Prior to the 2020 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers were the only team in the league to have made a selection in the first round in every year for decades on end. The last time that they had traded away a top pick was in the late 60s — prior to doing so in 2019.
While the trade afforded them the opportunity to acquire two-time first-team All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, it left them sitting on the sidelines last year during the first round. The draft still worked out pretty well for them, and three of their top four picks are projected to be starters this year. But there is something to be said about having that top 32 pick and a much better shot at a blue-chip prospect, team president Art Rooney II admitted earlier today.
“It’s great, actually,” to be in the first round again, he told Missi Matthews for the team’s website. “It was pretty strange last year in a lot of ways, including not having a first-round pick. We’re happy to be in action on day one this year and looking forward to seeing how it all unfolds.”
The first round is unfolding as we speak, though still in the top 10 as of the time of the publication of this article, so we’re still potentially hours away before the Steelers actually get on the clock at 24 and have the opportunity to make their selection.
The popular opinion has been that the pick will be an offensive player, which will mark the first time in nearly a decade that they have used their top pick on that side of the ball when they drafted guard David DeCastro, who has since become a perennial Pro Bowler.
That first round pick may well line up right alongside DeCastro, as popular picks for Pittsburgh in the mocks have included Alabama center Landon Dickerson. But Creed Humphrey is also a possibility, with draft-day reports indicating that he could be drafted higher than many anticipate.
The Steelers, of course, are looking for their next center following the retirement of Maurkice Pouncey, who has already slimmed down considerably from the playing weight he bore throughout his 11 seasons with the team since his first-round selection in 2010.
Nine Pro Bowls later, he has the strongest case outside of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for being the Steelers’ next Hall of Famer. Which, if achieved, would pair him with Mike Webster and Dermontti Dawson as former Steelers centers enshrined in Canton.
Could it be that they add yet another center to that lineage, and that we see the very beginnings of that path with his selection tonight? If they do draft a center, then, well, check back in another 15 years and see where we stand.
That’s a polite way of saying that no matter who is in the middle of that offensive line, he has mighty shoes to fill in being the successor to Pouncey.