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It’s the Steelers’ job to excite fans in the fall, not during the draft

The draft isn’t about winning in the spring. It’s about winning in the fall.

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Duke Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

I feel like I have to write this article every spring leading up to the annual NFL Draft. However, since it never seems to sink in, I will do it once again in the spring of 2021 (btw, thank you for providing me with endless material).

My brother called me last Saturday night to inform me of Tyson Alualu’s change of heart (he has a source). After discussing that, we soon started talking about the 2021 NFL Draft and what the Pittsburgh Steelers should do with the 24th selection. I, coming off the high of writing my Creed Humphrey article, was adamant that Pittsburgh should draft the top center. Upon hearing this opinion, along with what I thought was a logical explanation—"B.J. Finney and/or C.J. Hassenauer, duh!!!!"—my brother said, “I know, but that would be BORING!”

I wasn’t as quick-witted as I wanted to be at that point, but if I was, I may have said, “You know what’s exciting? A veteran center, who is just 59 minutes and 46 seconds away from retirement, air-mailing the first snap of a wildcard playoff game over the quarterback’s head and into the end zone for a quick touchdown by the Cleveland freaking Browns. Do you know what’s even more exciting, bro? You calling me before the end of the first quarter is even over and, with a tone normally reserved for a Russian invasion, saying, “Can you believe we’re down 28-0? I’m sick!”

But, as I said, I wasn’t as quick-witted as I wanted to be at that moment.

Anyway, my brother, like a lot of Steelers fans, wants the team to draft a running back; I’m sure you’ve probably never heard of these guys, but Najee Harris, Travis Etienne and Javonte Williams were three running backs that my brother cited as desirable prospects he’d like to see Pittsburgh select at 24.

Hey, I’m not opposed to the Steelers selecting a running back with their first-round selection. If you get a good one—even a good one who may depreciate to the point that it would be foolish to pick up his fifth-year option—it might be worth it if it leads to Super Bowl memories. But does my brother want the Steelers to select a running back because it would be a sound move, or does he simply want to feel excited on draft night? Does he want to be entertained by YouTube highlights? Does he want to bathe in all of those A+ grades from the experts?

I’m thinking it’s all the stuff about being excited. I can probably say the same for many other Steelers fans. What about the idea of drafting an offensive tackle? I’ve seen someone say that it would be a “slap in the face” for the Steelers to do that.

A slap in the face? Why, because it wouldn't be exciting enough?

The point of my article—in case the headline didn’t give it away—is that it’s not the Steelers’ job to wow fans on draft night in the spring; it’s their job to wow them on Sunday Night Football in the fall.

Do you remember where you were when the Steelers traded up in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft to select Devin Bush? I do; I was at a bar in the South Side of Pittsburgh with a bunch of friends. I’ll never forget the moment when everyone started to applaud and cheer when this exciting news began to filter throughout the place even before Mean Joe stepped up to the podium to make it official. It’s something that I’ll always remember if Bush goes on to have a great career with the Steelers.

If he doesn’t—if he’s average or worse—well, I’ll still remember it but only as a cautionary tale about not getting too high or too low regarding a Steelers draft pick.

Do you remember where you were when Alan Faneca was selected in 1998? I think I was at work. I don’t recall being all that excited about the pick. However, I do remember how jacked I was nearly a decade later when he helped spring Willie Parker on that 75-yard touchdown run in Super Bowl XL.

It was a night I’ll never forget.

I realize this all sounds preachy, and people will likely fill the comments section with statements such as, “I’ll react to the Steelers’ selection any way I damn-well please, sir!” OK, I’ll give you that, but don’t say I didn’t warn you when some fierce pass rusher blows right past B.J. Finney and Najee Harris in an upcoming playoff game and slaps quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the face.

As for my brother, I’ll make sure my phone is turned off at that moment.