In an ideal world, the Pittsburgh Steelers might actually be entering the 2017 NFL Draft with more answers than questions. But I’ve seen nothing over the course of my life that we live in the best of all possible worlds, and the Steelers’ personnel issues do nothing to change my perception.
Pittsburgh is entering the draft with some critical players facing serious questions that are forcing the team to consider them as non-entities when it comes to considering adding players at their respective positions. Not that any of the individual cases are a surprise, but it is unfortunate, and the cumulative effect is great.
Let’s start with perhaps the greatest uncertainty, from my perspective. We are talking about 2015 second-round cornerback Senquez Golson. In that fabled ideal world, Golson would already have established himself as the team’s starting slot cornerback. Two years on, he has yet to even play in a preseason game.
Because of the time elapsed and the nature of foot injuries, general manager Kevin Colbert acknowledged yesterday and over the course of the offseason that they are really not counting on him to contribute this season, and that if he does, it will be just a bonus. This obviously raises the priority of the cornerback position, and increases the likelihood that they could double-dip.
The most concerning case is that of tight end Ladarius Green, whom the Steelers acquired in free agency last season. The former Charger is building an extension concussion history and his first year in Pittsburgh ended with him unable to take the field for five consecutive games after suffering a concussion in Week 15.
Colbert told reporters yesterday that he has no update on the health status of any of their players—quite frankly I really don’t know why that is. The players are in the building, although they are not obligated to attend a physical during the voluntary portion of the offseason. You would think that even Green would want to know where he stands though.
And even if he were to be medically cleared, his concussion history prevents one from envisioning him as a long-term solution when he could realistically have his career ended on any unspectacular hit. This reality, after hoping that they landed a long-term starter, makes the tight end position viable as early as the first round, though I would be surprised if a double-dip were being considered.
Finally, there is the case that I believe people are interested in most, and which may have the greatest impact on the 2017 season, which is of course the pending reinstatement of wide receiver Martavis Bryant. Colbert confirmed that they have no update on his status and it doesn’t sound like he has yet met with the commissioner or a surrogate.
It seems unlikely at this point that the team will have an answer by Thursday night, or Friday night, or even Saturday night, which means—like Golson, like Green—Bryant is persona non-grata, as is his roster spot.
These are three holes that ostensibly should be filled with quality players. Golson was intended to be a ballhawking slot defender. Green was going to be a dynamic big-bodied receiving threat. Bryant was on the cusp of being a Pro Bowler playing across from an All-Pro before he began sabotaging himself.
Now they’re all just more draft needs. Which is the reality of the game, and of the world. It’s just unfortunate, and makes you think of the idealized alternative reality we could be seeing.