It’s rare to see Kevin Colbert and the Pittsburgh Steelers make an aggressive move in the first round. I bet it’s even rarer to learn the details about how those trades went down.
In his Monday morning column for Pro Football Talk, Peter King provided some details on how the deal between Pittsburgh and Denver went down. Normally, this would sound like hearsay and some post-draft fodder. But King spent part of the draft in the Broncos’ war room so he has first-hand, unique insight.
King says had the Broncos stayed in their spot and not traded out with the Steelers, they were going to take Devin Bush at #10.
“If they didn’t trade the 10th overall pick to Pittsburgh on Thursday, they were taking Devin Bush (the player Pittsburgh traded up to grab) at 10, not Noah Fant (the tight end the Broncos drafted after trading down).”
It’s nice to think about Pittsburgh jumping ahead of Cincinnati to “steal” Bush, the same way the Bengals “stole” William Jackson III three years ago but to hear King tell it, Bush was going to be the pick at #10. It was just a matter of which team was going to be in that spot. It does beg the question of why Denver was willing to move out of the spot if they liked Bush so much as to take him at #10.
According to King, the Steelers weren’t the only team buzzing John Elway’s phone. He says the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons made offers to Denver but the Steelers’ package topped those other teams. Still, Colbert stopped short of selling the farm to draft Bush.
“Denver had the Giants and Falcons on the phone during the trade with Pittsburgh. The Giants made a competitive offer, Elway said, but not as good at Pittsburgh’s … and the Steelers, by the way, stonewalled Elway when Denver pushed for a first-rounder in 2020.”
Giving up next year’s first would’ve been overkill, even in trying to get a potentially elite linebacker like Bush. Instead, Pittsburgh gave up their #20, a second round pick, and next year’s third to get the deal done. Colbert cited having ten picks in the 2019 draft and presumed compensation pick in 2020, a third rounder for losing Le’Veon Bell, as catalysts in letting Pittsburgh make the trade.
Ultimately, the agreement seemed to work out for both sides. The Steelers got their guy and replacement for Ryan Shazier. Denver collected picks, took talented TE Noah Fant at #20 and with a bit of luck and a draft day fall, grabbed the #1 quarterback on their board, Drew Lock, at #42. Elway used that #52 pick acquired from the Steelers to move up with Cincinnati to choose Lock and giving them back-to-back picks. They took OL Dalton Risner at #41.
Though Bush’s NFL career is unknown, most agree it was the right time for the Steelers’ front office to be aggressive. There was simply no chance Bush was going to fall to #20 or anywhere even close to it. After he went off the board, there was an awfully big drop off in talent at the position. Only one off-ball linebacker was selected from #11 to the end of the second round; the Detroit Lions surprised many by choosing Hawaii’s Jahlani Tavai at #43.