Depending upon your network of choice, Rich Eisen has probably been a key part of your NFL Scouting Combine experience for years as the host of the NFL Network’s coverage of the event. He may have run the 40-yard dash at this point more than anybody else involved in the Combine, which is something that he does every year to raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
He took the time out during the Combine recently to talk to Missi Matthews, and he mentioned how odd this year’s draft will be for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ordinarily, he said, they have one of the cleanest draft cards in the league, which is to say, their selections closely match their ‘natural’ draft picks.
It’s gonna be really wild to see that. But obviously Minkah Fitzpatrick is a hell of a player, and we saw how he was transformative on the back end of their defense and how it related to the front and back end playing so much better. And then Colbert and Tomlin being wise enough to make that rare move up in the first round last year, ten whole spots, to choose a University of Michigan man to put right in the center in Devin Bush to solidify everything. So obviously if linebackers on the outside are deep, now this is what we’re talking about for a Steelers defense, so if you need a wide receiver, or you need that position, from all that I’m hearing, it’s really deep.
Not so for a clean card this year. They don’t have a first-round pick, nor a third-round pick, though they expect to get one of the latter as a compensatory selection for the loss of Le’Veon Bell last year. They swapped a ton of mid- and late-round picks as well as part of other trades.
They acquired a fifth-round pick for Joshua Dobbs, then gave one up for Nick Vannett. In the Fitzpatrick trade, they dealt away fifth- and sixth-round picks in exchange for fourth- and seventh-round picks, in addition to giving up their first-rounder.
It’s about as untidy a draft card as they have ever had throughout their history. And it’s also one of the very rare occasions in which they are expected to go into the draft with fewer than seven draft choices.
Of course, they got Fitzpatrick and Bush out of the moves that led them to this draft card, and they understood the price they were paying last year when they made those moves. They’re not regretting it in hindsight.
Nevertheless, this is the hand they’ve been dealt this year and they will have to figure out how to manage it. They still need help on their roster, at wide receiver and outside linebacker as Eisen mentioned, but also elsewhere, such as tight end and along the offensive line. Putting that together with limited cap space and draft resources is not ideal, but they’ve built a strong foundation with the resources they’ve already used.