The Steelers' most important free agent this off-season, obviously, is WR Mike Wallace. Even though he is a restricted free agent and will receive a first round tender offer from the Steelers (which will entitle Pittsburgh to a first-round selection in the event Wallace signed an offer sheet the Steelers decline to match), teams will certainly still be interested in the third-year pro, who's coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance, and has nowhere to go but up, talent-wise.
Wallace's departure would entitle Pittsburgh an additional first-round pick, and one obvious suitor will be San Francisco, a team on the verge of the Super Bowl, and without any glaring holes and the salary cap room to give Wallace a long-term deal.
So what would happen if the 49ers pulled the trigger?
Let's say San Francisco signs Wallace to an offer sheet, and the Steelers choose to decline to match it. That would give the Steelers the 30th overall pick in the draft, making it the first time in decades Pittsburgh had two first-round picks.
But it would be at least another year until they drafted twice in the first round.
The scratch provided by San Francisco would give the Steelers the ability to trade out of the first round. The likely target? Philadelphia.
The Eagles are in a similar position as the Steelers are, having franchised Desean Jackson, and contract talks have reportedly been stalled through several attempts to get him signed to a long-term deal. There are several receivers, such as Baylor's Kendall Wright and South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery, or even a defensive tackle like Penn State's Devon Still, who would be enticing prospects for the Eagles and would likely be available at No. 30.
It's a smart move for the Steelers, considering the best part of this draft class is in the middle rounds.
In this scenario I have the Steelers trading the acquired No. 30 pick from San Francisco to Philadelphia for both of their second round picks (No. 14 and No. 19 of the second round).
Pittsburgh would enter the draft knowing Wallace was gone (free agency begins March 13, and if Wallace was to receive an offer on that day, the Steelers would have seven days to match it). After exploring opportunities elsewhere, they take a wait-and-see approach, and remain on point to draft at 24.
With that pick:
1.24 - Donta Hightower, ILB, Alabama - Hightower is a perfect replacement for James Farrior to play the buck linebacker in our defense. He is the best Buck ILB prospect in this draft and could be a starter from Day 1.
Upon going on the clock at No. 30, the Steelers execute a trade with Philadelphia, and take the rest of the night to research and prepare to draft twice in the middle of the second round, which would start the following day.
The Transactions page would read like this:
Trade 1.30 to the Eagles for 2.14 and 2.19
And after that, Pittsburgh will go heavily into linemen on both sides of the ball.
2.14 - Amini Silatolu, OG, Midwestern State - Silatolu is flying up draft boards and by the time the draft comes around, I think he will be a top 15 pick in the 2nd round (maybe top 20). By getting this extra pick we can land a mauler with great athleticism that I feel is the 2nd best guard in this class. He would be a day one starter and an instant upgrade over Kemoatu.
2.19 - Alameda Ta'amu, NT, Washington - Ta'amu had a good combine and is a very good NT prospect. Because of his experience, he could likely be a day one starter and instantly help out this defense. He is very good at eating up multiple blockers and even has some pass rushing skills. However, we would be better off subbing in a guy like Steve McClendon on passing situations.
2.24 - Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin - I have us taking Zeitler again in this draft to pair with Silatolu.
3.24 - Tommy Streeter, WR, Miami - Tommy Streeter had an excellent combine but I still see him being mocked in the third round in most scenarios. If we lose Wallace, I think the third round is when we should take a WR. If Streeter is gone, I would want Juron Criner, Dwight Jones, Marvin McNutt, or Joe Adams in that order. Any WR should be able to help the Steelers passing game but Streeter is my favorite prospect because of his size, speed, and athleticism. He would have to improve his route running though.
4.24 - Nate Potter, OT, Boise State - Potter is a good swing tackle prospect that could play both tackle spots. Because of the extra picks we have in this scenario we can afford to spend three picks in the first four rounds on offensive linemen.
5.24 - Billly Winn, DE, Boise State - Winn is a guy I like because of his versatility. He can play both 4-3 DT and 3-4 DE and due to the fact that we have been using more 4-3 packages, a guy like Winn could be useful. He also has some decent pass rushing moves and is experienced. I remember Mike Tomlin saying one of the reasons he liked Cameron Heyward so much was because he had a "four year body of work and not a one or two year body of work". That should make Winn a favorite of Mike Tomlin.
6.24 - Blair Walsh, K, Georgia - Walsh is a guy I want in the 6th round no matter what happens in the other rounds.
7.24 - Ryan Steed, CB, Furman - Steed hurt himself in the combine by running an awful 40 but in film he looks faster than that and he is a great technician. I would love to spend a late round flyer on this guy because he has lockdown potential.
7 Compensatory - Derek Moye, WR, Penn State - Moye is a huge target that could be a great redzone guy for Big Ben. I also love his blocking abilities.
7 Compensatory - Tauren Poole, RB, Tennessee - Poole is the RB I want if we are going to pick an RB. He provides great value as a 6th to UDFA prospect and could make the roster. He is explosive, has great vision, and is a hard worker.