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NFL draft questions: Can Steelers afford to be patient?

With the 2013 NFL Draft approaching, Around The League will examine one big question facing all 32 teams. Next up: The Pittsburgh Steelers.

Can the Steelers afford to remain so patient?

Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has his own way of doing things. It's served him very well over the last 13 years, running one of the most talent-rich teams in the league. A great recent example was in 2007. Linebackers Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley were taken in the first two rounds of the draft, but despite being healthy all season, neither player started a single game as a rookie.

They entered the starting lineup in 2008 and have been there ever since.

That patient approach has worked for the Steelers over the years. They groom players on the bench and get them ready to take on big roles when asked. The problem: The players haven't been ready lately.

The Steelers haven't received enough production from picks like Ziggy Hood, Jason Worilds and Cameron Heyward. Because of injury, last year's first-round pick, David DeCastro, didn't get an apprenticeship under his belt. The Steelers' depth chart is far thinner than usual. They aren't a team that likes to spend money in free agency, and they didn't have the cap space for it anyway this year. In short: They can only get help from within and by adding talent in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Colbert really could use a productive draft class that makes an instant impact. This especially is true at running back, where Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman sit atop the depth chart. The Steelers ideally would draft a back who will be in the mix, if not start. They also can use immediate contributions in the defensive front seven, with outside linebacker a particular sore spot.

The Steelers used to do a terrific job drafting and developing. That reputation has taken a hit over the last four years. Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin won't want to test the Rooneys' patience with another lackluster season. They need to find some difference-makers.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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