In typical and predictable fashion, Mike Tomlin and Omar Khan didn’t give the game away during their annual pre-draft press conference. They didn’t talk about players or positions they were most interested in. They kept things general and non-specific.
Except for one thing.
Picking at #32. Which in this year’s draft, means the top spot of the second round. And Tomlin, who knows the world listens when he speaks, might as well had been holding a “For Sale” sign in regard to that selection. Though nothing is guaranteed, Tomlin repeatedly discussed the possibility of trading that pick.
Tomlin and Omar Khan were asked right off the top about #32. And like a kid on Christmas, Tomlin lit up in discussing the unique position the team is in at that spot.
“Man, we’re excited about it, man,” he said in video carried out by the team’s YouTube channel. “We’ve been talking about it. I think the thing that we are least familiar with about it is the amount of calls that we will be or could be getting. And that’s where we’ve spent our time is just talking about how do we organize and how do we get prepared for the receiving of the amount of interest that that pick could have. And that’s a good and exciting possibility for us.”
Pittsburgh received that pick as part of the Chase Claypool deal. For most teams, picking at the top of a round means they were the league’s worst team last season. It’s a different scenario this year. And you’d have to go back a long time to find the last instance of the Steelers being in those shoes. It was long before Tomlin or Khan were in the team facility.
Towards the end of the team’s presser, Tomlin again referenced the scenario.
“Being in that position, we’re acknowledging that we’re not quarterback shopping and that position might be one that attracts quarterback shoppers. And so it’s exciting to see what might transpire with some of those phone calls and the value that we might be able to get. It is a unique position for us to be in and we are very excited about it.”
Four quarterbacks are expected to be off the board by the time the Steelers pick at 17 – assuming they stay there, that is – though there’s an increasing chance that Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker goes off the board in the top 31. But if he slips into Day Two, that is prime real estate for another team to move up to get him while the Steelers leverage their position and reap the rewards.
Tomlin made one last mention of the pick in one of his final responses.
“I think that that 32nd position is something that’s new to us. And that’s something that probably is gonna have more of our attention in terms of the spontaneity of it or the uniqueness of it,” he said. “It’s just due diligence in terms of preparing for the myriad of things that could happen at 17, whether we stay there, move up, move back, that’s everyday business for us. Or every year business for us.”
Tomlin and the Steelers just told the rest of the NFL, “call us.” It’ll sure save Tomlin a lot of time from having to work the phone. The more interest he can drum up, the more teams he can get to compete for the pick, the better deal the Steelers will be able to pull off.
Here’s just one scenario of the many you could map out on draft day. Perhaps the Steelers are aggressive in the first round and trade up from 17 to get an offensive tackle. Hypothetically, they trade 17 and 49 to the Tennessee Titans and get Broderick Jones at 11, jumping the tackle-needy New York Jets in the process.
Then they use 32 to trade back and recoup that capital. Just making up another scenario here: Let’s say it’s with the Las Vegas Raiders at 38 if they don’t land a QB with the 7th-overall pick. Pittsburgh sends 32 and a 7th for 38, pick 109 (4th round) and 174 (5th round). That nets them an extra 4th-round pick and bridges the 5th/6th round void where the team doesn’t have a selection. It basically gives them a “normal” order of picks, one in the first, one in the second, one in the third, with two in the fourth, one in the fifth, nothing in the sixth, and one in the seventh.
Additional comments Tomlin and Khan made throughout the presser emphasized their view of how deep this class is. Some draftniks would disagree with the notion at-large but the class is deep at corner and tight end. Khan and Tomlin also mentioned d-line, EDGE, and wide receiver as groups that have talent throughout.
Combine the uniqueness of the Steelers picking at #32 and their clear signal at moving down. Add the their thoughts on the depth of the class, possibility of trading up from #17, and need to find a 5th/6th round pick, and this is all a perfect marriage.
Of course, this all sounds good when it’s typed up by “man who just rolled out of bed sitting on chair.” The draft is never this clean. But the Steelers’ message was clear. We’re open for business. Now we’ll see if the team gets any customers.