot in the arm this position needs. He can create an extra target for Roethlisberger while Vance McDonald can concentrate on blocking. Zach Gentry was their fifth-round pick last year who didn’t see much action. Nick Vannett signed with Denver in free agency. With Ebron on board, this became less of a need, but one could be chosen in the mid-to-late rounds.
Defensive Line: Cameron Heyward has been a first-team All-Pro in two of the last three years and Stephon Tuitt plays the opposite side, missing part of last year with an injury. Chris Wormley was signed from Baltimore to replace Javon Hargrave at nose tackle. Tyson Alualu is a handy player to have filling in. Daniel McCullers is the reserve nose tackle and Isaiah Buggs will enter his second year. Also on the roster are Henry Mondeaux, while Cavon Walker comes from the XFL. Heyward, Wormley, and Alualu have expiring contracts and a player can be chosen here.
Cornerback: Joe Haden and Steven Nelson are a good pair, while Mike Hilton plays the nickel back. Justin Layne was another third round choice, backs up the corners, along with Cameron Sutton and Alexander Myres. They look good here, but there is always room for another corner. In addition, Haden, Hilton, and Sutton could become free agents next year.
Safety: Another good starting tandem in Terrell Edmunds and Minkah Fitzpatrick. Both are first-round picks and have promising futures. Depth is questionable with Jordan Dangerfield and Marcus Allen. A pick in the middle rounds can help with depth.
*Information from various sources, including Pro-Football Reference, Sportac, and ESPN.