The 2023 Pittsburgh Steelers are not your older brother’s Steelers. Even just a few years ago under former general manager (GM) Kevin Colbert, the Steelers were not really significant players in free agency, nor did they entertain moving up or down the NFL Draft board with any regularity. But this year, with new general manager Omar Khan and his staff in command, including former Philadelphia Eagles VP of Player Personnel Andy Weidl, it seems that any scenario is in play for this year’s Steelers when it comes to the NFL Draft.
With that in mind, I started thinking about the trade scenarios in play for the Steelers in this year’s draft. Before we dive into the actual scenarios, let’s look at the picks the team currently holds:
1st Round: 17th overall
2nd Round: 32nd overall, 49th overall
3rd Round: 80th overall
4th Round: 120th overall
5th Round: No selection
6th Round: No selection
7th Round: 241st overall, 251st overall
7 total selections
As you can see, the Steelers have the ammunition to make moves early in the draft, and they also have a very, very big gap between their pick at 120 and their next selection at 241. With such a unique draft board, I would be surprised if Pittsburgh did not make a trade at some point in this draft. Let’s look at 5 feasible trade scenarios for the Steelers and rank them from best to worst, according to yours truly.
Scenario 1: Steelers trade out of pick 32 for a later Day 2 pick and two Day 3 selections
Analysis: This is my favorite scenario for Pittsburgh when it comes to moving picks in the draft. Best case scenario, the Steelers land one of the top 3 CBs or OTs at 17 and then have the luxury of turning one of the most coveted picks in the draft (Day 2, Pick 1) into a bevy of picks to help fill out the roster. If you consort a trade value chart like this one from Drafttek, the Steelers could get excellent value for the top pick of the 2nd round, giving them a chance to add more top 100 selections as well as add a pick or two on Day 3 where they have a large gap between their 4th and 7th round selections.
Scenario 2: Steelers package the 17th and 49th overall picks to move up for DT Jalen Carter (UGA)
Analysis: This is in direct response to Peter King’s suggestion that the Steelers have interest in moving up for the polarizing Carter. Our very own Shannon White wrote a great piece in response to that suggestion. As a general rule, I am not a huge fan of moving up in the draft, especially in a deep, but not elite, class like the 2023 group. In this situation however, a successful move up to add my top player in the draft to a Steelers team in need of a young, game-changing talent along the DL means I can get on board with the thought. I believe Jalen Carter has generational talent at DT, and I believe the Steelers organization would be the perfect place for him to land given his off-field concerns. The possibility that the Steelers could move into the top 10, get a generational talent, and at the very least still hold a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th round pick excites me. Then there’s this: what if Pittsburgh makes this trade up, and then combines it with Scenario 1? That’s a dream draft in the making, Steelers Nation.
Scenario 3: The Top 3 OTs and CBs are off the board. Steelers trade back into late 20s and pick up an extra Day 2 selection
Analysis: There’s a very good chance the players available to Pittsburgh at pick 17 are less than stellar, especially given the scenario laid out here. If the top prospects at the team’s two biggest positions of need are gone and the Steelers can find a willing partner looking to trade up and grab maybe a WR or TE, they should give it a shot. The risk is that you still end up having to reach a little with your pick in the mid-late 20s if the options are still poor. However, selling pick 17 likely lands you another top 80 pick and maybe even a 5th rounder to fill the gap on Day 3. The Steelers should not only be fielding calls, but be making them in this scenario.
Scenario 4: Steelers trade out of pick 120 (4th Rd.) and add a 5th or 6th round selection
Analysis: If the Steelers reach Day 3 and haven’t yet added a pick or 2 in the 5th or 6th round, it makes a lot of sense for them to trade out of their original 4th rounder to add a pick somewhere in the 160-200 range. Omar Khan and co. won’t enjoy having to just sit and watch player after player come off the board in the 5th and 6th round that they like and not be able to make a move. This gives them a chance to take a flyer on one of those traits prospects they love so much on Day 3. It’s not earth-shattering, but I would not hate a move like this.
Scenario 5: Steelers get nervous and trade up for a falling OT or CB
Analysis: You might not dislike this scenario as much as I do, but I’m just not a fan of this idea. If the Texans are on the clock at pick 12 and there have already been 2 corners and 2 tackles taken, I would not be shocked if Pittsburgh started thinking about making a desperation play to go get “their guy” at one of these positions of need. It reminds me a little too much of 2019, where the Steelers seemed locked in on selecting one of the “Devins” (White or Bush) at inside linebacker, and made the move to go get Devin Bush by trading up into the top 10 to get him. We all know how that turned out. I’d prefer the Steelers stay put and go after one of these other scenarios.
The NFL Draft is upon us! Soon all the projecting and predicting will turn into grades and analysis of actual picks for all 32 teams. For the Steelers, a lot hinges on their success or failure on April 27-29. It may take a little more maneuvering than we typically see out of our Steelers to make the most of this year’s Draft, but I am excited to see how it all plays out.
Let me know your thoughts and questions in the comment section below, and, as always...