Roster weaknesses: Every team has them, and the draft is often the best way to address them. With the 2014 NFL Draft fast approaching, NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah will be taking an up-close look at the main areas of weakness -- and the prospects who could fix them -- for all 32 squads in the league. Be sure to catch "Path to the Draft" on NFL Network at 7 p.m. ET Monday through Friday for more in-depth analysis.
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The AFC North boasts some of the NFL's most talented teams. The Cincinnati Bengals (reigning division champs) are loaded with young playmakers, and the Baltimore Ravens are only one season removed from a Super Bowl win. The Cleveland Browns, who have already had an active offseason, still have 10 picks in the 2014 NFL Draft with which to upgrade their roster.
To keep pace with a rapidly improving division, the Steelers need to address concerns on both sides of the ball; the defense fell off last season, dropping to No. 13 in yards allowed from No. 1 in 2013, and the offense saw its second and third most targeted receivers walk in free agency.
Although the Steelers still have one of the game's best quarterbacks in Ben Roethlisberger, his window to return to the Super Bowl is closing. But by focusing their attention on strengthening the defense, and adding a playmaker to team with wideout Antonio Brown, the Steelers could find themselves back in a familiar place -- atop the AFC North.
Here are four positions of need for Pittsburgh -- and four prospects who could fill them.
The Steelers need to get younger and more athletic in their secondary. Fortunately for them, the 2014 class has a number of quality cornerbacks. With Oklahoma State product Justin Gilbert likely to be off the board when Pittsburgh selects at No. 15 overall, the Steelers could opt for Darqueze Dennard, Bradley Roby or Kyle Fuller, all of whom fit what defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau does on defense.
Dennard's physical style and press coverage skills would be a welcome sight in Steel City, while Roby's explosiveness and ability to cover both slot and perimeter receivers would afford LeBeau the opportunity to be more aggressive. Questions about Fuller's speed surfaced while he was at Virginia Tech, but the technically sound corner quieted those concerns by running a 4.49-second 40-yard time at the NFL Scouting Combine.
2) Wide receiver
Choosing not to re-sign Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery opened the door for former second-rounder Markus Wheaton to step up. I do think the second-year pro will be a key contributor this season, but neither he nor the Steelers' No. 1 receiver, Antonio Brown, crack the 6-foot mark, so I could see the Steelers in the market for a big-body receiver. Kelvin Benjamin (6-foot-5), who hauled in 15 touchdown catches for Florida State last season, would provide Big Ben with a legitimate red-zone target, which he hasn't had since Plaxico Burress' first run in Pittsburgh.
Odell Beckham is another guy who could fit into offensive coordinator Todd Haley's system. Although he doesn't have Benjamin's size, Beckham is explosive with the ball in his hands and has a history of production in the return game. Once viewed as a fringe first-rounder, the former LSU receiver has a lot of NFL executives excited. I now believe Beckham will go in the top 20 picks.
3) Defensive line
For the Steelers' defense to return to form, it needs to get better up front. Timmy Jernigan is a great player, but I'm not sure the former Florida State defensive tackle is the right fit in the Steelers' 3-4 scheme. Ra'Shede Hageman has incredible upside, but his Minnesota game tape is very inconsistent. With such a deep class, it'd be hard to justify selecting him with the 15th overall pick.
The Steelers could wait to address their D-line needs in the second round, where they could select Penn State product DaQuan Jones with the No. 46 overall pick. Daniel McCullers from Tennessee is an intriguing prospect who might be available in the middle rounds. He doesn't offer much as a pass rusher, but he has rare size (6-foot-7, 352 pounds) and strength (27 reps on the bench press), which allows him to hold the point of attack against the run.
4) Offensive line
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Improving the offensive line through the draft has been a focal point for Pittsburgh in recent years. And while the group up front has shown signs of improvement, I think the Steelers will add more depth with all of the talent available in May. Big Ben has taken a lot of hits during his 10-year career, so you won't see him complaining if the Steelers nab a lineman early. Ja'Wuan James (Tennessee) and Jack Mewhort (Ohio State) are two second-round tackles who could land with Pittsburgh. Both prospects are steady, reliable players who have a lot of experience in big-time programs.
One wild card to keep an eye on: Seantrel Henderson. The tackle arrived at Miami as one of the country's highest-recruited players, but he never lived up to the hype and had off-the-field issues. If he's able to stay on the right track, Henderson has the potential to emerge as one of the best offensive linemen in this year's class.