There are several positions that the Steelers could address in round one of the NFL draft. They have needs at tackle, corner, linebacker, and interior defensive line. The latest clues point to the Steelers planning on taking an edge rusher however. Let’s go over the clues that leas us to believe this team might surprise us at 17 come draft day:
1. Follow Tomlin and Khan:
The first golden rule on who the Steelers might draft in the first round is simple, Mike Tomlin and Omar Khan must be present at their Pro Day. Every first round pick for the decade plus has has both (Tomlin and Colbert) attend that players pro day, no exceptions.
Where this becomes significant in terms of the edge position is the fact that both Tomlin and Khan were spotted at the Iowa, and Iowa St. pro days. What’s the big deal you ask? Well both of those schools are rarely on the Steelers radar on the pro day circuit. Combine that with the fact that the only first round caliber at both schools is edge rusher, and this is a big clue to where their heads are at.
2. How the draft falls:
We all believe in a perfect world the Steelers would go defensive tackle or corner in the first round. There is a very real possibility that all the first round caliber players at those positions are off the board by pick 17. Pittsburgh could be faced with the decision of reaching one of those positions (see Artie Burns), or pivoting to another less needy position. Artie Burns: A cautionary tale
Players like Will McDonald and Lukas Van Ness from the Iowa schools we mentioned earlier are very likely to be still on the board. The Steelers could then use pick 32 on the other spots for better value.
The Alex Highsmith affect:
It was not so long ago the Steelers found themselves in a contract situation at the edge position. Bud Dupree was closing in on free agency, and a very big payday. Rather than overpaying like the Titans ended up doing, Pittsburgh decided on a different option. The Steelers ended up drafting his replacement in Alex Highsmith instead. This strategy worked out brilliantly as Dupree struggled with injuries, while Alex Highsmith has become a top tier edge rusher on the cheap.
Fast forward to 2023, and once again Pittsburgh finds themselves in a similar situation. This time it is even worse. Highsmith is coming off a career year, and will surely be demanding a big pay day. The team already is paying TJ Watt top of the market money at the edge position. Can the team afford to huge salaries at one position under the salary cap? Or are they already planning to move on by drafting an edge rusher early on this April? We’ve all heard the saying history always repeats itself. Well, the Steelers may in fact be planning a similar strategy as they did with Bud Dupree. Bud Dupree is going to be expensive…..and worth every penny