The team’s management will take on several roster holes come draft day, May 8, but it has not revealed which positions it will pursue young talent for and which positions it plans to promote bench players for.
Nonetheless, the Steelers have two severe areas of need: cornerback and defensive line.
Steelers sideline reporter and former Pittsburgh guard Craig Wolfley said it’s likely to be cornerback in round one.
“They’ve got to look at a cornerback to take over for Ike [Taylor] in the coming years, and a lot of people are talking about [Michigan State’s] Darqueze Dennard,” Wolfley said.
Taylor turns 34 in May, and the Steelers may select Taylor’s future replacement in the first round.
Dennard, Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller and Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert all fit the system that Dick LeBeau operates, but Gilbert is likely to go earlier than the Steelers’ No. 15 pick.
Dennard, the 2013 Jim Thorpe Award-winner and two-time All-American, collected 10 interceptions and broke up 20 passes in his four-year career as a Spartan, and 6-0, 202-pounder ran a 4.42 40-yard dash in last month’s combine.
Health appears to be a concern. Teams have expressed hesitance with the injury-prone Dennard, who underwent two sports hernia surgeries and a shoulder surgery while at Michigan State.
Defensive line is also a priority for the Steelers.
“The [free-agency] losses of Ziggy [Hood] and Al Woods are huge, and you want to secure up your nose tackle,” Wolfley said. “[Steelers nose tackle] Steve McLendon wasn’t disappointing last year, but he didn’t rise to the level I anticipated.”
Notre Dame’s Louis Nix III was projected as a 2014 first-round sure-shot heading into his final season with the Irish, but he underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in November. Despite the injury, he checked in at 331 pounds at the NFL Combine, 20 pounds lighter than he weighed at Notre Dame.
If Colbert sees too much risk in Nix, he may hold off until the second round, where former Penn State defensive tackle DaQuan Jones and Tennessee’s Daniel McCullers could be waiting.
Wide receiver is another speculated area of interest for the Steelers, who lost Emmanual Sanders to the Broncos and Jericho Cotchery to the Panthers in free agency.
While a big-bodied wide receiver like Texas A&M’s Mike Evans would be an ideal addition to Ben Roethlisberger’s arsenal, the Steelers recently signed former Saints receiver Lance Moore to a two-year deal, adding much-needed depth.
Wolfley likes an in-house option to fill the final receiver spot – former Rochester High School and Penn State star Derek Moye.
“There are two ways a receiver can create mismatches,” Wolfley said. “One is with speed, and other is with size. Derek Moye is a big guy, and he’s got some player capabilities.”
The potential emergence of the 6-5, 210-pound Moye could allow the Steelers to spend third and fourth-round picks on running back, linebacker or offensive line depth.