With less than a month left until 2021 NFL Draft festivities kick off in Cleveland, rumor mills are beginning to churn rapidly, with nearly every team picking in the first round. Will the New York Jets select a quarterback with the second overall pick? Who did the San Francisco 49ers trade up to get? Will the likes of Atlanta or Denver find willing trade partners and move down the draft?
There's a storyline for every team, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, who currently carry pick number 24 in the first round. With a handful of needs that look to possibly be satisfied in the back end of day one, the Steelers are capable of going in a multitude of directions. Long-term needs such as left tackle, running back and middle linebacker have been highlighted by local and national media as potential options for the Steelers.
If you're a Steelers fan, you know the organization is about as vanilla as it comes in terms of excitement. Historically speaking, Pittsburgh has shied away from big-name signings in free agency, preferring to build through the draft. When it comes to the NFL Draft, the team typically does not aggressively maneuver themselves on draft day, one way or another.
So when the Steelers pulled the trigger on a trade with the Denver Broncos in the 2019 NFL Draft that saw them move up to the top ten and select Devin Bush, it felt as if every fan that bleeds black and gold was put in some sort of twilight zone. With the "Push for Bush" as an outlier, the Steelers typically stick to the script and stay put in their original draft position.
This, of course, goes for trading back into the first round as well, something the Steelers last did in 2001 when the team went from pick number 16 to 19, ultimately landing nose tackle Casey Hampton.
Are the Steelers candidates to trade down in the 2021 NFL Draft? History tells us no. However, the Steelers are also in a position they haven't dealt with in quite a while: Squeezing everything possible out of a potential Super Bowl window that looks too close with their Hall of Fame quarterback on the brink of retirement.
This may entice the Steelers to make a move if they feel necessary, and while general manager Kevin Colbert may not ultimately move back, conversations at minimum would be held with other teams to listen to potential trade offers.
Recent trade-down scenarios for teams picking around where the Steelers are (mid-20's) have gone as followed:
- In the 2020 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings traded back from #25 to #31 in a deal with the San Francisco 49ers. The deal also saw Minnesota receive a fourth and fifth-round pick from San Francisco in the swap.
- In the 2019 NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks traded back from #21 to #30 in a deal with the Green Bay Packers. The deal also saw Seattle gain two fourth-round picks from Green Bay in the deal.
- In the 2017 NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks also traded back from #26 to #31 in a deal with the Atlanta Falcons. The deal also saw Seattle net a third and a seventh-round pick in the trade.
With recent trends, it appears the Steelers may be in the market for what may possibly be a combination of two mid-round picks or a third-round pick packaged with something on the last day of the draft.
Using Jimmy Johnson's draft-pick value chart to calculate (close to) "even" trades, I conjured up a handful of offers the Steelers may encounter when they're on the clock. Although it shouldn't be ruled out, the Steelers do have divisional rivals Baltimore and Cleveland behind them in the draft, limiting immediate realistic trade-down scenarios.
Should the Steelers want to trade back and stay in the first round, these two trade offers were deemed even by Johnson's draft-pick chart that attributes a numerical value to each pick:
The Steelers receive: pick numbers 28 (1st), 105 (4th) and 133 (5th)
The Saints receive: pick number 24 (1st) and 128 (5th)
Here, the Steelers move back four spots in exchange for a fourth-round pick from the Saints, while also swapping the higher of their two fifth-round picks with New Orleans. Realistically speaking, New Orleans would be the closest for the Steelers to move down with considering both divisional rivals and Jacksonville picking immediately after pick 25, but also having the first pick of the second-round.
The Steelers receive: pick numbers 32 (1st), 95 (3rd) and 176 (6th)
The Buccaneers receive: pick number 24 (1st)
In this scenario, the Steelers move back a bit further but gain a better haul, nabbing another third-round pick while also only giving up their original first-round pick. Should the draft board fall to where plenty of options exist, this deal might be one for Colbert to consider.
Should the Steelers want to move out of the first round (unlikely, but you never know), here are some deals for Pittsburgh to consider:
The Steelers receive: pick numbers 35 (2nd) and 68 (3rd)
The Falcons receive: pick numbers 24 (1st) and 140 (4th)
With the Falcons wanting to be aggressive in the last years of Matt Ryan's deal, Atlanta may be a prime trade candidate to do business with and move down. This trade may be a bit rich for moving out of the first round, although the Steelers do gain an extra third-round pick in the deal.
The Steelers receive: pick numbers 36 (2nd) and 185 (3rd)
The Dolphins receive: pick number 24 (1st)
Trading just one more pick back in this deal, the Steelers are able to get a much more favorable haul, getting essentially the same haul without sacrificing one of their fourth-round picks.
When the NFL Draft begins, the Steelers will already have a plan in place. Should a handful of highlighted players be available to them at pick number 24, Pittsburgh likely won't move. Yet with the Steelers picking in the mid-20s, they still rest in prime position to trade back if needed.