It has been 43 years since the Steelers have not made a 1st round selection and this Thursday would be the perfect draft to break that streak. The Steelers pick 31st overall in the 2011 NFL draft and the talent that will likely be left on the board at that time might be best regarded as second round talent. The value seems to drop fast after about the 26th pick in my opinion and the Steelers would be better off trading down a handful of spots to attain an early second round pick and perhaps another 4th round selection in addition.
Last night I identified six teams that might be potential trading partners that all could be looking to jump back into the bottom of the first round to grab a quarterback. If this indeed does happen, I feel the Steelers would be doing themselves a huge favor as it would perhaps then allow them to properly address the cornerback position along with the offensive and defensive line properly with multiple picks.
The draft is pretty rich with second round cornerback and tackle talent and coming out of the draft with 8 or 9 draft picks would not be a bad thing considering that the Steelers are often not a big player in the free agent market. This assumes of course that there even will be a free agent signing period. The extra picks would also enhance the competition at training camp between the 2010 draft picks and those that do not make the 53 man roster would be prime candidates for the practice squad.
If the draft goes like many of the mocks are predicting the bottom of the first round might only present the Steelers with the likes of Aaron Williams, Cameron Heyward, Phil Taylor, Akeem Ayers and Brandon Harris. None of which really get you overly excited as first round selections if you have watched them in action. Most have Williams, Harris or Heyward as the pick should they stay put, but it is hard to believe that comparative talent could not be had just a handful of picks later as the top of the second round group of players offer much more upside. Cornerbacks Ras-I Dowling, Curtis Brown and Brandon Burton all come to mind as possible early second round prospects as do tackles Marcus Cannon, James Carpenter and Marcus Gilbert. The extra 3rd or 4th round selection they would likely receive in the deal would allow perhaps another corner to be drafted like Curtis Marsh, Cortez Allen or Buster Skrine. Many of these players I have listed have made pre draft visits to Pittsburgh, so the interest in them is real.
Director of Operations Kevin Colbert has a pretty good eye at identifying value and one has to think that that there is not much left this year at the bottom of round one, like there was when the Steelers drafted Ziggy Hood with their 32nd overall selection just 2 short years ago. Hood was easily one of the top 3 or 4 five technique defensive ends in the draft at it fit an obvious need as well. While Williams, Heyward and Taylor are certainly talented players, they all have red flags on them that severely lower their first round value.
The Steelers very well could end up staying put with their pick Thursday night, but it would not hurt my feelings at all to see them trade out of the first round altogether. Streaks and tendencies are made to be broken and this year is as good as any to do it in my honest opinion. The question now becomes if they have a trading partner willing to dance and if they are willing to pull the trigger to get the deal done. We will know in just a few more days the answer to that question.