The Pittsburgh Steelers started to rebuild a roster that was decimated by age and salary cap issues this offseason when they selected guard David DeCastro with the 24th pick of the 2012 NFL Draft on Thursday night.
In the second and third rounds of the draft, the Steelers will get two more chances to bring in fresh blood when they select at No. 56 and No. 86.
The Steelers had some serious losses throughout their team, but they sorely need a nose tackle for their 3-4 defense, an inside linebacker to replace Farrior's contribution, and help on the interior of the offensive line in the remainder of the draft.
Their ideal pick might be inside linebacker James-Michael Johnson from Nevada. Pittsburgh has a hole in the middle of their defense and Larry Foote and Stevenson Sylvester probably aren't reliable enough for Dick LeBeau going into the season.
The 6'1 241 pound Johnson is one of the top remaining middle linebackers on the board. He is a strong downhill run-stopper who would fit well in the middle of the Steelers defense.
The Steelers could surprise everyone and go for Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict. The 6'1 248 pound Burfict is a risk for any team that drafts him. He was the Pac-12 defensive freshman of the year, then one of the top linebackers in the nation as a sophomore. But his production fell off in his junior year and he was a discipline and athletic problem in his senior season.
Burfict has a reputation as a player who is lazy, overly aggressive on the field and someone who has trouble taking coaching. Some teams are so thrown by the stories about Burfict that they refused to even consider selecting him.
But, when he wants to, he is a beast. He can cover the field sideline to sideline and is a huge hitter in the mold of Farrior or Ray Lewis. But he is a huge red flag based on his disciplinary history.
The Steelers have taken fliers on troubled players in the past and made it work for them. His mean style of defense would blend right in with the rest of the Steelers, and none of his problems have landed him in legal hot water so he should avoid embarrassing a franchise at the next level.
The Steelers could choose to fill a slot on the defensive line at 56 and find that Burfict is still available when they select again at 86. If he is, expect them to be the team that pulls the trigger.
If the Steelers decide to hold off on that linebacker pick until the third round, they will probably go after a defensive lineman to shore up their issues up front. Look for a player like Devon Still or Jerel Worthy to be the selection,
Still is a 6'5 303 pound Penn State product is one of the safest picks in the draft. Still is projected to come in and be an immediate starter at defensive tackle. He is solid against the run and has the strength to take on NFL linemen. His lack of speed and athleticism will keep him from being drafted higher and keep him from getting many NFL sacks.
Worthy is a 6'2 308 pound defensive tackle from Michigan State. He skipped his senior year to enter the draft after a solid career in Lansing. Worthy, like Still, is ready to contribute right away. The difference between them is that while Still is undoubtedly better against the run, Worthy has the ability to pressure the quarterback as well.
If the Steelers hold off until No. 86 to go after defensive line help, they may target a player like Ta'Amu Alameda from Washington. At 6'3 348 pounds, Alameda has the size to be an NFL nose tackle right now.
He is too slow and plodding to have much use in a 4-3 system, but in Pittsburgh's 3-4 he could be a force that allows the linebackers to have free reign in the middle of the field. By the end of his junior season, many were projecting him as a top-50 pick in this draft, but concerns about his motor and effort have dropped him.