Oh, Kevin Colbert, always the eternal optimist. At least, usually, and now he’s bleeding off onto Mike Tomlin. The Pittsburgh Steelers head coach, among a wide variety of other topics during the team’s pre-draft ‘press conference’ earlier this week, talked about the fact that they don’t have a first-round pick, and what that means for them in the 2020 NFL Draft.
“It’s gonna be a spectator’s view”, he joked of sitting through the first day of the draft. “But really, it’s really a good opportunity for us to get comfortable with the organization of all of this in terms of how the draft is unfolding and how communication happens and trades and things of that nature. I think there’s some unintended benefits of not having a first(-round) pick, from that perspective”.
Of course, soon after the press conference was over, the Steelers and the rest of the 32 teams in the NFL got together to hold a draft simulation that allowed them to run through the process of how everything is supposed to work. Now, that doesn’t guarantee that everything runs smoothly. As it currently stands, however, they should be able to sight tight for the first 48 picks—and even then possibly work a trade to move back.
It does take an optimist, though, or at least a politician, to talk about the ‘unintended benefits’ of not having a first-round pick. Of course, it’s a lot easier to do so when you already made good use of that first-round pick and where it ended up going.
As Tomlin said, “to be quite honest with you, I’m not fretting at all about not having a first pick. That first pick is Minkah Fitzpatrick, and we’ve already benefited from his presence, and look forward to continuing to do so”.
Between the second and third weeks of the 2019 regular season, the Steelers pulled off a big trade, sending their 2020 first-round pick to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for the second-year safety, who was the 11th-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. He would be named first-team All-Pro at the end of last season.
What Tomlin is talking about has nothing to do with Fitzpatrick, though, as that was the intended benefit of not having that first-round pick. There is some luxury and relief of pressure involved in not having to pick in the first round, not having the significance and importance of that player and whether or not he pans out, over your head. Especially in such an atypical offseason.
If there were a year to choose not to have a first-round pick, irrespective of the actual quality of the talent available, this would be as good a choice as any. Now, if we were speaking more generally, I might go back to 2013, which was possibly the weakest first-round class of the Tomlin era. But we still don’t know what the 2020 NFL Draft will ultimately look like, either. Time will tell. But at least for Pittsburgh, not in the first round.