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2018 NFL Draft: Answering the burning questions surrounding the Steelers entering the draft

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The 2018 NFL Draft starts Thursday night, and there are several questions that need answered prior to the event.

NCAA Football: Boise State at Air Force Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Last week I commented on some questions that were posed to Pittsburgh Post Gazette sports writer Ed Bouchette during his weekly online chat. In that article, I took several questions from Tuesday's chat, gave Bouchette’s answers and then tossed in my own replies to the questions. This week I have done the same, but instead of commenting on myriad topics, I thought it would be more appropriate to focus more on questions he took concerning the upcoming NFL draft.

Whether you like Bouchette or not, he has been covering Steeler football longer than quite a few of us have been alive. In case you missed last week’s article, it can be found here.

Question: If we draft a WR high, is there any chance that we trade MB to get maybe a 4th round in this draft? I would like to get something for him while we can, he is only one puff away....

Bouchette: They are not trading Martavis Bryant

Flip: The suggestions that Bryant may be traded just will not die. What value does a player have if he’s deep in the substance abuse program? And what value does he have with his contract expiring after this year?

The Miami Dolphins traded WR Jarvis Landry, who led the league in receptions last season and 400 receptions over four years, for a 2018 fourth-rounder and a 2019 seventh-rounder. Would anyone give Pitt the same deal for a less productive WR who is one strike away from possibly never playing in the NFL again? The most likely time Bryant would be dealt would be during the draft — and that is highly unlikely.

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Question: Hi Ed, if they can find a dancing partner, do you foresee the Steelers trading down at some point to pick up another pick/player? Thanks

Bouchette: They could move a spot or two, I suppose, but they don’t want to get out of the first round because then you only have your first pick under contract for four years with no fifth option.

Flip: Bouchette brings up a valid point here regarding the fifth-year option. Teams want to keep these players under their control as long as possible before negotiating a new contract to see if they’re even worthy of a new contract. For a player under a four-year contract, the negotiations would start after year three. For a first-rounder, the negotiations would be pushed back another full year. Theoretically, if contract extensions hit a snag, these first-rounders could be under the team’s control for upwards of seven years with the use of the franchise tag twice. The second tag would in all likelihood make the player the highest-paid player at his position.

To clarify how the fifth-year options work (as there has been some confusion on the boards): Outside of the top ten draft picks, players’ salaries are based on the average of the third through twenty-fifth players at that position. Offensive line players are all grouped together, as are all linebackers. There is no separation between OLB and ILB, nor guard and left tackle.

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Question: There are some positions I can’t see the Steelers drafting in the first round this year: QB, RB, WR, TE, OL, DL. I have my doubts about OLB too. Do you agree?

Bouchette: A guard would not surprise me.

Or a tackle for that matter

Flip: This has been a hotly contested topic on the BTSC boards the past couple of months. Best player available would open up any and all positions. On the other hand, drafting for need would limit those options tremendously. It is debatable what “need” positions there are, though. Are ILB and S really a need? We have starters penciled in right now. If you fast forward to 2019, Vince Williams, Ramon Foster and Le’Veon Bell will all be free agents. Could Pitt look to fill those voids a year early and give their draft pick a year to marinate on the bench? Or does Pitt draft a player who would help them with scheme flexibility?

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Question: Hi, Ed, Any indication that the Steelers are worried enough about the Boise State ILB’s “medical condition” that they would not pick him in the first round if available?

Bouchette: They are not concerned about it

Flip: This is one of those stories that, all of a sudden, more than two months after the combine, that pop up every year. Is it a real story that should concern Steeler Nation? Is it generated by a GM (Colbert) hoping that the negative news will push LVE into freefall?

Charlie Campbell, a senior draft analyst for Walterfootball, broke a report on April 16 stating that teams had started removing Vander Esch due to a neck injury suffered in 2016. And some draft “experts” point out that LVE wore a neck brace in 2017 to protect the condition he has.

Vander Esch’s agent immediately denied the claims. “The report is false,” Ron Slavin told the Idaho Press-Tribune Monday. “I have the medical grades. No one flunked him and he wasn’t even asked to go back to Indy for a recheck.” The grades that he referred to are handed out at the combine. LVE received a four out of five. Players with any medical concerns are asked to come back for a medical recheck. LVE was not one of them.

It is up to Steelers fans to decide if this is a non-story or one that is valid. Was the injury just a stinger, or is there something more serious going on here? Pitt has his medicals from the combine but still brought him in for a visit. Was he brought in to go over his medicals to possibly eliminate him from the draft board, or was the visit a precursor to drafting him?

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Question: Depending on the draft and if we pick up a free agent, what current starter could be in trouble for his starting role?

Bouchette: The ILB next to Vince Williams. Bud Dupree. Artie Burns.

Flip: I was around for the chat so I tossed in some questions, and this was one of them. Bouchette’s answer surprised me. (Should I really ever be surprised by his answers?) Jon Bostic was specifically brought in to be the starter next to Williams. The biggest things that have hindered Bostic’s career have been injuries, not talent. It is hard to believe Bostic would lose his starting gig to a rookie. If Bostic can play near the level he did in last year’s Steelers game, fans are going to love seeing him in 2018.

Burns is a polarizing player. Half the fan base is frustrated with him giving up big plays and missed tackles. The other half sees him as still raw but flashing solid playmaking ability with a bright future. I find it inconceivable that Burns is tossed aside only two years after being a first-round draft choice. Would a rookie take his spot, or does Bouchette see Sutton pushing for his starting gig?

I am stunned by Dupree making this list. Pitt had just slapped him with the fifth-year option the day before the chat, and that will pay him over $9 million in 2019, guaranteed only for injury. I find this unrealistic as the Black and Gold are going to give him every opportunity to prove his worth. Colbert and Tomlin will give him every opportunity to prove them right: Dupree was indeed worthy of a first-round selection. Would a rookie really push him to the bench? Could Anthony Chickillo be rounding the corner and be viewed as worthy of cutting into his snaps?

Vince Williams has been the center of my ire for over a year now. No reason to beat that dead horse further. Plenty of time to do that in the offseason. Lol :)

Ramon Foster could be a prime candidate to lose his job after his down 2018 season. BJ Finney started two games as Foster’s replacement and did not embarrass himself during the process. Could the Steelers be eying Finney as the long-term solution to replace 32-year-old Foster as soon as 2018?

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Question: Ed, in your opinion, who is this year’s “6 Rd. Pick 199” person to steal in the draft?!?

Bouchette: Maybe another long snapper

Flip: A Bouchette chat session would not be complete without a snarky comment. Thank you, Ed, for sharing your 40-plus years of wisdom regarding Steelers football.

My shot in the dark for the first LS drafted would be Tanner Carew. Carew was the only true LS invited to the combine. For giggles, Carew gave his ranking of items that would be hardest to easiest to long snap.

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There is no denying that Steeler Nation is amped up to see who the Steelers select in the draft. The Steelers could go in so many different directions, but what could influence their selection? Do they get blocked out of their first-round pick or does their coveted selection fall right in their laps? Could they move up or back depending on what transpires? Do they take BPA or fill a perceived need? What do you think will happen?