The draft provides an important opportunity to look into the minds of the Steelers braintrust (Colbert, Tomlin, etc). What they didn't do is as important as what they did do. Here is what the 2010 draft says to me about the thinking of the Steelers' front office:
* Willie Colon is a keeper at RT. The team had an unexpected chance to draft Brian Baluga in the first round. Although downgraded on some boards, Baluga was generally regarded as one of the top tackles available. By passing on Baluga for an interior lineman, Maurkice Pouncey, the FO indicates that they are not interested in replacing Colon (or shifting him to guard).
* Limas Sweed looks like a bust. The loss of Santonio Holmes could have thrust former second-round pick Sweed into the third- or fourth-WR spot. Instead, the team signed Antwaan Randle-El to be the third receiver and drafted two more WRs, including third-rounder Emmanuel Sanders. With special-teams demon Arnez Battle penciled into the fifth-WR spot, it now appears possible that Sweed will not even make the roster, unless there is an injury or the team goes with six WRs.
* The LaMarr Woodley negotiations are not going well. This one is controversial, but my take on the Steelers choosing not one but two OLBs in the first four rounds is that they plan on replacing Woodley after his contract expires at the end of the 2010 season. Remember when Joey Porter left before the 2007 season? The team responded by drafting two LBs, Woodley and Lawrence Timmons, in the first two rounds. Drafting two players at a position of need gives the team Plan A and Plan B, which paid off in 2007 when Timmons, the first pick, was slow to develop. Unlike last time, the new guys have a year to train up before one has to become a starter.
* Last year's top picks could pay off in 2010. Choosing center Pouncey instead of trading up for guard Mike Iupati gives 2009 third-rounder Kraig Urbik an opportunity to start at RG. Pouncey is likely to compete with Justin Hartwig at center and will probably take over as the starter at some point during the season. Also, the team did not draft a CB until round 5, giving third-rounder Keenan Lewis and fifth-rounder Joe Burnett a shot at William Gay's starting spot. However, the team hedged its bet on the young CBs by bringing back former starter Bryant McFadden.
* Will Allen looks like a dependable safety. The Steelers could have traded up only a few picks in the second round to get USC's Taylor Mays, a highly rated safety. Instead, the team did not draft a safety at all. The FO appears willing to trust the veteran Allen in a starting role if Troy Polamalu or Ryan Clark, who both missed games in 2009, are again injured.
* Casey Hampton will last another 2-3 seasons. Of course, the Steelers would not have extended Hampton's contract if they did not feel that he still had some gas left in the tank. But by not drafting a nose tackle in any round, the team signaled that they do not need to get Hampton's replacement any time soon.
* Stefan Logan is headed for a new team. I lost count of the number of Steelers draft picks who can return punts and/or kickoffs. Of course, the team also signed free-agent Battle as a possible return man. Although Logan did an admirable job in 2009, it looks like the FO wants to save a roster spot by using someone else (or a combination of someone elses) to return kicks in 2010.
* Big Ben is not going anywhere. If the team were serious about trading Rothlisberger, they could have drafted a top QB such as Jimmy Clausen (by trading up slightly in the second round) or Colt McCoy (by trading down in the second round or up in the third) to develop for the future. Instead, they will turn the team back over to their Super Bowl-winning QB after his suspension ends. The FO must be confident that Big Ben will avoid any future shenanigans.