The Pittsburgh Steelers will be watching the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII in less than two weeks along with 30 other NFL teams. The difference is for the Steelers, come next fall, whether the Ravens win or lose, they will be the team to beat in the AFC North and that means at least some of the focus of this franchise in the off-season has to be making sure they are built to match up with what is making the Ravens so good this year. And I think there are three key things that the Steelers need to do if they want to be competitive against the Ravens and in turn the AFC North again in 2013, and a player in the upcoming 2013 NFL draft who would fit the bill.
First, they must be more physical on offense. It’s very clear the Ravens defense has no fear of finesse offenses and their goal to counter that is to punish them physically. This Steelers offense, in particular the passing offense, is built around speed, which is great, but even with tight end Heath Miller, this team needs that wide out who can go across the middle and make the tough catch and hold onto it when they take the hit. Former Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward was that guy. The pick-Aaron Mellette, WR Elon
Second, they have to find a physical and athletic safety to start sooner rather than later. As great as safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark have been, the injuries for both players have really started to pile up and there’s not any real depth behind them. This team can’t lose that physical presence in the defensive backfield, and so drafting a player to replace one of these guys as early as this season must be a top priority. The pick-Matt Elam, S Florida
Finally, the Steelers have to improve their pass rush out of their base defense and nickle without committing multiple blitzers. If there is one thing that Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is known for is struggling under duress to make his reads and check downs. Where the Steelers struggled this year was with their historically intimidating defense and what is typically an overwhelming pass rush from their outside linebackers. There is a real possibility that linebacker James Harrison doesn’t return to the Steelers, and if he doesn’t, who takes his spot will be a huge part of how this team will matchup with the Ravens next season. The pick-Alec Ogletree, LB Georgia
These three factors will be key after watching the AFC champions mow through the playoffs en route to the Super Bowl.
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