After a long reign atop the AFC North, the Pittsburgh Steelers not only were forced to watch the division rival Baltimore Ravens take home a Super Bowl championship, but they also must watch their roster steadily get older and older.
Several positions need improvement for the Steelers, but most of the attention is directed toward the defensive side of the football, especially the defensive line. One of those looking at that position is CBS Sports NFL Draft analyst Rob Rang.
In his latest mock draft, Rang projects that at No. 17, the Pittsburgh Steelers will select defensive tackle John Jenkins from the University of Georgia.
The Steelers have invested heavily in replacements on the defensive line with first round selections of Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward over the past three years. The most critical component of Dick LeBeau's 3-4 scheme, however, is at nose guard, where the team could be looking to replace 35-year old free agent Casey Hampton. Optimism remains high for 2012 fourth round pick Alameda Ta'amu, despite his felony arrest in November, which led to his being released and later re-signed to the practice squad. Rather than gamble on Ta'amu's development, the Steelers might instead choose to develop Jenkins, a 6-4, 359-pound monster who starred at Georgia and at the Senior Bowl.
Rang points to the aging Casey Hampton and the Steelers' lack of ability to replace the veteran nose guard thus far. With Jenkins, the Steelers may finally find their man. Jenkins is known for his strength and size. He is described by CBS Sports as "built like a Coke machine."
But other defensive line prospects remain as well. And although SB Nation's Dan Kadar sees the Steelers selecting a nose tackle as well, he does not believe they will select Jenkins. Instead, he projects Pittsburgh to take Jesse Williams from Alabama.
The team once again struggled in the trenches on both sides of the ball this season. An upgrade in the middle of the defensive line would give the team a whole different feel on that side of the ball. Jesse Williams proved he can eat up double teams and dominate the point of attack at Alabama this season. He would fit in nicely in Pittsburgh.
Williams, from Australia, measures in at 6'4, 320 lbs and is known for his ability to clog up the opponent's running game. A player like Williams would only improve Pittsburgh's run defense, which ranked second in the NFL.