Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said Monday, via Steel City Insider, that the Steelers probably won’t be trading up from the No. 17 pick in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft.
Tell us something we don’t know.
The real question is whether the Steelers will trade down in the first round.
As Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette pointed out, there isn’t much can’t-miss talent at the top of this draft class, but there’s a lot of depth.
Colbert told Steel City Insider that there are approximately 150 players the Steelers would be willing to draft.
Let’s do a little math. One-hundred fifty divided by seven comes out to less than 32. That means that even though 32 players will be chosen in the first round Thursday night, the Steelers probably don’t feel that 32 players have first-round value.
It also might mean there aren’t 17 players the Steelers would be willing to draft with the No. 17 pick.
In attempting to climb into Colbert’s head, we’ve identified 12 players worthy of being taken with the No. 17 pick. If they’re all gone before the Steelers pick, it’s time to bail on the No. 17 spot, trade down in the first round and acquire more picks later in the draft.
None of these 12 players are quarterbacks. The Steelers might want a quarterback on the roster who’s not old enough to remember when Ronald Reagan was president, but they don’t need one in the first round.
There also are no guards on this list. The Steelers have too many other holes to fill to be drafting a guard in the first round two years in a row.
In the interest of due diligence, we’ll start right at the top with players who the Steelers likely have no shot at getting, because you never know who will fall. Did anyone expect David DeCastro to be there for the Steelers at No. 24 last year? Few mock drafts, if any, had him going any later than the top 15.
These players are ranked in the order in which the Steelers should take them.
- Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M: There are no guards on this list, but there are tackles. Colbert and Mike Tomlin can’t be sleeping easily at night knowing Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams are the projected starting bookends of their offensive line in 2013. They’re not even sure who will be on the right and who will be on the left. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review said the Steelers will determine that during offseason workouts. That doesn’t sound like a settled situation.
- Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan: Fisher might have more upside than Joeckel and also could be the top overall pick. NFL.com calls him the best left tackle prospect of the senior class.
- Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida: Maybe the Steelers should start using mid-round picks on their defensive line instead of late-round picks like Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward. Neither has really wowed anyone. Floyd is the top-rated defensive player in the class, according to NFL Draft Scout. However, one scout told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Bob McGinn that Floyd is overrated and that he’s not better than Hood. Anything from an anonymous scout during the pre-draft process should be taken with a grain of salt. Some team might be trying to downgrade Floyd’s draft stock so he unexpectedly falls to that team’s spot.
- Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah: We’re starting to get to the point where it’s not impossible for players to fall to the Steelers at No. 17. If two quarterbacks go in the top 16 and a team makes a surprise reach for a player no one projected to go in the first round, someone like Lotulelei could fall into the Steelers’ lap. The 6’3”, 311-pound Lotulelei can play any position on the defensive line.
- Kenny Vaccaro, FS, Texas: Vaccaro is the safest pick the Steelers can make in the first round. The Sporting News says “He can do a little bit of everything needed at the position, and much of it very well.” However, it’s looking more and more like he’ll be gone by the time the Steelers pick at No. 17. Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark aren’t getting any younger and the Steelers need depth at safety after losing Will Allen and Ryan Mundy in free agency.
- Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma: Johnson has gone from quarterback to tight end to defensive end to offensive tackle. He’s only been on the offensive line for two years, so he’s still developing. If he falls to No. 17, the Steelers should scoop him up. The 6’6”, 303-pounder is the sort of athlete new Steelers offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. is seeking.
- Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama: The Steelers have promoted Cortez Allen to start in place of the departed Keenan Lewis, but they also need to start grooming a successor for Ike Taylor, who turns 33 next month. Milliner is a lot like Taylor because he had just six interceptions at Alabama but broke up 22 passes last season. Milliner could fall because of health concerns. He had surgery on a torn labrum in March and might not be ready for the start of training camp, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
- Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon: It would be shocking to see Jordan slip all the way to No. 17. If he does, the Steelers should take him only if the seven players in front of him on this list are drafted. The 6’6”, 248-pound Jordan could be a transcendent talent and a disruptive force on defense with his long arms. The versatile defender lined up everywhere on Oregon’s front seven, according to NFL Draft Scout. He could fall, however, because of health concerns. He had shoulder surgery after the NFL Scouting Combine, according to NFL Draft Scout.
- Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia: Jones’ triple crown – he led the nation in 2012 with 14.5 sacks, 24.5 tackles for loss and seven forced fumbles – outweigh the risk of a shortened career due to his spinal stenosis. After Vaccaro, Jones is the second player on this list who the Steelers have a realistic shot at landing. If he gets past the New Orleans Saints at No. 15, the Steelers probably can stop working the phones for a trade and write his name on their draft card.
- Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia: Austin is small (5’9”, 174 pounds), but he caught 112 passes in 2012 and also can return kicks and line up at running back. It’s beginning to look like any team that passes on Austin will regret it.
- Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri: NFL Draft Scout says there’s concern about Richardson’s motivation, but perhaps seeing those six shiny Lombardi Trophies in Pittsburgh could light a fire in his belly. Richardson would come with a year of SEC seasoning after Missouri’s move to college football’s strongest conference in 2012. Richardson had 75 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and three forced fumbles in his one SEC season. There’s an outside chance Richardson falls to the Steelers.
- Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State: Werner projects as more of a 4-3 defensive lineman, so the Steelers would probably have to convert him to outside linebacker. He’d be worth the risk because he’s a multi-dimensional defender. In two season, Werner had 23.5 sacks, 18 passes defended, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2012.
There are other players who are likely to be on the Steelers’ first-round radar, but don’t have the value to be taken at No. 17.
In Part II, we’ll look at the players the Steelers could draft in the first round if they trade down.