The AFC North has been one of the toughest divisions in the NFL over the past few seasons, and by the looks of things, it could be the same for some time to come.
The Cincinnati Bengals are one of the youngest teams that have a great amount of talent and potential. Cincinnati has made the postseason the past two years, and has a good chance of being the team to beat in the AFC North in 2013.
The reigning Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens have lost a number of key players because of trades, free agency and retirement, but did fill some of those holes this offseason and are still considered a threat with their up-and-rising quarterback.
As for the Cleveland Browns, they have a lot of work to do in order to be considered a contender in the division. However, they do have the salary cap room to make a turnaround in addition to their draft picks.
In the Steel City, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a lot to overcome following their disappointing 8-8 season that kept them sitting at home during the postseason. Just like the Ravens, the Steelers have parted ways with a lot of key veteran players. However, unlike Baltimore, Pittsburgh has yet to find suitable replacement to fill the big holes on their roster.
With the Steelers’ salary cap woes, the organization can’t make much noise in free agency and will have to virtually rely on the 2013 NFL Draft to reload their team. Pittsburgh’s positions of need are outside linebacker, wide receiver, safety, cornerback, tight end, and running back.
Out of all of these positions, I believe that linebacker, receiver, and running back are the most important right now. The Steelers have already lost wide receiver Mike Wallace and are on the verge of having Emmanuel Sanders follow suit. Pittsburgh should grab at least two receivers this April. As for linebacker, Pittsburgh will more than likely spend their 17th overall pick in an attempt to replace the departed James Harrison.
There is a possibility that the Steelers will sign unrestricted free agent running back Ahmad Bradshaw. The organization plans to meet with the six-year veteran for the second time this offseason.
If Bradshaw can agree to terms with Pittsburgh, it will cross off one item on the Steelers’ draft list and let them focus more on other positions. One other need that could be tended to is tight end. The status of veteran Heath Miller after reconstructive knee surgery will be unknown by the start of the 2013 season. Drafting a tight end could add a little insurance for Pittsburgh in the passing game while Miller fully recovers.
Assuming that the aforementioned positions are addressed first, the Steelers could then direct their focus on the other needed positions during the remainder of the draft.
Adding not just youth, but quality talent is very essential to not only Pittsburgh’s 2013 season, but also to the next 10 years. This team doesn’t have much time left to get significant production out of their older players, and if the Steelers don’t draft the right players for the future now, it could set the franchise back several years.
Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller, or add him to your network on Google