Are you wondering why in the world the Pittsburgh Steelers have made it through three rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft and four selections without adding an inside linebacker to the team yet? Well, if you listen to Gerry Dulac, it wasn’t for a lack of desire, or effort.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette beat writer Tweeted early this morning that Alabama inside linebacker Rashaan Evans, whom they reportedly were looking to trade up to select in the first round, was their “intended target in the 1st round, no matter who else was there at 28”.
Just so everyone knows, Alabama’s Rashaan Evans was the Steelers intended target in the 1st round, no matter who else was there at 28. When he was gone with other top ILBs, they either didn’t have a high enough grade on the rest or feel strongly enough to go up and get one.
— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) April 28, 2018
If Dulac phrased his thoughts appropriately here, then it would suggest that Evans was the top pick on the Steelers’ personal board, so it’s no wonder they efforted to trade up if possible to secure him. He wound up being the fourth inside linebacker to go off the board in the first round, several picks ahead of Pittsburgh, the first time in over a decade three or more off-ball linebackers were selected that early.
The beat writer went on to say that the team didn’t have a high enough grade on or didn’t feel strongly enough about anybody else available once Evans was off the board to make an effort to trade up.
They never would have traded out of the first round with Ryan Shazier there, however. That alone was worth making Edmunds the pick than rather than trading back (and the teams at the end of the first round were looking to move back, not up).
They ultimately used their first-round draft pick on safety Terrell Edmunds, whom they had rated higher than other notable safeties including Justin Reid, Ronnie Harrison, Jessie Bates III, Tarvarius Moore, and others. The team has received criticism for the selection over the very real likelihood that they could have found him later in the draft. In fact, both Harrison and Moore were still on the board with the team’s second pick in the third round.
Of course none of this means anything on this Saturday morning because none of it actually happened. Evans is on the Tennessee Titans, Edmunds is in Pittsburgh and came via their first-round pick. There’s not a whole lot to do but to move forward.
Still, it’s interesting that the Steelers had Evans rated so highly, according to Dulac, and perhaps above all the other prospects. Perhaps they felt so strongly about him because they believed he was the only one, like Dont’a Hightower in free agency next year, that they really viewed as an upgrade…at least among those they could have reasonably added.
I’m sure this information about Evans will spark some conversation today, especially in light of the events of the day, with the Steelers still having not selected a linebacker in the draft. Perhaps they really felt there was a strong drop-off behind the Alabama player.