ESPN Believes Pittsburgh Should Make Aggressive Draft Day Move

This year’s NFL Draft is huge for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and it is not just because it is new general manager Omar Khan’s first one that he is in charge for. The Steelers have who they believe to be their franchise quarterback in Kenny Pickett on a rookie deal, now is the time to strike and open up their Super Bowl window.

Robert Weintraub of Football Outsiders believes the best way for Pittsburgh to do this and open up that Super Bowl window is to trade up in the draft. Writing today about the Steelers, Weintraub said Pittsburgh should trade one of their second round picks (32, 49) and move up in the first round of the draft because their three top 50 picks are good, not great.

“Standing pat with three picks in the top 49 is the safe route,” wrote Weintraub on ESPN. “But that’s the rub. Because Mike Tomlin yet again steered a flawed team to a winning record (9-8), Pittsburgh picks 17th in the first round and 49th in the second — not exactly slam-dunk draft slots.”

By trading picks 17 and one of 32 or 49, the Steelers could likely move up to a top ten spot in the draft and have their pick at the top offensive lineman or cornerback, two of the team’s biggest needs. Weintraub mentioned that by trading pick 49 along with their first round pick at 17 Pittsburgh could move up to have a good chance to draft two of the top tackles in the draft, Paris Johnson Jr. of Ohio State and Broderick Jones of Georgia. With those two not being a certainty at 17 the thinking would be that Khan and head coach Mike Tomlin should make sure they get the best prospect available.

Another thought that Weintraub had was trading 32 to move up to get either Devon Witherspoon from Illinois or Christian Gonzalez from Oregon, two to the top cornerbacks in this draft class. Pittsburgh doesn’t have the best secondary and trading to draft one of the best cornerbacks in the draft would help in a conference stacked with elite quarterbacks.

Weintraub wrote that under Tomlin the Steelers likely will never have a chance at a top ten prospect, so now that they have the opportunity they should jump on it.

“So long as Tomlin is around, the chance at truly elite, can’t-miss talent will be rare. The Steelers should use this opportunity to move up and grab a top prospect.”

The issue with Weintraub’s way of thinking is that the Steelers have a lot of needs and are top heavy on draft picks. The team currently has seven picks, but has a huge gap between pick 120 and 236. Trading up requires the Steelers to lose a draft pick in a draft where the team needs to fill needs at positions like offensive line, cornerback, linebacker, possibly tight end, EDGE and wide receiver. Trading up could get a better player at one position, but also limits the amount of need that could be filled.

At 17 it is possible that Jones is still there and the cornerback class this year is very deep meaning at 17 Pittsburgh can still get a very good prospect. Trading up would likely hurt the Steelers in the long run as it limits the amount talent Pittsburgh could get. They have to trust that they can find talent later in the draft anyway, if a team is relying on top ten picks to become Super Bowl contenders then they have the wrong scouts.

While quality will always triumph quantity, at 17 Pittsburgh has a lot of options to go in and will still likely be able to get a very talented offensive lineman or cornerback. Trading up just hurts the team later in the draft and limits how good the 2023 NFL Draft class could be for the Steelers.

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