Steelers Just A Part Of Trade Explosion Around The League, With Possible Explanations

If it suddenly seemed to you like there are a lot more trades this summer around the NFL than there usually are, it is not just before you are following the Pittsburgh Steelers, who went completely out of character and made five trades from the middle of training camp to the day after they made their roster cuts.

From the start of August to the early days of September, there were 30 trades made around the NFL. I would just like to briefly pause for a moment to consider the ridiculous fact that the Steelers then accounted for one-sixth of all trades during that time span.

More globally, though, the point is that that number of trades represents more than double the number of trades that we have been accustomed to seeing at this time of year, according to an article written by Mike Sando for ESPN, who explores some reasons that trades have become so much more appealing.

Of course, the Steelers’ reasons were rather clear. They made two player-for-pick trades in which they turned surplus talent at wide receiver and cornerback into draft selections by dealing Ross Cockrell and Sammie Coates, while keeping six at both positions.

They also made two pick-for-player trades in which they expended minor draft resources—trading higher picks for slightly lower picks—in order to supplement areas of the roster that were deficient not in numbers, but in talent, in doing so acquiring tight end Vance McDonald and safety J.J. Wilcox.

They also made one player-for-player trade among those on the bottom of the roster, giving up a deep-string center who was not even going to make the practice squad for a cornerback with some experience on both defense and special teams in Dashaun Phillips, a player currently on the practice squad that I wouldn’t be surprised to see on the 53-man roster at some point.

While Pittsburgh’s reasons were clear, they will not apply universally, so Sando offered a few theories. He posits one in which he argues that the idea of ‘tanking’ has now become mainstream in the NFL. We have seen teams such as the Browns, Jets, and Bills trade off significant resources over the course of the past few years in order to stock up on draft picks, the way baseball teams out of the pennant race trade away key players for prospects.

Another, counter trade theory is that some teams are not valuing draft picks as much. These are, of course, different teams, like the Patriots, who traded away much of their 2017 draft for players. Deeper roster will have fewer opportunities for their young draft picks to practice and develop, so they are not as valuable as veteran commodities who can contribute immediately.

Other factors that he believes contribute to the rise in trades are a new wage of general managers who bring with them a new line of thinking about roster-building, the elimination of the 75-man roster cut, technology making it easier for teams to scout and target for acquisition other teams’ players, and the fact that fewer players have contracts that make them difficult to trade.

It will be interesting to see if we see such a high volume of activity next year as we did this year. If Sando is right, then we should expect to see at least a couple dozen or so trades.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • nutty32

    Now, if the NFL would come to their senses and push back the trade deadline, even more fan buzz will be had.

  • Chris92021

    I love trades, especially swaps for players instead of draft picks. I do wish the trade deadline was pushed back to Thanksgiving week. NFL Network would have a field day that week.

  • Kevin Schwartz

    Honestly, I have a feeling a lot of it is monkey-see, monkey-do. Belichick traded away Collins because he didn’t think they would resign him, and then got Cooks. The NFL tends to be pretty conservative, so I imagine a lot of people were nervous to trade picks for players, because they’d be an outlier if it didn’t turn out well (as some inevitably won’t).

    But, they’re also likely looking at the NBA, where there’s a lot more wheeling and dealing (as well as blatant tanking) and seeing what they can learn.

    The NFL is a little different. For one, I imagine it’s much harder to pick up a new team’s system quickly and be effective. You also don’t have the situation where one or two players can really make the difference and turn you into a title contender (unless it’s an Aaron Rodgers/Tom Brady/Peyton Manning level QB).

  • Dale

    I’m not sure that we exactly had “surplus talent” at cornerback.

  • Dennis Nevinsky

    I can see the Steelers giving away draft picks in a trade up for a QB that they think will be a franchise QB, the same way that Kansas City did this year.

  • Charles Mullins

    GMs grew up playing madden. That is the real answer.

  • LucasY59

    I think there still might be a chance to trade Feiler after this weekend (to a team has an injury or isnt happy with their OL) and that would open up a spot to bring S.Johnson back again

  • Matthew Marczi

    In terms of quantity, sure, they did. Is there anyone on the 53-man roster who you don’t think is deserving of being in the NFL at the position? And then there’s Sutton on IR and Phillips on the practice squad.

  • NCSteel

    The stuff you’re seeing with the Jets and Bills is not cool.

  • Bob Russak

    Just pure speculation of course……maybe Ben told them in private that this year is it and he will retire at the end of the season, so Steelers are going all in to get number 7 so he can go out on top ala Bettis

  • Reader783

    Also harder to rebuild an NFL team of 22 starters v. an NBA team of 5 starters

  • O’Neal

    If he does give me baker mayfield at 2 32

  • Roberto Vaquero Bazán

    In my mind theres no doubt this is Ben’s last season!

  • Steve

    KC was smart, moving up in the draft to get Mahomes, who will be their QB of the future.

  • Steve

    IMHO the main reason for all these trades in the last few weeks, is because the teams didn’t reduce the roster size, until last Saturday. Many teams could pick up players in the preseason as teams reduced their roster, but this year there was no reduction, until a week before regular season.

  • Brenton deed

    The “tanking” hypothesis makes sense … it’s the contra positive of what tha Steelers did this year by shoring up weaknesses in an effort to win it all now while Ben’s “window” is still open.
    Once Ben goes will they “cash in” people like Bell to get into the top 5 (say) in the draft to get his replacement?