The Baltimore Ravens will be trying to repeat as AFC North champions for the first time since the disastrous 2007 season after winning the division in 2006. In order to say atop the the other three teams, they will need to reload as oppose to rebuild as so many other teams do. While the Cincinnati Bengals are improving and the Cleveland Browns are, well, never mind them, the Pittsburgh Steelers continue to be the Ravens biggest threat to the division title.
In order to determine where the Steelers may go with their pick at the 24th slot of the first round, one must look at what their greatest needs are headed into the 2012 NFL Draft, which begins later this evening. Of course, the obvious need is to protect QB Ben Roethlisberger's huge skull and the best way to do that is to invest that first round pick in an offensive lineman.
At the same time, Pittsburgh cut ties with veteran inside linebacker James Farrior and everyone knows their reputation starts with their hard-hitting linebackers, such as James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. However, there is a rumor that the Steelers want to see what they already have on their roster and promote from within rather than use that first round selection on a linebacker. The Steelers ponder if the Ravens wil trade up ahead of them to take a certain linebacker in a related story over at Behind The Steel Curtain, and perhaps a hint of what their fans think they will do is in their Final 2012 NFL Seven Round Mock Draft.
This theory would greatly benefit the Ravens as a lot of Mock Drafts have seen coveted Alabama ILB Dont'a Hightower going to Pittsburgh and you just know the Ravens would salivate if they saw him still on the board as their pick at #29 of the first round approached.
With WR Mike Wallace insisting he should be paid like Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald, the Steelers know they can keep Wallace for the next two season via the Franchise Tag but might be looking for his eventual replacement, although it's highly doubtful they would look that closely in the first, much less the second round.
Running back could be a target in the mid-to-late rounds, as could be help in the defensive backfield. Therefore, it becomes obvious the Steelers will go in one of two directions with their first pick. Be it offensive line or linebacker, the Ravens will be closely monitoring the first 18-22 picks to see who is still on the board that they have highly rated.
A trade up is not out of the question, as Baltimore has done just that in the recent past. However, it would have to be for one of the team's highest rated players in order for them to give away at least two of their eight picks in the 2012 draft, the least of the four teams in the AFC North. The one thing in Baltimore's favor is that they are a veteran team that was perhaps one play away from making the Super Bowl last season and putting it all on the line for that one guy who could contribute to another run at the elusive Lombardi Trophy might just be worth not only getting the one guy they covet, but preventing their arch rivals from doing the same thing.