High Draft Picks Are For Losers

By Michael K. Reynolds

Should you cheer for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Cincinnati Bengals or hope they lay down in order to get a better position in the draft?

Here’s your clue: High draft picks are for losers.

Sure. You might end up with the number one overall draft pick and get winners like Andrew Luck (2012) and Cam Newton (2011). But ask the Oakland Raiders how well JaMarcus Russell (2007) was able to turn around their organization.

Then there’s the Cleveland Browns who had back-to-back number one draft pick busts in Courtney Brown (2000) and Tim Couch (1999). They weren’t alone as the Bengals pulled their own deuce of duds in Dan Wilkinson (1994) and Ki-Jana Carter (1995).

And then there are a boatload of number one overall draft picks who proved to be more later round in value like Sam Bradford (2010), Alex Smith (2005), David Carr (2002), Steve Emtman (1992) and Jeff George (1990).

Even the winners like Bo Jackson (1986), Michael Vick (2001), Carson Palmer (2003), Jake Long (2008) and Matthew Stafford (2009) had their value deteriorate greatly by injury.

In fact, if you look through the entire list of number one draft picks in the past couple of decades there are very few who have been bonafide home runs. Very few have been able to dramatically change the course of their teams.

Because high draft picks are for losers.

Which is why Steelers fans should have only thing on their minds when their team takes the field for these last three matches. It’s all about winning.

In the NFL there is a razor thin difference between winners and losers. If you look at the New England Patriots, that is not a team deep in talent. But they haven’t forgotten how to win.

Some of the Steelers players may be older, slower and on their last legs in the NFL. But they remember what it takes to win. It’s critical they pass this knowledge and attitude to the next generation of Black and Gold players. Much of that opportunity will occur in the next three games.

If you look at most Steelers losses this year, it’s been just a play or two that has made the difference. This season will most likely be remembered by the half-inch of sideline that Antonio Brown stepped on in the nearly miraculous last play of the game. This is not a great team, but it is one that could easily be 8-5 rather than 5-8.

Losing is a black mold. Once it gets in the locker room it can take years and sometimes decades to get out. No number of high draft picks can overcome this.

They need to scratch, claw and do what it takes to get the edge back. To finish the season strong.

So yes…let’s get some young players on the field and see what they can offer in upgrading some of our aging warriors. They need and deserve to be on the field of combat. But let’s not forget the most important thing they need to learn.

That is winning. It’s the Steelers tradition.

About the Author

Michael K. Reynolds
Longtime Pittsburgh Steelers fanatic and author of the acclaimed Heirs of Ireland series. MichaelKReynolds.com
  • Jollyrob68

    No Steeler fan should want them to lay down but we won’t shed a tear at a close loss and better draft position.

  • Rick M

    I admire your optimism to go all out on the field. But after I read your article I thought I would take a recent draft and see how important or unimportant having a high pick was. I honestly didn’t check any drafts in advance. I just opted for 2011, feeling that two years of play would give someone a pretty good indication of ability, or lack thereof.

    Here are some of the Top 10 draft picks from that year: Cam Newton (1), Von Miller (2), A.J. Green (4), Patrick Peterson (5), Julio Jones (6), Aldon Smith 7 and J.J. Watt, just outside the Top 10 at 11.

    Can you screw up a Top 10 pick – of course. Does it guarantee you a quality starter – of course not. But if you’re suggesting it doesn’t increase your chances to get a stud player, I respectfully disagree.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I believe what the writer was saying is that we should be trying to build a winning attitude by trying to win the last 3 games and added that a good draft pick doesn’t always mean a good player.

  • DrakePirate

    Thank you .. great response to a simplistic view written article. While nobody wants them to lay down … a strong performance with some good individual growth and a loss with better draft position is by far the better result … as this season is done … i think i speak for most Steeler fans .. we are not the Bucs, Jags or any other lacklustre franchise … its playoffs or bust anything else is not worthy of mention and a better draft pic goes far beyond the above examples of bad 1st Rnd choices but dictates every selection all the way down the line in every round which can make or break a draft … so I for one would not shed one tear for another one in the Loss column

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I would. I hate losing

  • Rick M

    With all this team’s needs, I would far rather increase our chances of drafting a future Pro Bowler – who could help return us to play-off contender – than win some meaningless games late in the season. But I realize that everyone has a different take on this.

