The Steelers have a chance to start building toward re-joining the elite teams of the NFL.
Barring a draft-day deal that could include quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers have 10 selections in this year's NFL draft, which begins with the first round tonight, followed by the second and third rounds on Friday night and rounds four through seven on Saturday.
With that many picks, the Steelers, with good selections, could infuse the team with a lot of young talent. This year's draft class is considered deep, so they could find some gems with their seven third-day picks.
They could also package a few of the picks to go after an extra top-notch guy in the first three rounds.
The Steelers haven't had this many draft picks in one year since 1999, and that year they plucked guys like Troy Edwards, Joey Porter, Amos Zereoue, Aaron Smith, Jerame Tuman and Kris Brown. It wasn't quite like the 1974 draft, but the number of good young players helped lead the Steelers back to the playoffs in the early 2000s.
The key pick, as always, will be the first-rounder. The Steelers are in the 18th slot and could go a couple of ways with it, depending on how the first 17 selections go.
Here is how a possible Steelers 2010 draft may go:
Round 1 (18): Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida
Round 2 (52): Kareem Jackson, CB, Alabama
Round 3 (82): Eric Norwood, OLB, South Carolina
Round 4 (116): Joe Webb, WR, UAB
Round 5 (151): Clifton Geathers, DE, South Carolina
Round 5 (155): Charles Scott, RB, LSU
Round 5 (164): Chris DeGeare, OL, Wake Forest
Round 5 (166): Torell Troup, NT, Central Florida
Round 6 (188): Harry Coleman, S, LSU
Round 7 (242): Nate Byham, TE, Pittsburgh
The best guess would be that the Steelers will try and upgrade their offensive line with the top pick, mainly because their line hasn't played up to their standards the last several years. The Steelers also have said they want to get back to being more of a running team on offense.
The Steelers have neglected the offensive line with their first-round pick the last seven years, instead taking guys like Kraig Urbik and Tony Hills in the third and fourth rounds. That hasn't worked out for them.
Idaho guard Mike Iupati and Florida center Maurkice Pouncey are both considered the tops at their positions in this draft class, and both could be available when the Steelers take their turn to pick.
Several offensive tackles are expected to be taken before the 18th selection, so Iupati or Pouncey would make the most sense. Iupati is described as a mauling guard who could start opposite Chris Kemoeatu, and Pouncey is a Steeler-type guy who could play guard for one or two seasons before shifting to center.
But the Steelers also need a good young cornerback because last year's starters, Ike Taylor and William Gay, struggled in the second half of the season. They did take two corners in last year's draft - Keenan Lewis and Joe Burnett - but they have more question marks than answers right now.
Florida's Joe Haden could be a difference maker in the secondary, but he's expected to be selected with one of the first 15 picks. That would leave Boise State's Kyle Wilson, who ran a 4.38 40-yard dash, as the next best.
Where Wilson ranks on the Steelers' draft board compared to Pouncey and Iupati is anyone's guess. The Steelers did have all three come to Pittsburgh for official visits, so all three are definitely on their radar.
A number of available cornerbacks are considered to be second and third rounders, so it may be best for the Steelers to wait a round or two in selecting a defensive back.
Other guys who may be tempting for the Steelers to take, if they're available, with the 18th pick, include Texas safety Earl Thomas and Rutgers offensive tackle Anthony Davis. Either of those would help upgrade the secondary or offensive line.
The Steelers have other needs - wide receiver, outside linebacker, running back, defensive lineman - but those aren't as pressing. They have a bunch of second- and third-day picks to try and find a next star or serviceable player at those positions.
The Steelers need to improve their offensive line most of all, and, barring a Roethlisberger trade, that should be the focus of their first pick.
Buck Frank can be reached at 946-7461 or firstname.lastname@example.org.