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Every year, the Pittsburgh Steelers are always one of the favorites to make it to if not outright win the Super Bowl. Although they have been underwhelming from that lofty standpoint, they have consistently been one of the more elite franchises in the NFL as they posses an explosive passing attack led by Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger, while also having a budding linebacker corps that was fantastic at rushing the passer last season.
However, the Steelers porous secondary struggled mightily to stifle opposing offenses last season, with exhibit A being the shootout loss that Pittsburgh sustained at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. If the highly competitive Steelers have serious aspirations of competing for a Super Bowl consistently for years to come, they will need far better play and a distinguished leader at the free safety position. By drafting safety Terrell Edmunds in the first round, the Steelers wisely addressed a glaring need, which should hopefully be one of the final puzzle pieces that they need to win it all by the end of this season. Did the Steelers do enough to live up to their lofty expectations for this season?
One of the more underrated and versatile defensive backs in the NFL Draft, Terrell Edmunds is an exceptionally fast playmaker that is exuberant and vocal when calling out the oppositions offensive schemes. Although the all-around superb safety did have surgery in November to alleviate a lingering shoulder injury, Edmunds has proved that he can be consistently productive even when he is not 100%. Given his sensational work ethic and ability to persevere through nagging injuries, Edmunds could very well be one of the top picks in this years draft when all is said and done.
With Martavis Bryant departing in free agency to go to the Oakland Raiders, the Steelers needed to acquire another speedy deep threat that could gash opposing defenses with big yardage plays. Averaging 20.9 yards per catch during his senior year, James Washington certainly fits the bill as a confidently athletic playmaker that is especially physical when coming off of the line of scrimmage.
While Ben Roethlisberger has recently stated that he would like to play three if not five more years in the NFL, he has struggled with his confidence from time to time and has been somewhat injury prone in recent years. Although Mason Rudolph is raw and athletically static, he definitely possesses the arm strength and leadership intangibles to be an eventual starter in the NFL. A fierce competitor that is completely dedicated to perfecting his craft, Rudolph has more than enough confidence to at least make the 53-man roster over the likes of long time back up Landry Jones and last years fourth round pick in Joshua Dobbs.
Although the selection of Chukwuma Okorafor may not have addressed a major need for the Steelers, the incredibly strong albeit still somewhat raw offensive tackle has an incredibly high ceiling in terms of his intriguing versatility. Although this may have been somewhat of a reach pick, it could prove to be a very prudent selection if Okorafor can continue to refine his craft to become a starter at either left or right tackle for Pittsburgh.
At this point, it becomes fair to wonder why the Steelers are still drafting defensive backs when they still have a glaring absence of an elite inside linebacker. However, Marcus Allen is an enticingly physical safety selection that could prove to be valuable as a dime linebacker and a potent run preventer. Sure, this could be a great value pick in a couple of years, but the Steelers may have deviated a bit too far off from selecting a position of need with this particular pick.
A hefty running back that has the above average speed to be an effective receiving threat on third down, Jaylen Samuels is a scoring machine that could prove to be difficult to bring down especially when the Steelers are near the end zone. Given his versatility and impressive physical attributes, Samuels should at the very least have a prominent place as a hard working contributor on special teams.
While he may be somewhat injury prone, Joshua Frazier was, at one time, a starting defensive tackle for the Crimson Tide before losing his job to eventual first round pick Da'Ron Payne due to injury. Although he may be a long shot to be featured prominently on the Steelers defensive line in this season, his immense strength and physicality could allow him to quietly make the 53-man roster if he cane prove to be an effective run stopper.
Unquestionably, it cannot be denied that, on paper, the Steelers acquired several intriguing players that have the potential to be starting caliber assets right away. While Edmunds is obviously the standout selection because of his elite versatility and the fact that he fills a glaring positional need, the Steelers also made valuable several selections when acquired a consummate deep threat in James Washington and a raw yet capable quarterback prospect in Mason Rudolph.
The only reason the Steelers did not earn an “A” for their draft accomplishments this year is because they failed to address arguably their biggest need going into the draft: inside linebacker. To be fair, the prospects that were available in the later rounds were not exactly eye-popping from a production standpoint, but when you have two 5th round draft picks, one of them could have easily been spent on a high-risk, high-reward prospect at the position. Beyond that, the Steelers have seemingly once again put together an impressive draft class that could possess several future faces of the franchise.