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The Sports Daily > The Steelers N'at
2017 Steelers Draft Preview: Offense

With under a week to go until the NFL draft, the Steelers have plenty of needs to address on their current roster. While some believe the Steelers need to focus exclusively on defense in the upcoming Draft, the team has generally split their draft picks between offense and defense. The Steelers will have 8 picks in the draft with the awarding of a comp pick in the third round.

By the Numbers

Total Offense: 372.6 yards per game (7th in NFL)
Passing Offense: 262.6 yards per game (5th in NFL)
Rushing Offense: 110.0 yards per game (16th in NFL)
Scoring Offense: 24.9 points per game (10th in NFL)
Sacks Allowed: 21 (2nd in NFL)
Average Starting Field Position: Own 27.3 (21st in NFL)
Average Drive Time: 2:42 (11th in NFL)
Average Drive Length: 32.7 yards (9th in NFL)

Quarterbacks

Returning Players: Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Zach Mettenberger
New Arrivals: None
The Departed: None

Draft Need: Medium-Low

Likelihood of Drafting: Medium

For the first time in his NFL career, Ben Roethlisberger openly flirted with the idea of retirement. To no one’s surprise, Ben did commit to returning in 2017 and with the re-signing of Landry Jones the quarterback depth chart will remain the same in 2017 as it was in 2016. The Steelers signed former Titan and Charger Zach Mettenberger off waivers before the start of the 2016 season. Mettenberger is under contract for one more year and does have some experience as an NFL starter (though he has never won a game). The Steelers did spend some time with Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes and with projected mid-rounders Josh Dobbs (Tennessee), Brad Kaaya (Miami), Davis Webb (Cal), and Nate Peterman (Pitt). Landry Jones is under contract for two seasons but the Steelers could look to the future if the opportunity presents itself to select a quarterback in the mid-rounds to compete with Mettenberger this year and be the back-up of the future.

Running Backs

Returning Players: Le’Veon Bell, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Roosevelt Nix (FB), Brandon Brown-Dukes (PS), Gus Johnson (PS), Dreamius Smith (PS)
New Arrivals: Knile Davis, Trey Williams
The Departed: DeAngelo Williams

Draft Need: Medium-High

Likelihood of Drafting: High

The Steelers placed the franchise tag on Le’Veon Bell this offseason and the door remains open for them to work out a long-term deal. They opted not to re-sign DeAngelo Williams and brought in Knile Davis in free agency. Davis is not an every-down kind of back but can be used as a third down scat back and as a kick returner. The Steelers may look for a running back in the middle rounds of the draft that can step into the #2 role immediately and potentially be the #1 back in the future if contract talks with Le’Veon Bell fall through (or if Bell gets injured again). They met with projected mid-rounders in the pre-draft process including Oklahoma’s Semaje Perine, Texas’ D’Onta Foreman, and Pitt’s James Conner.

Wide Receivers

Returning Players: Antonio Brown, Eli Rogers, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Sammie Coates, Cobi Hamilton, Demarcus Ayers, Canaan Severin (IR), Marcus Tucker (PS)
New Arrivals: Justin Hunter, Dez Stewart
The Departed: Markus Wheaton
The Unknown: Martavis Bryant

Draft Need: Medium

Likelihood of Drafting: Medium-High

The Steelers need for a wide receiver centers around the availability of Martavis Bryant. At this point, it is impossible to say whether or not Bryant will be available in 2017. He has not yet been reinstated by the league and the Steelers signed Justin Hunter in free agency. Hunter is athletically similar to Bryant in being a big, tall, fast receiver that has had issues with drops. The real question in 2017 will be how many receivers the Steelers will keep on the roster. The Steelers currently have 7 players on the roster (8 if you count Bryant) that have seen regular season playing time with NFL teams. Their pre-draft scouting has focused on players that will likely go in the 2nd and 3rd rounds and specifically on athletic freaks like Bryant that can stretch the field. With the addition of Hunter and potentially a deep threat draft pick, the Steelers are certainly showing signs of wanting to have a more vertical offense in 2017.

Tight Ends

Returning Players: Ladarius Green, Xavier Grimble, Jesse James, David Johnson
New Arrivals: Ryan Malleck
The Departed: none

Draft Need: Medium-Low

Likelihood of Drafting: Moderate

This positional group is heavily reliant on Ladarius Green’s availability throughout 2017. When Green was healthy, he showed flashes of being a dominant receiving threat in the Steelers offense. Without Green, it was a patchwork group with Jesse James providing a serviceable option over the middle, Xavier Grimble occasionally flashing athleticism, and David Johnson serving mostly in a blocking role. Johnson was re-signed to a 2-year deal this offseason which means the Steelers are fairly comfortable with this group of four heading into 2017. There is some need there to hedge against another long-term absence by Green, but unless someone like OJ Howard is somehow available in the first round, this isn’t a position I’d expect the Steelers to address early. The one caveat to that is a player like Jake Butt who is coming off an ACL injury that will likely keep him sidelined for all of 2017 and could be “redshirted” on IR for a year.

Offensive Line

Returning Players: Alejandro Villanueva (T), Marcus Gilbert (T), Ramon Foster (G), David DeCastro (G), Maurkice Pouncey (C), BJ Finney (C/G), Chris Hubbard (OL), Jerald Hawkins (T, IR), Brian Mihalik (T), Matt Feiler (OT, PS), Keavon Milton (OT, PS)
New Arrivals: Kyle Friend, Mike Matthews
The Departed: Ryan Harris, Cole Manhart, Cody Wallace

Draft Need: Low

Likelihood of Drafting: Low

The Steelers will have all 5 starting linemen back from last season. Maurkice Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert are signed through 2019 and David DeCastro is signed through 2021. Ramon Foster is inked through 2018, leaving Alejandro Villanueva as the only member of the unit without a long-term deal (which could happen later this summer). On top of that, the primary backups on the interior (BJ Finney) and on the outside (Chris Hubbard) are both back for 2017. Last year’s fourth round pick Jerald Hawkins spent the year on IR but could easily earn the swing tackle reserve spot heading into 2017. Given the strong depth and the fact that only one starter is not currently signed beyond 2017, there is very little need for the Steelers to draft a lineman. None of their 30 pre-draft visitors were offensive linemen, which indicates the Steelers focus is elsewhere in this draft.