Don't look now, but the Pittsburgh Steelers have suddenly become must see TV.
It all started last offseason, as Kevin Colbert turned into a swashbuckling wheeler and dealer during his farewell tour as Steelers GM. He was determined to leave the franchise well on their way back to championship relevancy, rapidly ascending through the rebuilding process.
Based on the initial results of last offseason's additions alone, I would say mission accomplished.
Just when you thought that a Steelers offseason couldn't get any more exciting than last year, Omar Khan and Andy Weidl turn around and say, "Hold my beer."
Boring, uneventful Steelers off seasons; where you dreamed of fast forwarding through free agency to get to the NFL Draft, are apparently no more. Replaced with more transactions, additions, and rumors than you can shake a stick at. All constructed by a front office passionate about taking the rebuilding Steelers back to true contending status.
Khan and company seem willing and able to do whatever it takes to achieve that goal. The meek might inherit the earth, but they don't win Lombardi Trophies. Go big, or go home. Grab your participation trophy as you leave the facilities. Or should I say non losing season streak trophy?
That brings us to the focal point of this article: Regardless of where the selection turns out to be, should the Steelers go cornerback or offensive tackle with their first round pick? Franchise history seems to suggest an easy and obvious answer to that question.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy a NFL record six times, tied with the New England Patriots for most all time. The Steelers have also lost two Super Bowls, something we would all rather forget. A quick review of each Steelers Super Bowl roster reveals a fascinating discovery: cornerback is far more important than offensive tackle in terms of Steelers championship success.
The Steelers have employed 3 true #1 corners during the modern era; Mel Blount, Rod Woodson, and Ike Taylor, and their illustrious careers cover all 8 Super Bowl appearances by the Steelers.
Mel Blount was the most dominant cornerback in NFL history, the G.O.A.T in my not so humble opinion. So dominant that the NFL was forced to change the rules to level the playing field, but Blount still proved he was an All Pro, even with the rule changes.
Rod Woodson was another Steelers legend and all time great, who sadly never won a Super Bowl with the Steelers due to the team's self imposed quarterback prohibition during 80's and 90's.
Ike Taylor was the last elite cover corner for the Steelers. Taylor was a tough press coverage specialist, who would harass frustrated wide receivers all day. You can rest assured that former Bengals standout Chad Johnson still has nightmares about Ike Taylor covering him. Taylor would have been a regular Pro Bowl participant if he didn't have hands like boxing champion Roberto Duran, the original "Hands of Stone".
On the other hand, would anybody care to guess how many Hall of Fame caliber offensive tackles have played on those Steelers Super Bowl teams? All Pros? Shoot, for that matter, even Pro Bowl participants. Unbelievably, the answer is zero. The Steelers have never employed as much as a single Pro Bowl participant at offensive tackle during any of their Super Bowl appearances. That's both a staggering and stunning revelation, or at least it was to this old Steelers fan.
Looking back, it kind of makes sense. The Steelers are a franchise renowned for their interior offensive line accomplishments. Their legacy at center is unmatched, and they also have numerous guards residing in the Hall of Fame. The tackle position has been a success story of overachievers, projects, and position changes. No position in Steelers history has produced more bang for your buck than offensive tackle.
Now we are back to where we started: Should the Steelers select a cornerback or offensive tackle with their first round selection? Even with the gluttony of information that I just provided, I will still say it depends on how this draft falls to the Steelers. This has to be viewed as an either or situation, about as fluid as they come.
Cornerback and offensive tackle are universally viewed as the Steelers biggest areas of need. Nobody outside Steelers headquarters knows which prospects the Steelers prefer, but for this exercise we will focus on the perceived top prospect at each position.
Oregon CB Christian Gonzalez
Ohio State LT Paris Johnson Jr.
The Steelers would most likely have to trade up to have a shot at either, but we are going to assume they are considering all options at this point.
Gonzalez is an elite prospect, as can't miss as you have in this class, similar to Sauce Gardner last year. Gonzalez is the total package; possessing superior length, speed, and mobility. He would be able to contribute immediately, but wouldn't be forced to start right away with Patrick Peterson and Levi Wallace already entrenched as the starters.
Peterson would be the perfect mentor to teach the supremely talented Gonzalez the finer points of playing cornerback at the NFL level, and help him unlock his immense potential.
Paris Johnson is not only one of the top offensive tackle prospects in this class; he is arguably the most complete, NFL ready left tackle prospect available. His size, strength, and mobility are all elite, and he has already proven more than capable against NFL caliber talent throughout his collegiate career.
Johnson wouldn't be forced into the starting lineup immediately either, considering how Mike Tomlin loathes playing rookies right out of the gate, but it would shock absolutely no one if Johnson proved capable of easily winning the starting position coming out of training camp. Based on talent and potential alone, Johnson is on a whole other level compared to what the Steelers currently have at their disposal.
I am including a poll so that our knowledgeable BTSC community can share their opinion on this subject, hopefully finally fully informed by what this article had to offer on the Steelers track record at each position. Be sure to expand on your opinion in the discussion thread.
In conclusion, I have the utmost faith in Khan and company to make the optimal decisions to insure a bright future for the Black and Gold.
Based on all the available data presented in this article, which position would you prefer that the Steelers target in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft?
This poll is closed
A = Cornerback
B = Offensive Tackle
C = Other