Many of you will read this and scoff at the notion of talking about the 2016 NFL Draft heading into Week 14 of the regular season, but the truth of the matter is the NFL season never ends. Even during the current season, the focus naturally trends towards next year's draft. For some teams, it is all they have to look forward to, while others focus on the postseason.
Fortunately, the Pittsburgh Steelers are one of those teams looking ahead to the postseason, and their current status certainly impacts their position in the 2016 draft process. Currently, after Week 13, the Steelers would be given the No. 20 pick in the draft. Not far from the 22nd selection they coveted in the 2015 draft which landed them OLB Bud Dupree. This will likely change before all is said and done, but what does drafting in the back half of the draft do to a team's philosophy?
For the Steelers, nothing. There is the ongoing debate on "Best Player Available" vs. "Best Player at a Specific Position", but when you are consistently drafting in the latter half of the draft process, you are picking at the bones of the previous dozen or so teams. Some might say it makes the process more difficult, while it may make their first overall selection easier.
Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin, like every NFL franchise, have an overall draft board with the best and most attractive athletes on it prior to the draft. The grueling process of meeting with prospects, going to pro-days and the NFL Scouting Combine all give glimpses into how these athletes can help the franchise win their next and latest Super Bowl. When you draft in the back half, or quarter, like the Steelers typically do, you are able to sit back and watch the draft unfold in front of you.
Let's be honest, the Steelers rarely trade in the draft, which means they literally take the best player available when it comes their turn to pick. No one thought Dupree would fall to the Steelers at No 22, but no one thought Shane Ray and Randy Gregory would still be on the board when the Steelers selected either. When they saw the explosive and dynamic Dupree on the board, they weren't thinking about which position needed the most help, as that was clearly the secondary, they saw an outside linebacker who could play as a rookie, and he has.
As I stated earlier, the draft position will shuffle a lot between now and the end of the regular season, but the Steelers are not only used to drafting in the back half of the draft, they are comfortable in that position. Ultimately, their comfort drafting there means they are consistently contending for the postseason and beyond. A trend every fan of Pittsburgh hopes continues for years to come.