Yesterday I brought you an article talking about how quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been on-hand to greet the team’s quarterback visitors in preparation for the 2017 NFL Draft. Another facet of the article was the fact that Roethlisberger was pushing for the Pittsburgh Steelers to add some more offensive weapons. And if you consider draft expenditures, he does have a point.
Over the course of nearly the past decade, the Steelers have used their top two draft picks in a manner that has heavily skewed toward the defensive side of the ball, although that figure also includes no fewer than four offensive linemen, three of which constitute their starting group.
But from 2009 through the 2016 NFL Draft, the Steelers have been clear in their priority: defensive needs outweigh offense with the most premium of picks after the offensive line was rebuilt.
Pittsburgh used their first two picks in the 2008 draft on a pair of skill position players, running back Rashard Mendenhall and wide receiver Limas Sweed. In the nine drafts that have followed, the only other skill position player to be added in the first two rounds has been running back Le’Veon Bell, an All-Pro performer at his position.
In the past eight drafts, the team has had eight first-round picks, and six of them, including their four most recent, have gone to the defensive side of the ball. The two offensive selections were both offensive linemen. The second round has been a bit more even, with four of seven second-rounders going to the offensive side of the ball. The of the three offensive players were linemen, with Bell being the only skill-position player.
In other words, over a period of eight years, the Steelers have had 15 picks in the top two rounds of the draft, and have added just one skill position player. In light of that, I could understand why Roethlisberger might be pushing for more help. Especially in light of recent history.
The Steelers have now in three consecutive drafts used their top two selections on defensive players. The 2013 draft four years ago was the one that brought us Bell in the second round, the last time a skill position player was added to the roster in the top three rounds.
No other skill position player going back to the 2008 draft has even been taken within the first 75 picks of the draft, even if they have added several wide receivers in the third and fourth rounds, namely Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant, and Sammie Coates.
While it might be true that Pittsburgh has proven to be one of the better teams in the league when it comes to drafting and developing mid-round wide receivers, it is a bit striking to consider how much the skill positions have been ignored over the years. The defensive coaches must love draft time.