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With the 24th Overall Pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers Select... A Wide Receiver

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This is the first in a collaborative effort from the editorial staff at BTSC, providing some arguments behind possible positional directions the Steelers may go with their first round pick - currently scheduled for the 24th overall. These will be posted each day this week, and will not be distributed based on order of preference.

Wouldn't it be strange if Chipotle started heavily marketing and selling hamburgers?

Their famous burritos have people standing in lines of 20 deep - sometimes even out the door - just to get one around lunch time. Granted, their fajita bowls may bring in a person or two as well, but their customer base is because of the burritos.

Will there be more people lining up because Chipotle theoretically serves hamburgers? It would seem strange, but perhaps one or two more may join the throngs waiting for that carnitas and pinto bean sensation. If they have the marketing dollars available and wish to move in a direction to increase their customer base, it would make more sense to simply market their money maker, the burrito.

Regardless of what else is being sold, the burrito is the best food item available.

A wide receiver is likely to be the best player available (BPA) when the Steelers go on the clock with the 24th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Should it matter they already have talented players at the position? Football is all about match-ups, and one significant positional match-up game-in and game-out can be the difference between 12-4 and 8-8.

It used to be a game in which a team was only as good as its weakest link. The New England Patriots came one bad ankle (TE Rob Gronkowski) from winning a Super Bowl with an average offensive line, a below average defense (in terms of tackling) and castoffs at running back. They were able to have that level of success because they have elite players at other positions: even though QB Tom Brady couldn't throw to Gronkowski, he could still throw to TE Aaron Hernandez.

The Patriots took two tight ends in 2010 (Gronkowsi in the second round, Hernandez in the fourth). If the Patriots didn't apply a BPA strategy, it could be argued they would not have had as much success in 2011.

The Steelers have three talented receivers, but that's just it - they only have three receivers who can definitively say they'll be on the roster after March 13. The tea leaves don't strongly indicate that Hines Ward will be back, and while Ward's departure suggests an extension for Jerricho Cotchery, he could leave in free agency as well.

Those issues will be cleared up before the draft, but not before the Scouting Combine (which begins Feb. 22 in Indianapolis). Being in such a tenuous situation at such a valuable position will not escape the Steelers' attention.

Early projections indicate that the wide receiver position is deep, but without multiple top 10 prospects. Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon is a lock for the top five. After him, there is potential 1st-round talent in Notre Dame's Michael Floyd, South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery and Baylor's Kendall Wright. Moreover, both Floyd and Jeffery possess something the current Steelers receivers simply don't have.


All three of those prospects could be on the board when the Steelers pick at 24. All three - repeat, all three - of the Steelers receivers who are currently under contract - Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders - are listed at 6-foot or shorter. And none of them weigh more than 200 pounds.

What's easier: finding five All-Pro linemen, or adjusting your passing strategy to include more short releases?

No one was talking about Giants LT David Diehl's level of play the day after the Super Bowl. They were talking about the catch made by WR Mario Manningham - the team's distant third receiving option - and the drop by WR Wes Welker.

New offensive coordinator Todd Haley had big, strong receivers in both Arizona (Larry Fitzgerald) and Kansas City (Dwayne Bowe). While the success of those two has varied a bit due to their individual talent and their particular quarterback situations, it's tough to argue that physical receivers would not have a place in Haley's offense.

It's also important to acknowledge the fact that the rest of the league isn't blind. They noticed defenses struggling to keep Wallace in front of them in the first half of the season, and the level of talent that Brown showed in the second half. Wallace is a restricted free agent this year and barring an extension, will be on the open market in 2013 (unless the Steelers slap the franchise tag on him). Tagging him would likely be about $10 million, maybe more, against the cap. Both Brown and Sanders are RFAs in 2013, and eligible for free agency in 2014.

They can use the tag on Wallace next year and probably Brown in 2014, but the salary cap jail the Steelers would find themselves in would be more despondent than being imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay.

It all comes back to value though: the second and third best receivers in this draft are talented players for sure, but they aren't likely to go higher than picks 19-25. It's awfully tempting to grab a 6-foot-4 receiver with 4.5 speed and good hands, if for no other reason than provide a reliable shorter target. We don't know how much longer the Young Money Crew will be around, but we know they need a big target now.