The pre-draft process from the outside looking in isn’t much more than a crapshoot. You can get a general idea of what teams might be thinking, but only a select few might have genuinely reliable information. And many may be getting their information about what one team’s plans might be from what another team thinks their plans are.
Not that anybody was surprised when the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Georgia offensive tackle Broderick Jones in the first round. But let’s say the New England Patriots wouldn’t trade up with them and the New York Jets took Jones instead. What would Pittsburgh have done at 17? Would they have taken their next draft pick, cornerback Joey Porter Jr.? Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin wasn’t about to touch that.
“That is all above my pay grade”, he told reporters last Friday when he was asked if Porter was going to be in serious consideration at 17. “You’ll have to go down and talk to Omar [Khan] and Mike [Tomlin] about all that stuff”.
For what it’s worth, Khan did say in the team’s post-draft press conference that the Steelers “expected him to go higher than that”, and that they had him a lot higher than where they did get him at 32, the first pick in the second round.
Even that was a conversation, however. It was reported that there were at least four teams seriously hammering the Steelers’ phones at the start of the second day of the draft hoping to trade up to the top of the round, but they chose to draft Porter.
Austin would, again, not answer the question of whether or not the Steelers seriously considered trading out of that spot instead of pulling the trigger to make sure that they got Porter, but Khan did say in his comments that they “listened” and acknowledged that there were some opportunities.
Many thought even before the draft started that the Steelers might well trade out of 32, for one reason being that they had two second-round picks, and for another, because they had no picks in the fifth and sixth rounds. In a draft widely regarded as having its strength in its depth in the middle rounds, that was real estate they didn’t want to leave vacant.
A trade back became even more plausible after the first round when they made a move up to get Broderick Jones, trading their fourth-round pick to move from 17 to 14. They did eventually trade back in the third round to recoup a fourth-round pick, and, according to the team, still got their target, tight end Darnell Washington.
Trading back would have been an interesting possibility to have considered, and perhaps we might turn that into a thought experiment. The Cardinals traded out of 33 to 41, sending 81 as well to get back 72 in addition to a 2024 third-round pick. The Raiders moved down three spots from 35 to 38 to get a fifth-round pick (141). But the report is Pittsburgh’s price tag was high. I’m guessing the Steelers wanted at least a 2023 fourth-round pick, if not a third-rounder, depending on how far back they would have had to move.