On Monday, Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert gave every indication that the team will not be trading up at any point during the 2021 NFL Draft, and that’s not overly surprising. Colbert, however, did leave the door open to the possibility of the team trading down during the draft, especially if it was a no-lose situation that resulted in the acquisition of a player they want. While its next to impossible to predict any sort Steelers trade down scenario during the draft, Cynthia Frelund of the NFL Network recently wrote that it would be a win-win situation if the Steelers were to move down in the first round Thursday via a deal with the Green Bay Packers.
Frelund goes on to pontificate that a Thursday-night deal between the Steelers and Packers would include the latter sending their No. 29 overall pick (first-round pick) and No. 92 overall pick (third-round pick) to the Steelers in exchange for their No. 24 overall (first-round pick) and No. 140 overall selection (fourth-round pick). Such a deal would give the Steelers four selections in the first 92 overall picks of the draft at the cost of moving down just five spots.
Why would the Packers want to move up five spots in the first round? Frelund speculates that such a move would potentially be for a wide receiver. Below is her reasoning.
“My crystal ball tells me that Aaron Rodgers would do well with just about any of the potentially available WRs in this draft. My math tells me that picking at No. 24 would be more likely to net the Pack WR4 or 5, as opposed picking at No. 29, where WR7 or even WR8 is possible. In this scenario, the Packers leapfrog New Orleans (No. 28 pick), Baltimore (No. 27) and Jacksonville (No. 25) — three teams that could be eyeing a wideout in Round 1 — to get their preferred pass catcher for the price of a middle-rounds pick swap.”
As for the Steelers possibly trading down five spots, Frelund has her reasons for that happening, as well. It includes a scenario where the team could potentially move back up in the second round via a trade.
“The Steelers’ needs (O-line, edge, running back, corner) create a scenario where the projected WR run could allow them to trade down, get extra draft capital and still end up with the player they wanted in the first place. I plugged in all the fit-specific players at No. 24 and then at 29, and the names did not change much. (Running back was just a 2.8 percent different.) Furthermore, Pittsburgh could flip its acquired No. 92 pick in a second-round trade-up — maybe moving from No. 55 all the way up to 41 (the Lions own the pick) or 42 (Giants).”
While Frelund’s suggestion sounds great on paper, it’s just mere pre-draft speculation, obviously. While a move down five spots in the first round of the draft doesn’t seem to be all that big of a jump, it’s a five-spot jump nonetheless. That means five players the Steelers might really want could come off the board in the meantime.
“Again, we’re always going to value quality over quantity, but if we’re not comfortable with what we’re looking at at the 24th pick, we’ll trade back,” Colbert said on Monday. “Do we want to do it with a division team? That wouldn’t be our preference, but we won’t discount that completely because we have to weigh what the potential trade-back will do for us and not worry about where those picks may go. It wouldn’t be our preference, but it won’t disqualify us from trading back with a division team.”
Colbert did, however, use a five-spot first-round trade back scenario on Monday while talking about if the team would possibly entertain a move back Thursday night.
“What are we getting? How many picks? We’ve got to look at what we’re walking away from,” Colbert said. “I never like to walk away from a pick without having — say if we’re trading back five spots, I want five players that we would be comfortable in taking so we can’t lose. That’s the way we’ve always approached that. We never would trade up unless the player we want is available and we know on that pick that he is available. But trading back, I want to make sure that we can’t lose if we do it.”
How likely is it that the Steelers will trade back in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft Thursday night? Since Colbert came to Pittsburgh in 2000 only one other time have the Steelers traded down in the first round. That was back in 2001. That first-round trade back with the New York Jets saw the Steelers move back three spots from 16 overall to 19 overall. They wound up drafting nose tackle Casey Hampton with that 19th overall selection, and it wound up being a great pick.