While it is true that the Pittsburgh Steelers will have more salary cap space available to them this offseason than they normally would—that’s kind of unavoidable when you have an All-Pro player choose to give back over $14 million that you’re able to carry over in to the next season—the fact remains that fan focus is more invested in the draft than in free agency, even though the latter comes first.
That is why we already have the draft profiles flowing and we are covering the Senior Bowl, the Shrine game, and yada yada yada. Football fans are passionate about the draft, for good reason, and that’s especially the case for an organization like Pittsburgh’s that focuses on building its roster primarily through that medium.
That goes right in line with what we heard from fans yesterday who were given the opportunity to participate in a Steelers Nation Unite Huddle, with team president Art Rooney II fielding questions taken directly from SNU members. A number of them asked about what they are looking for in the draft, though predictably Rooney was hesitant to give declarative answers.
“I think we’ve got to try and take the best player that’s available at a position that can make a difference for us”, he said. “I’m not sure there’s one position right now that I would say, ‘hey, we’ve got to go into this draft and get this position’. I think we have to be open to drafting the best player, whether that’s a wide receiver or linebacker or defensive back”.
The specific question he was answering in this case was how losing Antonio Brown would shift the focus of their draft and if it would tilt it away from defense and toward the offense. In response to an earlier question, he did mention the secondary and linebacker positions.
“We probably just have to take the best player that’s available at that point at one of those positions. I think the key thing we’ve always said in the draft, you can’t reach”, Rooney went on. “You’ve got to be careful about reaching for a position that you’d pass up a good player who may be at a different position. We work hard at that and [General Manager Kevin Colbert] does a good job putting the draft board together taking those things into consideration”.
Last year, during their post-draft press conference, Colbert actually went out of his way to credit Head Coach Mike Tomlin for his ability to keep the room committed to the draft board that they had spent months laying out and trying not to deviate from it.
Rooney did acknowledge, which we already knew, that barring an unreasonable discrepancy in talent, the player chosen is not necessary the best overall player on the board, especially in the first round, but rather the best one, as he said, “that can make a difference for us”. In 2018, that resulted in safety Terrell Edmunds.