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.