Reading the tea leaves is one of the many things we attempt to do here as it concerns the Pittsburgh Steelers, and part of that process is parsing and monitoring public comments over a period of time to try to match patterns and make predictions about what the team is thinking.
One of the messages I’m sensing this offseason so far is one I’ve already talked about, which is a team willing to try to make a serious move to get a player in the draft that they are targeting. They have already proven that they are willing to do things they don’t ordinarily do when they have the resources to do it, when they spent $45 million on three players in free agency.
Now they have 10 draft picks, including four in the first three rounds, and yesterday Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert acknowledged that that resource pool gives them the potential to take a different approach from their typical sitting tight and waiting their turn.
As Jeremy Fowler quoted him as saying when he spoke to local reporters at the annual league meeting yesterday, “when you have 10 [draft picks], you have more ammunition to either take 10 players or use ammunition to trade up”.
Steelers are open for draft-day business. “When you have 10, you have more ammunition to either take 10 players or use ammunition to trade up,” general manager Kevin Colbert said from the NFL owners meetings.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) March 24, 2019
The last time they had 10 draft picks was in 2010, and they did use all 10 draft picks, although they traded one for Bryant McFadden and the sixth-round pick that they ended up using to select Antonio Brown. They also had 10 picks in 2012, but traded a sixth-round pick to move up in the fourth round to draft nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu, who was a terror on the streets of Pittsburgh rather than in the stadium.
They also drafted nine players in each of the next two seasons, which included in 2013 trading a 2014 third-round pick to acquire an additional 2013 fourth-round pick, which they used to draft Shamarko Thomas.
It’s been a while, however, since they have made a move of any type prior to the third day of the draft. The last instance would be in 2009, and that is when they traded their second- and fourth-round picks to the Denver Broncos for three third-round picks.
Still, 2019 feels different. For one thing, they are coming off a very disappointing season both on and off the field, and have been under fire in the press—as far as that actually means anything to these kids. But Colbert was also vocal in their understanding of their failure to properly address the inside linebacker position last season.
A couple offseasons ago, they locked Dont’a Hightower into a room and tried to get him to sign. Last year, they tried to trade up for Rashaan Evans. They failed both times. While they have signed Mark Barron, he is more of a bridge signing.
Sitting at 20 right now, they could be within striking distance of landing one of the top inside linebackers, and they have the resources to do it this time. will they, if they have to? We’ll find out in a month.