Over the years, many a studious observer has been able to develop a loose, working knowledge of how general manager Kevin Colbert and the Pittsburgh Steelers tend to conduct their draft processes. Some have even gone so far as to freeze frame war room video to study the names on the draft board to gain insight into how they rank players.
One of the tendencies that has developed over the years, which is actually more readily apparent than most, is that the Steelers very rarely waste any time at all on draft day when it comes to getting their selections in and moving the proceedings along in a timely fashion.
This tendency has drawn the ire of many, especially when it results in, say, drafting Jarvis Jones in the first round, as they ask why in the world they wouldn’t even consider the possibility of fielding trade offers to move back in the draft.
The premise of the criticism, of course, is flawed, because it presumes that the Steelers lack an already working knowledge of the market value of their selection and the teams potentially interested in making a trade.
As Colbert said yesterday during the team’s pre-draft press conference, the Steelers and all 32 NFL teams are in communication with one another throughout the process, in particular in the days leading up to the draft. This is also the period of time in which they give serious consideration to trade up and trade down scenarios.
In other words, the Steelers know well in advance generally what the climate will be like when their time on the clock nears. They don’t need to use up nine minutes in the first round of their allotted 10 minutes in the hopes of receiving a last-minute phone call from some desperate team.
While draft day trades are actually increasingly common, the reality is that the vast majority of them have had their seeds planted well in advance of the actual trade taking place. The notion that the Steelers are not consistently fielding phone calls and considering offers on draft day is an anachronism based on the visual invoked in the idea of them ‘running to the podium’ to call in their selection.
For those who are hoping to see the Steelers trade up or down this year, Colbert was asked during the press conference yesterday if there were 22 players in this draft class that he would be comfortable selecting with their first-round draft pick, and his answer was yes. The Steelers, of course, own the 22nd overall pick.
In his tenure with the Steelers, the team has only made a first-round trade three times, twice trading up for Troy Polamalu (in 2003) and Santonio Holmes (in 2006) and once trading down for Casey Hampton (in 2001).
All three of those moves occurred in a six-year span, and it has now been eight years, or the entirety of head coach Mike Tomlin’s tenure, since they have moved in the first round. So when the Steelers do their annual ‘run to the podium’ on Thursday, try not to mistake planning and preparation for arrogance.