As the 2023 NFL draft moves closer, there are several key phrases that NFL fans can hear that may not be involved in regular conversations otherwise. Words such as “shut down corner,” “downhill runner,” “best player available,” and things of this nature are thrown about.
There is one phrase I hear that I feel gets overused in some situations. That is the infamous “position of need.” As teams go through the draft, there is a constant reminder of their positions of need when they approach their selection. But do the teams really need those positions?
When it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers, most years they have done a nice job of not really leaving a gaping hole to where they have a definitive position of need. Just like any NFL team, there are places where the team could attempt to get an upgrade. But how much of a need is it really?
When looking at various positions that make up a football team, there are about 13 or 14 different ones excluding the specialists. When looking at the ticker at the bottom of the screen when checking out the NFL draft, sometimes teams have eight or nine positions of need listed. With more listed than left off, is this really the best term?
For me, I think the Steelers look at it somewhat differently. Despite former general manager Kevin Colbert using the term in the draft of “best player available at a position of need,” I’m not even sure that’s the way they really look at it. Are the Steelers identifying which positions they need, or they working it from the other end by looking at positions which they can take off the board early in the draft?
For example, the Steelers used their first-round draft pick last year on quarterback Kenny Pickett. With veteran Mitch Trubisky under contract for 2023, would it make sense for the Steelers to draft a quarterback high this year? While there are a few outliers who have written off Kenny Pickett after one season, most of Steelers’ Nation identifies them for the whack-jobs they are. How much of a loser franchise (sorry New York Jets) do you have to be to draft quarterbacks in the first round in back-to-back years outside of an extenuating circumstance? I think it’s safe for the Steelers to take quarterback off their list of players through at least two days of the NFL draft if not completely.
Another example for 2023 would be running back. With the Pittsburgh Steelers have a Najee Harris as a first-round draft pick in 2021 and Jaylen Warren emerging as a UDFA last season, they even have the depth pieces they need where taking a running back at the top of this year‘s draft would make very little sense.
To me, formulating a list from the other end is a better way of looking at things this year. While there’s some years where the Steelers do have a significant hole in their roster, they have once again shored up as much as they can through free agency heading into the draft. So rather than look at a few positions that the Steelers would look to draft, isn’t it just as likely to look and cross out the ones they shouldn’t?
Additionally, there are some positions that the Steelers should simply not consider on day one. This year might not be the year for this, but other years it applies even more. The Steelers should not be looking for a Day 1 quarterback, running back, possibly tight end, and maybe outside linebacker. For those “possibles” and “maybes”, it would have to be an exceptional talent that the Steelers were not expecting in order to pull the trigger.
The Steelers generally do a good job not entering the draft in a dire situation. Therefore, it’s not really that they have a position of need as they could likely roll into the 2023 season at this time with a good starting lineup before they add players from the draft. The Steelers are ultimately looking for upgrades. There are a few positions were upgrade is not likely, but otherwise everything should be on the table. And it’s not because it’s a need, but because it is the best player available.