Offensive tackle versus cornerback. Cornerback versus offensive tackle. That was the Round One debate. Which would Pittsburgh choose?
Some of it could’ve been chosen for them. There was a run on tackles starting at #6 when Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. went to the Arizona Cardinals. The Chicago Bears nabbed Tennessee’s Darnell Wright at #10 while Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski came off the board with the next pick to the Tennessee Titans. And so to jump to the New York Jets, the Pittsburgh Steelers came up three spots to select Georgia’s OT Broderick Jones.
While there were still great corners on the board, only Devon Witherspoon had gone so far, getting a tackle was the right decision. A premium, cornerstone position of an NFL roster and a draft class that wasn’t nearly as deep as cornerback. Combine those two elements for Pittsburgh and while Christian Gonzalez would’ve looked great in a Steelers’ uniform, getting Jones was the sensible decision.
If cornerback was deep as an ocean, tackle was as deep as a puddle. Once Jones was gone, the class would’ve really fallen off. There was Anton Harrison, who wound up going #26 to Jacksonville and someone Pittsburgh had interest in, but a prospect who never really felt like an option at #17. Beyond that, the class looked weak and the Steelers showed virtually zero interest in any of those candidates: Syracuse’s Matthew Bergeron, Maryland’s Jaelyn Duncan and Oklahoma’s Wanya Morris among others while Ohio State’s Dawand Jones seemed like a risky pick the team soured on because of his Pro Day inactivity. Pittsburgh concentrated on the top names in the class: Paris Johnson Jr., Darnell Wright, and Broderick Jones. Those were their targets. And they made sure to make a move before all three were off the board.
Gonzalez is going to be a great NFL corner. There’s no doubt in my mind. But if there’s a position group that has is strong throughout the draft, it’s corner. Day Two offers a ton of talent with even unexpected names like Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr. falling out of the Top 31. Pittsburgh may trade the #32 but even if they do, there’s a long list of corners to go after. Kansas State’s Julius Brents, Miami (FL)’s Tyrique Stevenson, Michigan’s DJ Turner, and South Carolina’s Darius Rush are all fits.
Pittsburgh will take a cornerback today. They’re going to come away from the start of the draft with a high-upside left tackle and a rock-solid cornerback. And that’s along with whatever else they get, currently holding three total picks on Day Two.
No draft can yield conclusions the moment after the picks come in. Some players you think are locks to succeed don’t. Others you pay no mind to end up making the biggest impact. But on paper, and that’s only how we can judge things right now, the Steelers are in a good spot. They made the right moves. Thursday, they got their tackle. Friday, they get their corner. It wouldn’t have worked the other way around.