5 Creative Moves the Steelers Can Make on Draft Day
The terms “creative” and “NFL draft” aren’t exactly synonymous when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh’s front office typically plays it close to the vest and takes something of a conservative approach. Needless to say, you have to suspend reality somewhat to think about Pittsburgh making a splashy move.
Nevertheless, this is the kind of draft class that will give them that chance. Whether it’s a risky pick on a player or a big move up or down, the opportunities will be right here for the Steelers front office to open eyes this year.
But, should the Steelers roll the dice? Who would be worth a move up? Let’s take a look at five creative moves the Steelers could make on draft day, and see which ones are worth it.
Make a Little Trade Down
Pittsburgh is sitting smack dab in the middle of the first round with the 15th pick. In this draft class that can be more of a curse than a blessing. There are clearly six or eight players in this draft who stand out in terms of talent. However, beyond that, there are 20 or 25 prospects who are very close in terms of grade.
That means the player the Steelers would take at 15 isn’t going to be that much more talented than the players who will be selected at the end of the round. The key for Pittsburgh is to identify a trade partner. Looking at the bottom of the round, two teams come to mind.
Pittsburgh could try to work a deal with the Arizona Cardinals to get back to 20. Why would Arizona do a deal like this? It is all about the quarterbacks. If the Cardinals are eyeing a quarterback early, and their guy is sliding, Pittsburgh could dangle that to Arizona. The Cardinals go up and get their guy, and Pittsburgh can drop back five spots, pull in an extra pick or two and still see some great talent.
Players to target at 20
- Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
- Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
- Kelvin Benjamin, WR, FSU
- Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
- Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Make a Big Trade Down
Perhaps dropping back to just 20 isn’t enough. Maybe Pittsburgh wants to really amass some picks (for a trade back up later), so they want to slide a little deeper into the end of the first round.
We see teams do this every year. Make a substantial drop back, draft their guy, then use those picks to go back up; perhaps even back into the first round, and snag a second top talent.
This move would be bold, and would take some creativity to pull off. However, for a team that wants to win, moves like this have to happen.
Who would be buying what the Steelers are selling in this scenario? The team that comes to mind first are the San Francisco 49ers.
The 49ers have a big bucket of picks and only a few real needs. It is almost a certainty that San Francisco is going to go up and get someone. Whether it is a wide receiver or a cornerback, if Pittsburgh can convince them to move up, they could haul in some serious picks.
Players to target at 30
- Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
- Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
- Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
- Marcus Smith, DE, Louisville
- Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Make the Big Trade Up
Perhaps rather than slide backwards, the Steelers will instead choose to target a very specific player and go up and get them.
This is something the Steelers have done before. Way back in 2003 the Steelers became so enamored with safety Troy Polamalu they moved up from 27 to 16 to get him.
If Pittsburgh does have a player they want to target, they will need to be aggressive. This means moving up into the top 10, and that will be expensive. It would take a truly elite type of talent to pony up the picks to go get them. It worked with Polamalu, so there is precedent in place.
What would be the trade cost to go up? Moving up from 15 to eight would cost the Steelers their first- and second-round picks this year, and possibly a mid-round pick the following year.
That second-round pick is a big one, but if a prospect is there who they think can be the difference-maker on either side of the ball, then they need to make the deal.
Players to target at 8
- Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
- Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
- Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
- Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
- Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Draft a Quarterback
Now, before anyone freaks out at the headline, this is in no way an endorsement of replacing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Quite the contrary. For my money, Roethlisberger is the greatest quarterback in franchise history, and yes that means better than Terry Bradshaw.
Nevertheless, there are two very good reasons why the Steelers should consider drafting a mid-round quarterback again this year.
First, Roethlisberger is 32 years old, and likely in his career arc. During his career, Roethlisberger has started all 16 regular season games twice. How comfortable is everyone with Landry Jones or Bruce Gradkowski leading this team for an extended period of time?
However, even beyond that, drafting a quarterback this year—and most years—is a smart move. The rookie salary structure has become very forgiving. This means the financial risk typically associated with drafting a player is minimized.
When you consider that many mid-round selections don’t pan out anyway, the risk/reward for taking a quarterback this year is really ideal.
No one wants to think about life after Roethlisberger, but that day will come eventually. It is only shrewd football to try each season to find his replacement.
Quarterbacks to Target
- Tajh Boyd, Clemson
- Brett Smith, Wyoming
- David Fales, San Jose State
- Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech
- Keith Wenning, Ball State
Double Dip Key Positions
There is one thing that was always somewhat confusing about the NFL draft. In many cases, a team is going to draft the position they deem most vital to the success of their team in the first two rounds.
If you do not address your principal need at some point fairly early, you cannot really expect your team to improve.
So, following that logic that at least one of those needs is paramount to the team’s success, why leave it up to that single pick? The answer is you shouldn’t.
Let’s say the Steelers deem cornerback and defensive end as their top needs. And with that, they draft cornerback Kyle Fuller in the first round, and Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt in the second.
Why stop there?
There are no guarantees that Fuller or Tuitt will be successful, and those positions will still be a need. Again, following the logic that a team with nine picks will get about three hits in a draft, why not improve those odds at the positions of greatest need?
I would much rather see Pittsburgh address two or even three needs, and hedge their bets on those with multiple picks, rather than leave it up to a single pick at any given position.