One of the conversations that take place every year leading up to the draft is whether or not the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to move around the draft board. Usually, fans want to trade up, and Kevin Colbert pulled a fast one last year by actually doing so, giving up their second-round and 2020 third-round pick, in addition to their first of course, to bring in Devin Bush.
As a result of that, the Steelers had a long wait this year between their second-round pick and the third-round compensatory pick that they got for the loss of Le’Veon Bell. And, of course, they had no first-round selection because of the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade.
Earlier this week, Colbert was on SiriusXM to talk about the draft and the state of the team. He was asked about the team’s thought process as they waited between picked 49 and 102, and whether or not there was a thought of trying to move up.
“We knew with only six picks, we weren’t going to be able to move around; if anything, we would’ve thought about trading back, but we never want to trade away from a player that we really liked”, Colbert said. “So we just had to wait, and there was really nothing we could do”.
When the Steelers do make trades, it’s ordinarily because they have extra picks, either through the compensatory process or from trading some spare parts. In 2019, they had two third-round picks, one coming from trading Antonio Brown, so that softened the blow of giving up their second-rounder.
The Steelers, of course, ultimately neither traded up nor down, at any point in the draft, but they still came away happy with what they were able to get, waiting over 50 selections, in the compensatory portion of the third round with outside linebacker Alex Highsmith.
“Fortunately a player like Alex was still there for us at the bottom of that third round. And it was an easy pick for us, quite honestly”, he said. “But it was a long time. And we knew that that was part of the cost of moving up to get Devin Bush last year. So we didn’t have the ammunition of the trade up. We knew that we were just going to have to be patient”.
While the Steelers may have dealt away first-, second-, and third-round picks over the course of the past two draft classes, they got in return both Bush and Fitzpatrick. The latter has already become a first-team All-Pro safety, while Bush may well emerge as a Pro Bowl inside linebacker by the 2020 season.
I’m not sure they could have gotten similar value with those picks had they not dealt them. They targeted two players who would normally be out of their range who could be blue-chip starters for their defensive revival for the next decade, and they have already paid dividends with many more years to come.