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“Draft capital” is just the latest term to be turned into an overused sports cliché

With still one month to go before the 2022 NFL Draft, the term “draft capital” has already turned into a tired sports cliché.

NFL: NFL Draft Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

We have about a month to go before the 2022 NFL Draft, and there’s no doubt that many Steelers fans are likely suffering from a bit of fatigue from all the coverage and speculation.

Maybe you’re not tired of the coverage, but what about all of those clichés that get thrown around this time of year? I know I’ve had just about enough of one in particular, and that’s the term “draft capital,” as in, “I wouldn’t give up that much draft capital to trade for a player like Deshaun Watson.”

The word “capital” is just a more dramatic way of saying “picks,” as in, “draft picks.” When you equate a draft pick to money, well, that just adds unnecessary weight to it and gives it a little more perceived value. Unlike a dollar bill, however, not all draft picks are created equal. For example, while one first-round pick may be worth a T.J. Watt, another may wind up being valued at an Artie Burns.

I understand why fans and the media might be hesitant to see a team part ways with a lot of draft picks to acquire a controversial player like Watson. After all, he’s a rather toxic and radioactive individual these days.

Having said that, there’s no reason to be all dramatic about draft picks. When I hear people continuously use terms like “draft capital,” I want to say, “Tell me you don’t know the NFL Draft is a crapshoot without telling me you don’t know the NFL Draft is a crapshoot.”

Moving forward, I just wish people would cool it with the sports clichés. The draft is entertaining enough without adding even more gravitas to it.

The Steelers have a very serious and important decision on the horizon as they prepare to make the 20th pick on the evening of April 28.

Will they pull the trigger and select a quarterback in the first round? The current crop of passers might not be held in high regard, but at the end of the day, you’re nothing as an NFL organization without a franchise quarterback.

What about defense, though? It’s like they say, defense wins championships, and NFL games are often won in the trenches. Maybe the Steelers will go after a Jordan Davis or Devonte Wyatt to try and shore up the defensive line. Sure, the unit currently includes Cam Heyward, one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL. Also, Stephon Tuitt and/or Tyson Alualu might be back in 2022, but you can’t count on either at the moment. And, yes, Chris Wormley is a fine veteran, and you have to like the potential in one Isaiahh Loudermilk, but football is often a war of attrition; the Steelers can’t be caught behind the eight ball with a lack of depth at the position like they were in 2021.

I mean, if I wake up to one more box score that includes a great rushing performance by a Steelers opponent, I might choose violence.

How about a backup running back? I realize that Najee Harris had a great and productive rookie season, but I worry about the tread on his tires. Harris was a workhorse in college and certainly has the potential to be a bell-cow running back at the professional level, but he needs a decent backup to spell him from time to time. It is true that head coach Mike Tomlin loves to run his backs until the wheels fall off, but surely he's now more than aware of the perils of wearing out your top guy, especially by the time the postseason rolls around.

Tomlin can’t let Harris suffer the same fate as Le’Veon Bell. As the latter sadly found out, once a running back hits the wall, there’s usually no coming back from that. Harris had 381 touches last year, which is a lot, even during a 17-week season. How many touches are too many? It’s usually a slippery slope when it comes to how much punishment a running back can endure at the NFL level before his physical skills fall off a cliff.

Here I go, talking about specific players and positions, which can be foolish for a team to do during the draft process; it’s certainly dangerous to reach for someone at a position of need. This is why part of me hopes the Steelers select the best player available at 20. That’s often the smartest and safest approach to take. If a team does that, I believe it increases its chances of selecting a can’t miss prospect. Also, if you avoid reaching for someone, you’ll likely wind up finding a player who gives you great draft value.

Or maybe the Steelers will trade back and acquire more draft capital and continue their rebuild.

It’s hard to say what the Steelers are going to do. Maybe they’ll even trade up if they’re targeting a specific player who they think can quickly change their fortunes. Yes, a prospect like Liberty’s Malik Willis is a raw talent, but he’s got the greatest upside of all of the quarterbacks in the draft.

If the Steelers hit on a quarterback like that—if Willis turns out to be a generational talent—they would be major players in the AFC North again.

The Standard is the Standard, and the Steelers are about excellence and winning Super Bowls. People talk about a rebuild, but the Steelers don’t rebuild, they reload.

To circle back a bit and put a bow on the defense, I’m still a little concerned about the secondary. I believe cornerback Levi Wallace was a fine pickup in free agency, and I’m certainly relieved that Ahkello Witherspoon is back in the fold. But let’s face it, the NFL is a passing league.

Moving forward, the Steelers are going to have to continue to fortify the secondary with talent if they want to compete in today’s NFL. I realize many fans are disappointed the front office didn’t seriously pursue safety Tyrann Mathieu, but the NFL is a business; the Steelers have to do what’s best for them, while Mathieu has to do what’s best for him and his family. It’s too bad because he seems like a great team leader who has overcome a lot of adversity and even some off-the-field issues to get to where he’s at today.

At end of the day, it probably came down to Mathieu’s age and asking price. Considering he’s lost a step, it’s probably best that Pittsburgh decided to go in a different direction.

I think it’s ideal that the Steelers address the secondary in the draft. Will they find a pick-and-plug defensive back with the 20th selection? Not likely, but Justin Layne is virtually a bust, while Tre Norwood, despite his decent rookie season in 2021, is still a relative unknown at this point.

The Steelers better figure something out with their secondary. It’s paramount that a defense gets off the field on third downs, and if Pittsburgh struggles in that area in 2022, it could make for a long season.

Regardless of what Pittsburgh does, I just hope the team drafts players of high character, people who are great in the community and quickly learn the Steeler Way. I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted by the “me-first” traits of players like Chase Claypool. I’m tired of the showboating and logo dancing. I just wish these youngsters would hand the football back to the referee after scoring a touchdown and act like they’ve been there before. When you have a player who is more worried about his “brand” than helping the team win, he can quickly become a cancer in the locker room.

So many Steelers fans have grown up without witnessing no-nonsense players like Jack Lambert, and it shows.

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but the Steelers of the 1970s built the greatest dynasty in the history of the NFL. That team produced 10 Hall of Famers and brought home four Lombardi Trophies.

Where has that tradition gone? Where is the accountability? The Steelers need to use the 2022 NFL Draft to infuse their roster with the kind of talent that wins world championships and not just division titles. Why are division titles even celebrated in Steeler Nation? I blame participation trophies, which have caused this generation of players and fans to become soft and settle for less.

At the end of the day, aren’t championships what it’s all about? Sure, you have to learn to enjoy the ride as a sports fan, but we all want to see our teams make it to the Promised Land.

When was the last time the Steelers did that? Asking for a friend.