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Offseason review: Pittsburgh Steelers

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Adam Caplan

Adam Caplan is our newest NFL reporter/insider at FOXSports.com. He has spent the past 10 seasons covering the league, specializing in player personnel, injuries and contracts.

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Pre-draft needs

OFFSEASON REVIEWS

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ORT, CB, RG, DE, OLB

Draft class

Round 1: Cameron Heyward, DL
Round 2: Marcus Gilbert, OT/G
Round 3: Curtis Brown, CB
Round 4: Cortez Allen, CB
Round 5: Chris Carter, OLB
Round 6: Keith Williams, G
Round 7: Baron Batch, RB

Potential free agents of note

Mewelde Moore, RB
Matt Spaeth, TE
Willie Colon, ORT
Jonathan Scott, OT
Trai Essex, G/OT
Nick Eason, DE
Keyaron Fox, LB
Ike Taylor, CB
William Gay, CB
Daniel Sepulveda, P
Shaun Suisham, K

Post-draft needs

Chad Ochocinco

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RG, OT (depth)

Analysis

Despite making it to the Super Bowl, the Pittsburgh Steelers had some key needs to fill on both sides of the ball coming into the draft.

Although defensive end wasn’t a huge need, first-round pick Cameron Heyward will provide depth initially behind aging veterans Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel. Ziggy Hood, a first-round pick in 2009, and Heyward eventually will replace both players. The better teams in the NFL are always looking ahead, and that’s what director of football operations Kevin Colbert has done with the selections of Hood and Heyward.

Smith turned 36 in April and Keisel turns 33 in September. Smith has missed 26 regular-season games the past four seasons, including 21 the past two.

Second-round pick Marcus Gilbert is an interesting player because he is capable of playing both tackle positions and guard. It’s worth noting that starting left tackle Max Starks, who is signed through 2012, will be 31 when his contract expires.

Gilbert also could be viewed as the future starter at right tackle or right guard. With starting right tackle Willie Colon possibly leaving during free agency and his backup Flozell Adams turning 36 earlier this month, Gilbert could be the long-term solution at the position.

With starting cornerback Ike Taylor an unrestricted free agent and possibly playing elsewhere this coming season, the Steelers must find his potential replacement. Keenan Lewis, a 2009 third-round pick, should get a crack at the job if Taylor signs elsewhere. However, Lewis participated in only 37 of the 1,023 defensive plays last season.

This year’s third-round pick, Curtis Brown, has a ton of upside and is known for his physical play, but he figures to be more of a developmental player at this point. Like Brown, fourth-round pick Cortez Allen is viewed as a developmental cornerback. Fifth-year cornerback William Gay has started 22 games in his career, but he’s much better off as a nickel back. Gay, who participated in just more than 56 percent of the defensive plays last season, could become an unrestricted free agent if the 2009 rules are in effect once free agency starts.

The fifth-round pick, outside linebacker Chris Carter, who was widely respected in the scouting community before the draft, could turn out to be a steal down the road for the Steelers. Some teams had a hard time figuring out what scheme Carter should be playing in, but he should fit in well in the Steelers’ 3-4 defense because of his speed off the edge.

Tagged: Steelers, Aaron Smith, Nick Eason, Ike Taylor, Willie Colon, William Gay, Cameron Heyward, Marcus Gilbert, Curtis Brown, Cortez Allen, Chris Carter

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