As each NFL draft approaches, the Steelers fan’s focus on the previous season shifts to those rookies with the potential to help the Steelers get their seventh championship. Through countless mock drafts and media reports, “team needs and priorities” are “established”, leading to expectations of what position the Steelers should spend their first round pick on. This year, the biggest needs for the Steelers are edge rusher, cornerback, and a backup for LeVeon Bell. Those needs line up perfectly with the positions of strength in this year’s draft, which opens up later tonight in Philadelphia.
What the Steelers do with their first pick won’t be determined by any report or mock draft, but rather by who is the best available player out of all of their positions of need. More than likely, their first pick will be an outside linebacker or a cornerback, but Kevin Colbert admitted they will also have contingencies in place for a possible scenario in which they trade out of the first round.
For those who feel that the Steelers need to build a team that can beat the Patriots, Colbert and Tomlin always build them with the intention of beating everyone, starting with the teams in their own division. With one eye on now, and one on the future, the Steelers will look to continue a string of solid draft classes that have loaded up the offense with a myriad of weapons and that have rebuilt an aging defense on the fly.
On top of all the unpredictablility surrounding the draft process, which is how Kevin Colbert described it, Ben Roethlisberger helped to create a sense of urgency to win now, among the fanbase, and perhaps the front office, with his talk of potential retirement on 93.7 the fan, soon after the AFCC Game loss to the Patriots. With their primary needs being a pass rusher and another cornerback, to continue with their transition to more man coverage, Ben’s response to a retirement question opens up the possibility of the Steelers drafting a quarterback.
In a pre-draft press conference, Kevin Colbert addressed the possibility of drafting a quarterback,
“I think we are always open to putting a quarterback in the mix, because it is the most critical position in our game,” Colbert said. “If you don’t have a quarterback, then you are probably going to leave your team short at some point.”
Colbert continued, “We have a great quarterback. We think that he is going to be here for a while. At least, we hope that. But we have to be prepared. If somebody shows [up in the draft] that we didn’t think would be there at that point, then you have to make sure that you secure that position for the long term.” If Colbert and Tomlin happen to find that guy sitting in front of them, say Brad Kaaya in the third round, and they believe he can be their guy, it sounds like they will pull that trigger now, rather than waiting on what is believed to be a strong quarterback class next year.
If the Steelers were looking to select a wide receiver at any point in this draft, they can now use that pick on another position due to the reinstatement of Martavis Bryant. Instead, maybe they could use that pick on Idaho defensive lineman Glen Antoine, a 3-4 defensive tackle with the quickness and ability to play any position along the line, and the motor to get after the quarterback.
Regardless of what happens, and despite this being one of the most unpredictable drafts that Colbert can recall, based on what could happen with the quarterbacks, Colbert said it will not change how the Steelers approach the draft. They will continue to address current as well future needs, if the opportunity presents itself, with the continued goal of winning the Super Bowl. If they can find a starting outside linebacker to get after the quarterback, and a starter opposite of Artie Burns, that is press-man capable, they will be much closer to the Super Bowl than most people think.