Most mock draft experts heard the declaration by the Pittsburgh Steelers about possibly drafting a quarterback first but they aren't fooled. Will the AFC powerhouse reload their defense by replacing Troy Polamalu with Matt Elam?
Polamalu injury issues trump need to back up Ben Roethlisberger
Pittsburgh management tried to tell the national media in recent interviews that the Steelers were not locked into a single strategy with reshaping their roster. They even went so far as to say they may look at a quarterback in the first round as someone to eventually take over for two-time Super Bowl champion Ben Roethlisberger. Those with any knowledge of the state of the team knows that is unlikely. The truth is Pittsburgh can't afford to wait on their defense any longer. The unit is the oldest in the league by far and began to show it this season through injuries and a general lack of explosiveness. All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu sat at the heart of the matter, battling calf problems all season. It seems his best days are in the past. This leaves the front office with serious things to go over with free agency and the draft coming up fast. They need young talent on defense sooner rather than later. It's just a question of where to continue the overhaul.
Elam and Luke Joeckel highlight record-breaking NFL draft
Most fans don't want to think about life without Polamalu but until he proves he can regain his old form it doesn't matter. Part of what made the Steelers so dominant defensively was having a star strong safety roaming field. There is always hope but there also isn't harm in looking ahead. The 2013 NFL draft could offer an opportunity. According to new reports the event should feature a record 73 underclassmen, including six All-Americans. Left tackle Luke Joekel is the biggest name in that group, but another unsung talent in the mix is Florida star safety Matt Elam. Aside from a rough bowl season, the undersized kid led the 3rd ranked defense in the country. Scouts report he plays equally well towards the line of scrimmage and in coverage. Coupled with excellent leadership qualities it's easy to question why early draft reports have him going late in the first round. On the flip side this is great news for Pittsburgh who pick 17th. Elam has the skill set that would thrive in the Steelers defense. The ironic twist? His measurements at 5'10" and 202 lbs is almost exactly the same as Polamalu.
Ben Roethlisberger does need more help but the Pittsburgh Steelers are always paced by their defense. Troy Polamalu was the leader but his body has fallen apart. Matt Elam showed enough in college to prove he can play. The NFL draft should show it.
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