Every year right around draft time, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert stands before the media and insists that his brain trust, which includes himself, head coach Mike Tomlin and a host of others, never selects players based on need because that could prove to be detrimental; you know how it goes, you’re desperate to address a specific position, you’re darn sure that a specific player who plays that position will still be there when it’s your turn on the clock—yada, yada, yada, you wake up the next morning next to Artie Burns at a press conference.
But with all due respect to you, Kevin, I mean, come on. Of course you draft based on need. Why wouldn’t you? Obviously, the Steelers were in the market for a cornerback when they selected Burns late in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft—or just one spot after the Bengals snatched fellow cornerback William Jackson III right out from under their noses.
OK, so Burns was a cautionary tale about the perils of teams that draft for need. But unless he has us all fooled, it looks like inside linebacker Devin Bush, who the Steelers traded three premium picks to the Broncos in-order to move into the 10th spot to select a year ago, will be a great example of identifying a specific need and drafting a specific player that addresses it.
I don’t know if Colbert has or will utter his annual mantra about drafting the best player available with the first pick in this year’s draft, but if he does, I’m more willing to take him at his word this time.
Of course I’m taking him at his word. Who wouldn’t this year? I mean, who drafts for need when your first pick isn’t until 49?
That’s right, the Steelers don’t have a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, not after sending it to the Dolphins last September in exchange for the absolute godsend known as safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Are the Steelers hoping to address a specific need at a certain position or two? I’m sure they are, but I don’t see them holding out hope for specific players.
It just wouldn’t be prudent. It’s hard enough to predict the first 10 or 20 draft picks, let alone the first 50.
But the good news is, just about everything is on the table for the Steelers at 49.
The Steelers need depth at safety after the free agent departure of Sean Davis, along with the unceremonious release of Kam kelly. As for cornerback, let’s face it, as much as we love him, Joe Haden isn’t getting any younger. Also, Cameron Sutton is heading into the final year of his rookie deal, while Justin Layne, the team’s third-round pick out of Michigan State a year ago, is still just a baby.
What about inside linebacker? Oh, you better believe they need to fortify that position after the release of Mark Barron and the free agent defection of Tyler Matakevich.
What about outside linebacker? That might actually be the most pressing need for the future, considering the Steelers aren’t likely to tag Bud Dupree again next season. If they can’t work out a long-term deal with Dupree between now and the deadline to do so this summer, they’ll likely let him walk next season. If that happens, T.J. Watt, who they’ll never let walk away, will need another bookend to complement him; that bookend could eventually be this year’s second-round pick.
What about defensive line? That unit could certainly use some strengthening after the departure of Javon Hargrave.
Moving on down the road.
This could be the year Pittsburgh starts to revamp its offensive line. As for the running back position? There is a strong opinion among many that the Steelers should bring in a potential workhorse.
And while I don’t personally believe the wide receiver position needs to be addressed in the second round, there are many who disagree with me.
Even tight end and quarterback are on the table in the second round.
As you can see, this really is the year for the Steelers to go BPA with their first pick.
It’s actually the only sound strategy.