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The Steelers trade up on Day 1 was so good it is drawing scrutiny

The Steelers played the market so well it has put the Patriots under fire.

NFL: NFL Draft Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

On the latest episode of the Steelers Stat Geek podcast, I discussed how the Pittsburgh Steelers played the draft market very well in order to maximize their value. While many felt the Steelers could trade down from pick 17 in order to still grab a player about the same caliber they would get otherwise, there were reports that there were many teams looking to trade down out of the middle of the first round and therefore were driving down the value. Seeing this happening, the Pittsburgh Steelers saw a good market to move up several places and grab the last of the top-tier offensive linemen.

What made the move so great was the Steelers only gave up a fourth-round pick in order to move up three spots. Even though the deal was made with the “evil” New England Patriots, it made sense for the Steelers and the value was there to get it done. Additionally, according to Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, the Steelers were not willing to give up anything other than a Day 3 selection.

“Obviously, we were not willing to mortgage anything above a third-day pick,” Tomlin stated in the press conference following the selection on Thursday night. “He got within range. There had been a run at his position. There were some teams potentially in front of us that may have had an interest in the position. It was a player that we coveted, and so we did what we needed to do to secure the player that we identified.”

But was the move simply too good to be true? Some around the NFL believe this to be and feel that the New England Patriots made the move simply to keep a Broderick Jones from landing with the New York Jets. This per Dov Kleiman reporting on a story from the Washington Post:

There are several lessons to be learned from this story. First, if a division rival is drafting one spot ahead of you, it might be better to keep your cards close to the vest and not have everybody know who you would like to take with the selection. While some desperate Jets fans try to claim the Jets weren’t going to draft Jones anyway, this is merely a ridiculous claim to say face as I don’t think there was anyone with any kind of knowledge of the NFL draft thinking that the Jets were going to pass on the last of the top-tier offensive lineman based on how things played out.

But there is another question to be asked: Was this deal as bad as others made it out to be? According to the classic Jimmy Johnson valuation model of a trade value chart, the Steelers had a value of 950 for the 17th overall pick while the Patriots had a value of 1,100 for pick number 14. With the difference in value being 150, that equates to draft pick 88 overall on the trade value chart. Although the Steelers did hold pick 80, I’m sure they were not willing to part with a pick that had 40 points more value than what they would be gaining. Instead they offered their next pick on the list which was 120. Yes, that dropped the value down to only 54, but the Steelers had nothing else in between to offer.

Whether or not the Patriots had more teams looking at pick 14 is speculation at this time. Perhaps there was another team in the mix willing to offer a pick of more value. If this were the case and the Patriots specifically went with the Steelers hoping they would select Broderick Jones to keep him from the Jets is a question for their front office to answer.

In looking at the trade from the Patriots point of view, I believe they still were able to pick the same player at 17 as they would have selected at pick 14. Perhaps they saw the value in getting any draft pick they could get and still having their best option three picks later. I think the Patriots would much rather have Christian Gonzalez and a fourth round pick than simply just Gonzalez.

Another interesting part of the story is that the Patriots did not stand still at pick 120 they received from the Steelers. Instead they traded up eight spots with... wait for it... the New York Jets. In doing so, the Patriots also gave up pick a number 184 in the sixth round. So the ironic part is that the draft pick the Steelers used to move ahead of the Jets to draft Broderick Jones ultimately ended up with the Jets for them to select offensive tackle Carter Warren.

Whether or not the New England Patriots had specific motives when it came to trading out of the 14th spot is really their issue to deal with. As far as the Pittsburgh Steelers are concerned, they traded up three spots to get the player they wanted and gave up what they were willing to give.

For more of a breakdown of the value of all the Steelers trades from the 2023 NFL draft, check out the latest episode of the Steelers Stat Geek podcast below: