My favorite part of the NFL calendar is the offseason, because it gives me, and fans across the world, the chance to become the armchair General Manager (GM) for our respective teams. Now that we are officially in the NFL summer, and with that comes many, many trade rumors, usually bottom of the roster guys who may look for the opportunity to start elsewhere. So, I’ve decided to sit in the armchair again and design a trade that could improve the Pittsburgh Steelers chances of a Super Bowl in 2022.
As I go into this discussion, it is important to note that, just like the Steelers, I believe in building through the draft and using free agency and trades to build depth on the roster. Finding talented youth is critical for any team, and the best way to do so is through the draft. With that being said, there are a few positions that need to be bolstered before the season starts in my opinion.
The first of those is backup running back. Obviously, superstar Najee Harris will take at least 85% of the snaps, but it is also important to give him a breather for a drive or two each game. This topic has been discussed at length all offseason, and with the amount of solid free agent players at the position, I feel like if the Steelers choose to bolster running back depth, they will dip into that pool rather than give up draft picks for a player of slightly better quality.
Another position of need, in my opinion, is at the top cornerback spot. Right now, on the roster, we have lots of bodies, but they are not proven quality starters. Levi Wallace has been good at the CB2 spot for the Bills. Ahkello Witherspoon is inconsistent, though he played like a CB1 down the stretch last year. Cameron Sutton is solid on the outside, but I think he is better suited to be the starting nickel corner based on his play. Behind those three are Justin Layne and James Pierre, young guys who have shown flashes but struggle because of scheme fit or athletic limitations. However, looking around the league, I don’t know if there is an attainable shutdown corner for the team to bring in. Cornerback is one of the hardest positions to play on the field, so many teams try to hold onto any good players they have at the position.
So, despite having needs at both running back and cornerback, it isn’t likely that the Steelers would choose to fill them through a trade from another team. Given how the team operates, they are more likely to dip into the free agent pool or ride into the season with the corps that is already on the roster.
This brings us to the biggest need on the team, in my opinion- offensive tackle, specifically right tackle. Yes, the Steelers just gave Chuks Okorafor a 3-year, nearly $30 million contract extension. However, if there is a player on the market who could come in and provide an upgrade for a reasonable cost, they should be making calls. One player in particular that I think could be an asset is Andre Dillard, the backup tackle for the Eagles. Dillard is a better fit at left tackle, and I know that I said that right tackle is the bigger hole on the offensive line. However, I am of the belief that second year player Dan Moore, who started his entire rookie season at left tackle, could transition over to right tackle, thus putting Dillard in the best position to succeed.
Not only would this move push Okorafor back to the swing tackle role, it would also push Joe Haeg, who played decently as the swing tackle last year, to the fourth string tackle. Haeg is also guard-capable, and not being the immediate swing-tackle gives him the flexibility to play at guard if need be. Bringing in Dillard helps to improve the depth across the entire offensive line.
The big question, though, is how much will this cost? For the answer to that, we need to look at the performance of Dillard through his first two seasons. According to PFF, he graded out to be around a 70.0 grade, which means he was solid but not great. However, despite playing in 31 of his 33 career regular season games, he has only started nine. It is fairly widely known that he struggled his rookie year, but I have heard that when he played this past year, he was better. That, in addition to his first-round pedigree, gives me confidence that he could end up being a steal if the price is right.
Another key aspect to any trade scenario is the state of the team around Dillard- and is very favorable towards the Steelers. There is not much of a chance to start because recently-paid Jordan Mailata and stalwart Lane Johnson are written in in front of him. While having three solid tackles is a luxury that few will give up around the league, Dillard may want to get out of town. A draw-back of the roster is how good it is- I don’t see a position of need for the Eagles where we have extra depth that could be traded, pointing towards a draft pick needing to be given instead.
So how much do the Eagles value Dillard? That is a question that only those in the front office can answer. Nonetheless, as I am writing as an official armchair GM, I have a guess for what it would take to bring Dillard to the Steelers. Even though he is a third-year player who was a first-round pick, he isn’t a starter, and when he has played, he has not performed like the first-round pick that many expected of him. As such, I don’t think that the Steelers would need to give up a premium pick to obtain him.
My projected trade, if the Steelers were to go after Dillard, is a fourth-round pick in 2022, plus a sixth-round pick in 2023 in exchange for Dillard and a 2023 seventh-round pick. What are your thoughts? Do you think that Dillard would be a smart pick-up for the Steelers? And what do you think the price would be? Let me know in the comments below!