The last time the Pittsburgh Steelers made a selection inside of the top 20 picks of the first round of a draft was in 2014 when they added Ohio State inside linebacker Ryan Shazier with the 15th-overall picks. They were able to draft they high by virtue of the fact that they finished 8-8 the previous year, missing the postseason.
The last time the Steelers selected a player with a top 10 pick nearly comes before General Manager Kevin Colbert’s time. Pittsburgh had a losing record in 1999 that gave them the eighth-overall pick in Colbert’s first season with the team in 2000, when they would use that selection on wide receiver Plaxico Burress.
That was the last time, of course, until last night when Pittsburgh moved up from 20th all the way down to 10th. And that landed them Devin Bush. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the Steelers are happy about it, in the grand scheme of things. In fact, their plan was to have a much worse draft pick.
“When we’re not thirty-two, any pick is too high”, Colbert told reporters last night following the selection of Bush. Head Coach Mike Tomlin echoed his approval of that sentiment, saying, “you got that right”.
Having the 32nd pick means, of course, that you won the Super Bowl the previous season, provided that you didn’t acquire that selection via trade. The last time the Steelers picked 32nd-overall was in 2009 after they won the Super Bowl the season prior to that, and that netted them Ziggy Hood.
The time before that was actually the last time that they traded up in the first round. After winning the Super Bowl following the 2005 season, the Steelers traded up from the 32nd spot to 25th in order to land Ohio State wide receiver Santonio Holmes who would play a pivotal role in securing the 32nd-overall selection in 2009 that landed them Hood.
You’re not going to get the top talent when you’re picking 32nd, but you’re also not going to care, because picking 32nd means that you already did exactly what all of your planning and hard work has been driving toward, which is winning the Super Bowl.
The Steelers talk a lot about standards to which they hold themselves. They consider every season that doesn’t end in a parade and a sticky trophy to be a failure, so by their own measure they have failed extremely often, and only twice escaped that fate since the 1970s.
But picking earlier, even as high as 10th, plays a key role in getting you back to choosing 32nd in the pecking order. Adding a player of Bush’s caliber is sometimes what it takes to get your talent level up to where it needs to be to be competitive. You win some, and you lose some. But sometimes losing some helps you win the won that matters most down the line. And sometimes you have to intervene with your fate by making a bold move, as the Steelers did last night.