The Steelers haven’t had 2 picks in the first round since the dynasty years of the 70’s. Normally that’s a good sign that you’re doing something right in running an NFL franchise. Unless you are the Patriots where you wheel and deal players like used cars, you take your one first round pick (hopefully near the end of the round) and use it as best you can. The Steelers rarely miss on high profile players in the draft, so the possibility of have 2 picks at their disposal has to be intriguing if nothing else. I placed a reference list, at the end of this article, of the first round draft choices by the Steelers since 1990. Of that list the only real “busts” were Jamain Stephens (we all remember him needing help just to finish the run test) and Troy Edwards. The Steelers got caught up in the “must have a receiver” mentality that year and reached for Edwards who never panned out.
Back to the present now, if the Steelers can’t hang on to restricted free agent Mike Wallace, they’ll get a first round draft pick in return. While that’s technically not a given at this point, it’s assumed that they will 1st round tender Wallace before free agency starts. That tender would only cost them about $2.7 million. They would love to use a franchise tag on him but that will cost them nearly $10 million against the cap and they’re already still over by approximately $11 million as it is now. The team can still tag Wallace if they choose and then work on a long term deal to ease the hit, but that remains to be seen. For the purposes of this discussion though, let’s focus on the possibility that another team offers Wallace a ton of money and the Steelers let him walk.
They get that teams 1st round draft choice, also should be noted that it would be the 1st round choice the other franchise was allotted by the NFL. Meaning that say if team A signs Wallace, the Steelers would get their first round pick based on their draft position from last years’ record. This would not be one that they acquired through other means such as a trade.
No matter where it falls, having 2 prime picks would go a long way towards fixing the offensive line for example or addressing the nose tackle position. Imagine landing both Cordy Glenn and Kelechi Osemele on the offensive line? Or having both Kevin Zietler & David DeCastro? Perhaps they go middle linebacker with one of their choices and really set themselves up nicely for the future opposite Lawrence Timmons. A 2012 draft with first round picks named Cordy Glenn and Donta Hightower would be a pretty successful weekend no matter who else they took the rest of the way.
They could also deal one of those picks and trade down for additional second and third round choices both this year and in future seasons. You could potentially end up with a first round pick like Glenn, two second round choices where you pick up Dontari Poe out of Memphis to step in at NT and Donta Hightower at Linebacker.
I’ve been a supporter of keeping Mike Wallace all along, and I still stand by my thoughts that if the Rooney’s want to keep their 3rd year standout they will find a way to do it. Kevin Colbert has stated, as has Art II that he is their main priority this offseason. Considering all the work Omar Khan and the front office was able to accomplish last year, Wallace is the only free agent that has a high priority among other teams as well. He’ll be courted by teams like New England, Cleveland, Cincinnati, along with possibly Baltimore as well. All of those teams have significant cap room available to sign a guy like Wallace.
In a perfect world the Steelers would be able to keep Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Emmanuel Sanders together long term. Perhaps had they not given new deals to Polamalu and Timmons, they’d already have Wallace locked up. However then you run into the problem you’re in now only on the other side of the ball. The trade off just wouldn’t add up to a smart football move for a franchise used to being competitive. Ensuring the services of guys like Woodley, Timmons, Taylor and Polamalu far outweighs the potential loss of Wallace. It’s not like they would be completely helpless if Wallace were to leave, they would have the option of bringing back Jerricho Cotchery to be the 3rd receiver opposite Brown and Sanders. Maybe that opens up the door for Hines Ward to stick around too.
Unfortunately you can’t have it all as an NFL franchise these days, sooner or later somebody you want to keep will leave. It’s what you do with that opportunity that helps define your future.
1990 Eric Green, Eric 1991 Huey Richardson
1992 Leon Searcy 1993 Deon Figures
1994 Charles Johnson 1995 Mark Bruener
1996 Jamain Stephens 1997 Chad Scott
1998 Alan Faneca 1999 Troy Edwards
2000 Plaxico Burress
2001 Casey Hampton
2002 Kendall Simmons
2003 Troy Polamalu
2004 Ben Roethlisberger
2005 Heath Miller
2006 Santonio Holmes
2007 Lawrence Timmons 2008 Rashard Mendenhall 2009 Ziggy Hood 2010 Maurkice Pouncey 2011 Cameron Heyward