History Suggests Steelers Will Not Be Trading Back

Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert essentially ruled out the possibility of trading up from the 15th spot in the first round of the NFL Draft, which takes place tomorrow; trading down, on the other hand, he very much left on the table.

Trading down, in fact, may be Colbert’s preferred course of action. During his pre-draft press conference on Monday, he said that there were at least 19 players that he would be happy to take at 15, and you would have to figure that that eliminates quarterbacks and any 4-3 players likely to be taken in the first 14 picks—perhaps the top safeties as well.

If, say, four or five of these players not on Colbert’s list of 19 are taken in the early portions of the draft, the Steelers could then comfortably move down to the early 20s still feeling comfortable that they could land a really solid player that they would be happy with. All the while securing more draft picks in what Colbert believes is the deepest he’s seen.

The quarterbacks class could be the key to such a trade-down scenario, especially if several of them last to the middle of the first round, which could spur quarterback-needy teams to trade up or back into the first round in order to get one, further pushing back premium talent at other positions.

Peter King suggested what might be the ideal scenario for the Steelers in his mock draft on Monday. In his mock, the Steelers trade back seven spots with the Philadelphia Eagles, who use the Steelers’ pick to draft wide receiver Odell Beckham.

The Steelers, meanwhile, are fortunate enough to land what might possibly be their preferred player at their position of greatest need, cornerback Kyle Fuller, at the Eagles’ 22nd overall pick, while adding the Eagles’ second-round pick.

I can’t come up with much more favorable a scenario for the Steelers, which means it probably won’t happen. But a similar trade could certainly take place, resulting in a different selection.

Before that can happen, however, we need to get there first. As Colbert said during his press conference, you don’t want to risk trading away from the group of players that you’re comfortable taking. Therefore, you need to know what you’re trading away from before pulling the trigger on a move back.

What if, for example, the top three cornerbacks, the top wide receivers, the top tackles, and the top linebackers were all just about gone with the 14th pick, as unlikely as that might be? How far could you move back while still being reasonably assured of getting a player that you can live with?

The reality is, however, that the Steelers haven’t traded down in the first round since 2002, and while this may be the deepest draft in recent memory, recent history suggests it won’t happen. The last time the Steelers traded back was in 2009, when they traded their second- and fourth-round picks for a pair of third-round picks.

So when the time comes tomorrow for the Steelers to take the clock with the 15th overall pick, I’m guessing it won’t be long for the pick to be in, that it will be the Steelers making the pick, and that it will be the highest cornerback or wide receiver left on their board, though I wouldn’t mind being wrong.

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