The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

April 24, 2013

MIKE KOVAK | Jarvis the right fit for Steelers

JOHNSTOWN — It’s tough deciding what went worse for the Pittsburgh Steelers: The late-season swoon that started soon after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was injured or the lengthy list of offseason departures and sordid tales of locker room woes.

The Steelers ended the 2012 campaign with five losses in their final seven games. Then, valuable contributor Mike Wallace left via free agency. Keenan Lewis, Rashard Mendenhall and former NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison quickly followed. In a continuing, but nonetheless peculiar trend, Pittsburgh brought back more aging former Steelers in William Gay and Matt Spaeth.

Stories of locker room discord also circulated, and the leadership qualities of Roethlisberger came into question yet again.

It all makes the 2013 NFL Draft an extremely important event for the franchise.

The Steelers have holes, lots of them, and need to start addressing them.

This draft won’t fill all their needs, but it will prove crucial in providing depth and continuing the process of replacing an aging yet statistically effective defense.

And, let’s be honest, the AFC North no longer belongs to Pittsburgh. Baltimore is the reigning Super Bowl champion and Cincinnati, for all its issues, has qualified for the playoffs in each of the past two seasons. As for Cleveland, well, the Browns are improving.

On paper, Pittsburgh enters the upcoming season as the third-best team in the division, at best.

Does it mean Pittsburgh has no chance at making another postseason run? No.

When Roethlisberger is healthy, the Steelers always have a chance.

But it’s time to find him help, but it won’t start tonight with the first round round the draft. Offensive help will come during Day 2.

There are pressing needs at multiple positions: Running back, wide receiver, tight end, defensive line, linebacker and defensive back. Some might argue offensive line is a position of need considering the consistent pressure Roethlisberger faces, but the Steelers have dumped too much money into the front five to spend another first-round pick there.

If the Steelers decide to go running back, Alabama’s Eddie Lacy is the pick, but there’s not first-round worthy talent at the position.

Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert is an outstanding prospect at tight end, but chances are he’s not available when the Steelers make the 17th selection. If Eifert is, the Steelers will be tempted to draft Heath Miller’s replacement.

Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee owns the physical attributes – speed – to replace Wallace and give Roethisberger a down-field threat. West Virginia’s Tavon Austin may be the best skill-position player available. Don’t expect him to fall below the Jets’ second pick at No. 13.

Georgia linebackers Alec Ogletree and Jarvis Jones have been linked to the Steelers. Both are talented and played in the SEC. Ogletree, however, has off-field questions and Jones, who was once pegged as a top-five selection, has spinal stenosis. Both players could provide immediate help to a defense in desperate need of an outside pass rush.

Ogletree and Florida State’s Bjoern Werner are tempting, but passable.

Jones is a different story.

He can play defensive end or outside linebacker, the type of versatility the Steelers covet. And considering the Steelers won’t trade up to land the best defensive player in the draft – Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd – landing a player of Jones’ caliber despite poor workouts for scouts is what has made the Steelers a landmark franchise.

The guess here is several teams will be tempted to select Jones, but will backoff and the Steelers will jump at the chance to fill their biggest need, which is improving the pass rush.

Mike Kovak is sports editor of The Tribune-Democrat.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Sports
  • Pirates Brawl 0420 Brewers top Pirates in game highlighted by dustup

    Ryan Braun homered in the ninth inning to tie it, then Khris Davis hit a home run in the 14th that put Milwaukee ahead for good.
    Yet those were hardly the big blows that attracted all the attention Sunday in the Brewers’ 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Football team ends boycott of embattled coach

    Minnesota State University-Mankato’s football team has ended its boycott of reinstated head coach Todd Hoffner, who successfully fought child pornography charges and other misconduct accusations that removed him from the job for 20 months.
    Hoffner said he assured the players, who refused to take the practice field Wednesday, that interim coach Aaron Keen, who led the team in Hoffner’s absence, will continue in a major role with the team.

    April 20, 2014

  • Penguins 0420a Game 3 pivotal for both teams

    Not so long ago, the Columbus Blue Jackets were the worst team in the NHL.
    Now they’re heading home for tonight’s Game 3 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series with the star-studded Pittsburgh Penguins, hoping to make even more history.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0419 Blue Jackets outlast Pens in double-OT

    Matt Calvert banged home a rebound 1:10 into the second overtime and the Columbus Blue Jackets earned the first playoff victory in franchise history with a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.
    Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury stuffed the initial shot by Cam Atkinson but Calvert stood all alone at the left post and wristed a shot into the open net to even the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at one game each.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0419 Brewers rally to clip Pirates

    Ryan Braun hit two homers, including a two-run shot with two outs in the ninth inning that sent the Milwaukee Brewers over the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 Saturday night.
    Braun has five home runs this season after being suspended for the last 65 games of 2013 following Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Biogenesis drug scandal.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Area runners gearing for Boston Marathon

    The time was 12:15 p.m. It was Monday April 19, 1897.  Tom Burke had drawn a line across the dirt road with his foot. Eighteen men gathered near Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland, Massachusetts.

    April 19, 2014

  • SRU vs UPJ baseball0418 1 UPJ takes one, drops second

    John Fees’ spring baseball season accurately mirrors that of his Pitt-Johnstown team.
    Fees started slow, losing his first four decisions, but has rebounded nicely in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Pirates 0418 Brewers ward off late Pirates rally bid

    Kyle Lohse pitched effectively into the seventh inning, Carlos Gomez homered and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 Friday night.
    Lohse (3-1) improved to 11-2 in his career against the Pirates, allowing one earned run in a win against them for the second time in six days.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Drama lacking sans Tiger

    If professional golf saw its future at Augusta National last weekend, the sight had to be worse than choking on a 5-foot putt.
    The course was there in all its splendor.

    April 18, 2014

  • Penguins 0418 Penguins are wary of spunky Blue Jackets

    Sidney Crosby is used to the attention. It comes with the territory when you’re the best hockey player in the world.
    Still, the Pittsburgh Penguins star knows the spotlight becomes more acute in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo