The Steelers not only allowed the fewest passing yards, they allowed the fewest yards per attempt (5.6) and the fewest yards per completion (10.3). They were also fourth in defensive passer rating (71.7) and fifth in defensive completion percentage (54.5). And all but the YPC improved drastically in the final six regular-season games, when the Steelers allowed only 39 points (6.5 per game) and three touchdowns (two passing).
But it all went for naught in Denver.
The return of Clark will help fix things, but he'll turn 33 this season and in 2013 will be a prime candidate for cap savings. He's due to make $3.5 million in the final year of his contract in 2013.
Clark's understudy, Mundy, has yet to prove he's ready for the starting free safety job, so if Clark is to be replaced after this season the Steelers need to be on the lookout for a free safety in this draft.
Not that there are many candidates in a weak crop, but there are a couple who've interested coach Mike Tomlin as coverage-oriented candidates and would help as nickel safeties right away:
* J.J. Jones (5-9.4, 194, 4.61) visited the Steelers' facility this month. He was a ballhawk for Division II Wayne State with 17 career interceptions.
If the Steelers prefer a bigger free safety, and have enough time to oversee a position change from cornerback, there are a couple of interesting candidates:
* De'Quan Menzie (5-10.6, 202, 4.66) was a two-year starting corner at Alabama but had only one interception.
As for pure cornerbacks, the Steelers figure to draft one in the mid to late rounds. GM Kevin Colbert has said he likes the depth of the crop, and he probably should replace at least one of the two corners (Bryant McFadden, William Gay) who are no longer on the roster this season.
The Steelers of course prefer big, physical corners to play Dick LeBeau's Cover-3 base defense, but were also successful last season playing in press coverage … until the final play.
Wexell's Value Board for the Pittsburgh Steelers
Third Round – Jamell Fleming (CB), Oklahoma.
Fourth Round – Josh Norman (CB), Coastal Carolina; Keith Tandy (CB/S), WVU; De'Quan Menzie (CB/S), Alabama.
Fifth Round – Trent Robinson (S), Michigan State; Robert Blanton (CB/S), Notre Dame.
Seventh Round – J.J. Jones (S), Wayne State.