  • Rosco

    Of course we wont lay down!! We need to help the ravens win the division!!

  • Shea Fahr


  • Shea Fahr

    Inside the locker room, developing a Winning culture is MUCH more important than a top 10 draft pick. Being happy about a loss for any reason is just pure nonsense.

  • Callentown

    Predictions – Gone:

    Coach Dick LeBeau
    Ryan Clark
    Larry Foote
    Will Allen
    Ziggy Hood
    Brett Keisel

    Coach Dick Haley
    J. Cotchery
    Felix Jones
    David Paulson
    E. Sanders
    Mike Adams (wish)

    What do you think??

  • mlc43

    Why isn’t TP43 on there? Also, is Cotchery gone because we don’t have the money to keep him or because we should just, in your opinion, let him go?

  • Maninblck

    Any way you spin it your LOSING this year and don’t be surprised if you Steelers trade up with us the Raiders to get a new QB. Especially after the way you have lost confidence in the QB you have.

  • mlc43

    What the happy horse crap are you talking about? You do realize that Ben, despite the crappy season, is having a pretty darn good year himself? What an ignorant post. What great QB is there in this draft? If you think there is one, then you are a typical Raiders fan.

  • Rick M

    Who’s lost confidence in BB? You have Matt McGloin and Terrelle Pryor and you’re making a comment like that? Talk about hilarious.

  • Callentown

    I believe Troy comes back next year and may play for less to end in Pittsburgh.

    Mostly, I just thought I would start this discussion more than think I know what’s going to happen.

    Cotchery is an UFA next year. It looks like Steelers draft a WR higher up again as well.

  • dgh57


  • DrakePirate

    Respectfully disagree .. winning these last few games and going the same 8-8 is meaningless and is not MORE important than higher draft picks EVERY round … not even close sorry u are wrong and not only that, but if we did manage to go 8-8 again it might actually be counter productive as Management might take it that we dont need as much spring cleaning as we actually do … nahhhh I’d much rather develop the younger guys, try some new things, play hard go 6-10 and get nice draft picks and do a lot of fat trimming all over !!!

  • DrakePirate

    Like it, except keep Cotch if a modest contract and Ziggy if he is cheap .. Ziggy while i think we can all agree he hasn’t lived upto expectations he is not horrible and can be a decent swing or back up guy … give Adams one more year to prove he has a future

  • DrakePirate

    Ben has had one of his best years … and if nothing else it proves he probably has another 4 good years left at least !

  • RW

    ESPN: Still have a 0.2% chance of making the playoffs.

    “…So you’re telling me there’s a chance?”

    Forget draft position. We’re destined for a top 15 pick regardless of whether we miraculously make the playoffs or not, who cares where it is? We have a shot at genuine talent no matter where we land, and we have a ton of needs this year anyway (CB, TE, LT, WR, S). Whether we’re at 1 or 15 we’ll get a player who can make an impact at one of those positions. If we only needed one player for next year (like the Colts did with Luck) I’d say let’s lay down. But that’s a rare circumstance. I’ll take a whooping of the Bengals and a loss of 2 draft spots any day of the week.

  • RW

    I doubt Haley goes. The organization won’t want to throw another offensive system at Ben while he’s in his so-called “prime”. I agree with most of the defense – don’t know about hood going, though. And Adams is staying.

    If Troy doesn’t take a pay cut I suspect they’ll let him loose at whatever time makes sense for salary cap savings.

  • RW

    You should go easy on him – he hasn’t seen a good QB play in decades.

  • gene mann

    The team wont lay down but it they do loss the higher the pick would be bwnefiicial t this point for the Steelers. Unlike other teams above I trust Kevin Colbert picking in round one . say we stay at #10 Mr Colbert could also move down in the draft to aquire more picks to Fill more needs for this team. Especially since we are not FA PLayer we need to hit on the draft

  • sean mcmartin

    Yeah Right, Tomlin couldn’t motivate this team to play lights out for Monday night football. What makes anyone think this guy can motivate players to win.
    The great coach who can’t manage a time clock after seven years,,

  • sean mcmartin

    10 Losing seasons in a row..Shows how misery loves company.

  • HopalongCassidy

    Add Polamalu and Ike Taylor to the D list. Save the money and use it toward a FA or two.

