The journey toward Super Bowl LII ended far too prematurely for the Pittsburgh Steelers, sending them into offseason mode before we were ready for it. But we are in it now, and are ready to move on, through the Combine, through free agency, through the draft, into OTAs, and beyond.
We have asked and answered a lot of questions over the years and will continue to do so, and at the moment, there seem to be a ton of questions that need answering. A surprise early exit in the postseason will do that to you though, especially when it happens in the way it did.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring developments all throughout the offseason process, all the way down to Latrobe. Pending free agents, possible veteran roster cuts, contract extensions, pre-draft visits, pro days, all of it will have its place when the time arises.
Question: Would the Steelers have still drafted James Washington in the second round if they did not trade Martavis Bryant?
This is a difficult question to answer, and perhaps slightly depends upon how much you believe of what General Manager Kevin Colbert said leading up to and after the draft regarding the team’s position on Bryant.
Colbert seemed pretty clear heading into the draft that they did not believe they were going to be offered compensation that was more valuable to them than Bryant for one more season. We can assume that’s true, but is it a possibility that talks had been escalating over the course of the offseason?
And therefore, could they have anticipated that a team might walk its offer up to a third-round selection by draft day? Because if so that could have influenced their expressed interest in some of the early-round receivers such as Christian Kirk and the one they ended up drafting, James Washington.
What’s obvious is that wide receiver was still going to be a need this year regardless of what happened with Bryant. What’s less obvious is if they would have taken a wide receiver as early as the second round, as they ended up doing.
Colbert talked after the draft that the team considered drafting Mason Rudolph with their second-round pick, but they opted to go with the wide receiver after creating a more immediate need there under the logic that Washington would be able to help more now, whereas Rudolph’s future could be years off.
And so we’re left to wonder. They already have Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster on the top of the depth chart. They know they’ll also have them for 2019, after they expected Bryant to be gone anyway. Would Bryant’s last season really affect where they felt they needed to take a receiver if they were looking toward 2019 anyway?
Colbert never directly answered the question of whether or not they would have gone a different route if not for the Bryant trade, and at this point he’s probably never going to be asked that straight out, so we can only conjecture.