Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has never been one to shy away from making a draft-day trade. Big first-round trades under Colbert have netted the Steelers players such as Casey Hampton, Troy Polamalu and Santonio Holmes.
But in a transition year, should the Steelers make a move in the first round?
A trade up could provide the Steelers with a playmaker who is necessary to get them back in the hunt in the AFC. However, a trade down would net the Steelers extra picks to help replenish a roster in need of depth.
So what should the Steelers do? Here is a look at their options come draft day.
Twice since Kevin Colbert arrived in Pittsburgh have the Steelers traded up in the first round.
The first trade came in 2003 when the Steelers sent their first-, third- and sixth-round selections to move up 11 spots to select All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu. Then in 2006, Colbert traded their first-, third- and fourth-round picks to move up seven spots where they would draft eventual Super Bowl 43 MVP, Santonio Holmes.
Both moves were huge hits for the Steelers, but is there that type of player in this draft? It doesn’t appear so.
Of the top prospects, only offensive tackles Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson, outside linebacker Dion Jordan and defensive tackle Star Lotulelei are worth trading up for. At least three—if not four—of these players could be top-five selections and all could be drafted in the top 10.
That would require a lot of ammunition from the Steelers to trade up to select one.
Beyond these players, there is no true standout who would be worth surrendering multiple draft picks for. The Steelers have too many needs to sacrifice depth for a player who may help them this season.
The draft is deep enough that the Steelers will be able to select a player from the 17th spot who is comparable to one selected in the top 10.
Considering this, there is no reason for the Steelers to trade up in the first round this season, and it is something they should not even consider.
Just as the Steelers are unlikely to move up in the draft, what are the chances that a team will be willing to send multiple mid-round selections to trade up with the Steelers?
The high-end talent in this draft is just not there, and teams will be looking for cheap talent who they can control for four seasons rather than give up draft picks.
Odds are that the Steelers won’t have a trade partner and will have to sit tight on the 17th overall selection—taking the player who sits atop their draft board.
That is not necessarily a bad thing, however, as the Steelers have done quite well under Colbert when drafting in the top 20.
Pittsburgh has drafted Plaxico Burress (eighth overall in 2000), Casey Hampton (19th overall in 2001), Troy Polamalu (16th overall in 2003), Ben Roethlisberger (11th overall in 2004), Lawrence Timmons (15th overall in 2007) and Maurkice Pouncey (18th overall in 2010).
There is not a bad player in that group, and if the Steelers can add a player of that caliber in this year’s draft, they will be on the right track to rebuilding the team into a playoff contender.
It has been over a decade since the Steelers traded down in the first round. That came in 2001 when Colbert sent the 16th overall selection to the New York Jets for the 19th, 111th and 181st overall selections. They used this pick to draft long-time nose tackle Casey Hampton.
Odds are that a player that the Steelers may covet with the 17th selection this season could be had in the mid-20s or later.
This draft is deep with talent, and if the Steelers could drop down at least eight spots, they could pick up an additional third- and fourth-round selection.
Not only would the Steelers still get their man in the first, but they could add potential starters in the middle rounds of the draft.
Potential targets for these positions in the first round would include Keenan Allen, DeAndre Hopkins, Tyler Eifert, Desmond Trufant or a sliding pass-rusher.
But will a team move up if it can find a player of similar or equal value without giving up picks? There is a chance.
The Minnesota Vikings and St. Louis Rams each have two first-round selections and are in need of talent if they wish to make the playoffs. Both teams could use some playmakers for their young quarterbacks, and there will be value at the receiver position at the midway point of the first.
The Vikings may be even more likely to make a move considering they have 11 picks and could package their mid-round selections to get a better player near the top of the draft.
A team like the San Francisco 49ers has 11 draft picks as well and is a title contender. Trading up with a team like the Steelers would enable them to get a player who could be good enough to put them over the top.
Other teams who may target the Steelers could be teams in need of a guard. As we saw last season, even though they are highly rated, offensive guards can drop in the draft. Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper are two guards who teams in need of offensive line help will covet.
While the Steelers would be passing on some talented players if they trade back, the return they would get would be worth it.
With additional selections in the third and fourth rounds, the Steelers could target players at running back, wide receiver or add depth to their secondary or linebacking corps.
Players such as running backs Giovani Bernard, Montee Ball, Joseph Randle, Le’Veon Bell, Christine Michael, wide receivers Da’Rick Rogers, Terrance Williams, Stedman Bailey, Marquise Goodwin, linebackers Jamie Collins, Sam Montgomery, Sean Porter, and defensive backs Tharold Simon, Dwayne Gratz, Shamarko Thomas, Bacarri Rambo and Phillip Thomas are all slotted in these rounds.
As it stands now, the Steelers are in position to get any two of these players. However, if they find a trade partner in the first round, they would add at least one additional pick in the third or fourth round.
These extra picks would allow the Steelers to instantly upgrade their roster with prospects who profile to be future starters. Many of these players could even contribute as rookies.
As long as a trade partner is there, trading down will be a no-brainer for Colbert. There is too much value to pass up in this draft, and the Steelers must do everything that they can to move down in the first round and accumulate as many selections as they can to build for the present and the future.