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Steelers Desire To Protect QB Might Benefit Ravens

Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney tried to get the rule changed that currently allows the similar type of horse-collar tackle that is illegal on other players to also be flagged when sacking the quarterback. Currently, defensive players are permitted to bring down the QB in the pocket by grabbing the back of his collar. Rooney's bid to add the QB to that list was voted down by the other owners at the recent league meetings.

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was sacked 40 times last season, according to a story at The Steelers want to protect their franchise quarterback and their attempt to protect him with additional rules means that they are concerned about future sacks and possible injuries like the high-ankle sprain he sustained and caused him to miss a game in 2011.

That could translate into the Steelers draft strategy being finding more players to protect Big Ben on the offensive line, specifically a guard or tackle in the first round of next month's draft. Pittsburgh is also in dire need of an inside linebacker to replace the departed James Farrior and many Mock Drafts have them selecting Alabama inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower with their 24th pick of the first round.

Other linebackers have been tied to the Ravens as along with the talk of the future retirement of Ray Lewis, the team lost outside linebacker Jarret Johnson to free agency and while the thought is that Paul Kruger or even Sergio Kindle may take his spot, drafting a top outside linebacker in the draft, such as Hightower's 'bama teammate Courtney Upshaw would not be out of the question if he is still on the board when the Ravens pick is up.

Hightower has also been mentioned as a possible choice for the Ravens, to learn behind the best (#52) and then assume his spot once he finally hangs up his cleats and prepares for his lofty spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The re-signing of ILB Jameel McClain should not deter the Ravens need to fill this spot, as the Ravens scheme calls for two inside 'backers, so even with Dannell Ellerbe getting tendered and returning in 2012, the addition of a player with Hightower's abilities would be a huge insurance policy right away and a great investment in the defense's future.

Of course the Ravens have other needs, such as the offensive line, wide receiver, safety and outside linebacker as well. However, based on the game tape, the addition of Hightower could bring major dividends to the Ravens for years to come if he was available when they pick in the 29th spot of the first round on April 26th.