  • Intropy

    I don’t want them to lie down. I want them to try to win. But I want them to try to win by getting some young players on the field for some in game experience and sparing veterans who will still be around (particularly Ben) some wear and injury risk. For example, I’d be playing L. Jones, Wheaton, Sanders, Dwyer, Woods, S. Thomas, your favorite borderline CB, J. Jones, Worilds, V. Williams, as much as I realistically could.

  • alex

    raiderfan bringin it…

    yes, losing suxs, but we wont be seeing it for long like the raiders…tanks an aging AL Davis…rip..

    but, you guys ripped off ALL your cap issue in one year with mucho $$$ available for next year…

    the cup is half full for next year to bring the raiders back to glory and some future success…

    bringin’ back the old Steelers/Raiders days…sweet!

  • Rick,
    I actually agree with you. Obviously there is a higher chance of success the higher you go up. But you cherry picked an exceptional year! Take a look at 2010 and I think you would say…”Meh”. But let’s stay with 2011 and continue. J.J. Watt (11), Nick Fairley (13), Mike Pouncey (15), Phil Taylor (21), Jimmy Smith (27), Cam Heyward (31). There are several others that are pretty good as well. It was a great draft year. I would say the Steelers would be thrilled with J.J. Watt, Mike Pouncey or Phil Taylor…and who knows how high the ceiling is for Cam Heyward who was at the bottom of the first round heap. My point is the attitude of winning is not something that you can just flick a light switch on or off and I don’t believe it’s worth tanking games to move up a spot or so.

  • alex

    good point, play them now for experience later…

    but winning for sooo long makes it hard to have a JAQs attitude…we all can understand that Steeler pride and attitude…

    in the end, the margin of victory is ‘razor’ thin once again, just like last years 8-8 flat tire which easily couldve been 10-6…but, if we end up 6-10 we can have a top 10 pic to use or trade back for pics…

    if the ‘razor’ is good to us, we can be 7-9 with half the NFL and we might be picking @ 20 again…

  • 20Stoney

    I actually had to re-read that to make sure it said what I thought it did.

  • While I agree with the premise that they shouldn’t lie down, supporting it by randomly picking busts and successes is a fairly fallacious argument.

  • I actually included in the discussion 17 of the past 25 top overall number picks and talked about the remainder. I admitted to there being Andrew Lucks and Cam Newtons (and you can throw in the Peyton Mannings and Calvin Johnsons), but overall the argument is well supported whether you agree with it or not.

  • The Steelers are not in play for the number one pick. Even laying down and losing out, they couldn’t get the #1 overall, merely a higher pick. Your argument focused purely on the questionable value of #1 overall picks (which is well supported and which I agree with), but that has no relevance at all to the Steelers situation. Hence my comment about it being fallacious. It is a limited sample set that doesn’t apply. You should really be looking at top 5 picks, which would be realistic if they were to lose out.

  • I am not trying to troll or anything, just saying that there are better supporting arguments for why they shouldn’t lie down.

  • Andrew

    You can cherry pick examples in either direction in regards to the draft. But statistics show a correlation between higher picks and better players. Will there still be teams who miss early on? Yes. Will there be teams who find late gems? Yes. But you must look at the entire sample size.
    At the very least, the pool of players the Steelers can choose from is deeper with a higher pick, not just in first round, but each subsequent round as well.

    If you believe in the intangible “knowing how to win,” moral victories, momentum carrying over to a new team in a new year, then yes, you should root for the Steelers to win out and capture all of the resulting intangibles in a bottle so they don’t get lost in the offseason.

  • gene mann

    just how did that last season win against Cleveland go toward this season and the 0-4 start, Give me a top 10 pick instead of an 8-8 record

  • MC

    I don’t and hate to see them lose BUT a high draft pick is a lil consollation from losing. When a team has this many holes they’ll need all the help they can get on draft day.

  • Shea Fahr

    I understand what you are saying but I think you go with the players that give you the best chance to win week in and week out…regardless of your record.

  • Shea Fahr

    Well Said RW!