There is a possibility that the Steelers will be without linebacker James Harrison next season, which would mean that Pittsburgh might focus on getting linebacker with their 17th overall pick. The 34-year-old Harrison is up there in age, and has struggled with injuries over the past two seasons.
Due to his injuries this season, the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year recorded only six sacks, the fewest since being named a starter in 2006. Harrison’s inability to stay healthy and the effect that he will have on Pittsburgh’s salary cap could make him expendable.
With that being said, the Steelers should make getting a pass rushing linebacker in the draft their first priority.
There are a lot of linebackers and defensive ends that can convert to linebacker that will be entering the draft this year. Looking at the needs of the 16 teams that are picking before Pittsburgh, I think that about four outside linebackers will be off the board by the time the Steelers will be on the clock.
However, I do think that LSU DE Barkevious Mingo will be available. Mingo, a 6’5” 240-pound pass rusher, is listed as a defensive end, but fit in nicely as an outside linebacker and be a compliment to Steelers linebackers LaMarr Woodely and Lawrence Timmons. In addition, the return of Sean Spence to the linebacking corps could make Pittsburgh’s group of linebackers one of the best for the next several years.
Of course, the 2012 NFL season isn’t officially over, and there could be many things that could change between now and the month of April. Teams could trade picks, and players’ draft stock can rise and fall. No matter what changes, the one thing that won’t change is the fact that the Steelers need to concentrate on adding a pass rushing linebacker via the NFL Draft.
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