With the Steelers’ 2023 offseason underway following a disappointing season that came up just short of reaching the playoffs, it’s time to begin reloading, through the free agency process, through the draft, and perhaps even through trade.
This is now a young team on the offensive side of the ball, though one getting older on defense, and both sides could stand to be supplemented robustly, including in the trenches—either one. Changes have been made to the coaching staff, even if not all of the desired ones, as the roster continues to renew with the weeks ticking by.
These sorts of uncertainties are what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
Topic Statement: There are enough options for the Steelers at 17 that they have minimal risk of drafting a ‘bust’.
Explanation: Former Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert had one of the great first-round runs in history, arguably, for more than a decade. He had a few duds in the back half of his tenure, however, most notably Jarvis Jones, Artie Burns, and Devin Bush. Some other less successful first-round selections were Ziggy Hood and Terrell Edmunds, but not nearly to the same degree.
Drafting in the teens helps some to avoid a bust since you have a wider crop of options. Drafting at any point comes with at least some degree of risk—even the first-overall pick can easily bust—but the evident target area for Pittsburgh this year seems to have a relatively high ceiling.
I have no concerns, for example, about Joey Porter Jr. not at least developing into a solid player. He may not become a Pro Bowler, but he should at least be a solid starter. The same could be said for their options at tackle in that area.
Most importantly, they have constructed this roster over the past month and a half in such a way as to avoid the temptation of the ‘reach’, which is what produced Jones, Burns, and Bush in the first place. If the right cornerback, if the right tackle isn’t there, they can better the roster elsewhere.
First of all, we only think we know what we know about what the Steelers’ interests are. For example, their focus could be on Lukas Van Ness, and he’s a hard projection. At his current weight, he doesn’t fit. He either needs to drop or gain weight. Yet they supposedly love him. When you have a projection pick like that, there is inherently a bust risk.
And both the cornerback and tackle positions are very much subject to runs in the first round, particularly in the middle part of the round, starting at 10 or so. Even for as much as they have done to address holes, these are still the two positions they’re likely to want to address at the top.
There’s a reason everybody thinks so, and the Steelers’ history of telegraphing their first-round interests runs pretty deep. Nobody’s going to tell me Darnell Wright is a lock to be great. He could be, but I would be no more shocked if he turned out poorly than I was about Bush.