It wasn’t meant to be a rebuttal. I had this topic to discuss about the upcoming draft in my back pocket for a few days. But after Tony Defeo’s article yesterday about the Steelers should key on a running back with their first pick in the upcoming NFL draft, it just naturally comes off as a point/counterpoint discussion. The absolute last thing the Steelers should do for the 2020 draft is get caught up on drafting a certain position with their first draft pick.
First, I would like to address a couple thing from my friend Tony’s article. As I have not been shy about saying, the situation at running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers is not what many fans make it out to be. To say there is no clear-cut backup for the 2020 season is not a fair statement in my opinion. While some fans have completely dismissed Benny Snell Jr. and his contributions to the Steelers, others feel he could very well push James Conner as the starting running back. In the two games he started in 2019, Snell averaged 4.85 yards per carry. It will be interesting to see how Snell has progressed for the 2020 season, but I feel he is far more likely to be considered adequate than a bust.
Looking specifically at the draft, one thing fans know for sure by looking back at previous years is the things never go how everyone expects. If they did, the countless amounts of mock drafts would all look very similar to each other along with how the draft actually ends up. But we all know this is not the case. In fact, it’s very rare that the Steelers end up with a player who gets mocked to them the majority of the time.
Another issue which the Steelers face year after year is the farther down the team is drafting, the less certainty there is and what is going to be available. If a team is picking around the eighth spot, fans can get somewhat excited about players who might be available to them but are still ultimately unsure how the draft is going to play out. As teams draft in the second half of the first round, it’s almost impossible to assume a certain player will be available who actually deserves to be drafted at the time. With the Steelers not having a draft pick until number 49 in 2020, there is no way to know how the chips will fall by the time the Steelers are on the board.
Even in years where the Steelers have a first round draft pick, focusing on one position is really hit or miss. Sometimes players are available from a given position when the Steelers are drafting. Other times, such as in 2016, the right player goes just ahead of when the Steelers go on the clock and the team ends up with a player like Artie Burns. By focusing so much on the need at cornerback, the Steelers did not get a player to help the team in the long run.
If the Steelers were focusing on one given position, especially in 2020, they are far more likely to reach for a player and if they are just preparing to take a multitude of positions. Yes, it could be possible that several players from a given position would be an acceptable pick in the middle of the second round and the Steelers would be in good shape. But what if they aren’t? Using running back is an example, what if not only the top three running backs are all off the board, but what if the top five are unavailable? Should the Steelers take the next guy? And if that many players in the position are already gone, then chances are someone at a different position who many believed would not be available could be a great pickup instead.
I could hear someone making the argument that the Steelers focused on a certain position in the 2019 draft. I have to say, I completely disagree. What the Steelers focused on in the 2019 draft was a particular player. If the Steelers we’re going to draft an inside linebacker regardless, they would have waited for the 20th pick and reached on a player at that spot. Because they remain focused on the player they wanted, they made the move to go up and get Devin Bush.
In all honesty, I would be surprised if the Steelers are focusing on a single position. Of course, it is many in Steelers’ Nation who get really caught up on certain positions and even more caught up on particular players. I have learned over the years to not become enamored with a certain player in the NFL draft. Too many times they end up with a different team and I have to go from gushing over them to despising it when they are wearing purple, orange, or brown.
If fans really want to prepare themselves for the upcoming draft, you need to be ready for the Steelers to take a position they are not expecting. Hopefully the Steelers are grabbing a fantastic player, not just someone who hast to do a specific thing on the football field. Not only should fans not key in on a specific position, I wouldn’t even fall in love with one particular side of the ball. While many fans feel the Steelers should try to improve their offense to the draft either by running back, wide receiver, or offensive lineman, if a play maker is available on defense the Steelers would be foolish not to take them. Yes, the defense appears to be very strong across the board, bur the Steelers do have many questions with their depth pieces at a number of positions. Drafting a player at pick 49 who gives depth to a particular position group and projects to be a starter down the road would be a great choice in the middle of the second round.
When I asked about my opinion on the Steelers top pick in the 2020 NFL draft, I answer the question just as a talking point, but I am not adamant about my selection. Depending on the way the draft falls to the Steelers, I would be upset if they chose the position I stated if the right player isn’t there. I want the Steelers to do everything they can to improve the roster with the best players available when they were selected. So even if one of the running backs many feel the Steelers could take is still on the board at 49, don’t be upset if the Steeler select another player. It would simply be they felt that player had more to offer than the one they passed over. The best case scenario for the Steelers is having multiple options every time it comes to their selection in the draft. Focusing on one position cuts down the options so much, better players will passed over. The more positions the Steelers are willing to take with their top pick, the better off they will be when the time comes.