NFL Draft 2012: How Far Should the Steelers Go to Trade Up for Dontari Poe?

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NFL Draft 2012: How Far Should the Steelers Go to Trade Up for Dontari Poe?
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Dontari Poe's NFL Scouting Combine boost on draft boards might be wearing off.

If the Pittsburgh Steelers want Dontari Poe in the 2012 NFL draft, they'll have to do something they rarely do. They'll have to trade up in the first round.

Only twice in their history have the Steelers done that, and it's worked out pretty well both times.

In 2003, the Steelers traded with the Kansas City Chiefs to jump from the No. 27 pick to No. 16 and draft Troy Polamalu. In 2006, they went from 32 to 25 to take Santonio Holmes.

Those picks yielded a seven-time Pro Bowler and a Super Bowl MVP.

If the Steelers traded up in the first round to draft Poe, it would be considered a success only if Poe contributes to a Steelers championship.

He wouldn't have to do it in the flashy way that Polamalu and Holmes have, he would just have to be, well, the next Casey Hampton.

Hampton, chosen in the first round with the No. 19 pick of the 2001 draft, has been the engine in the middle of the Steelers' 3-4 defense. Since he arrived, the Steelers have never been worse than ninth in the NFL in yards allowed.

Hampton is 35 and coming off ACL surgery. It's time to at least groom a successor.

Not everyone agrees that Poe should be that successor, especially with other nose tackles available in the second round and later. When it comes to Poe, the only thing anyone really can agree on is that it's highly unlikely he'll be available to the Steelers at No. 24.

Poe's stock soared after his performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. The 6'4", 346-pound Memphis nose tackle was projected as a top 10 pick in some mock drafts.

Since then, the Poe hype has cooled a bit on concerns that he might just be a workout warrior, and he didn't exactly play against elite competition at Memphis.

In assessing Poe's game tape, one NFL personnel man told the Trenton Times, "He didn't do anything."

I'm wondering what he meant by "do anything."

Getting into the backfield and filling the highlight reel is not the job of a Steelers nose tackle. They need a mass in the middle of the defense to command double teams and free up other defenders to wreak havoc.

Draft guru Mike Mayock said this about Poe:

"He needs to get into a good locker room with a mentor in that defensive line group who can show this kid how to play football."

Poe would get that with the Steelers. But how much should the Steelers give up to draft him?

The Steelers should use history as a guide. In 2003, they traded their picks in the first, third and sixth rounds to take Polamalu.

They shouldn't give up that much to take Poe. No matter how many Pro Bowls Poe goes to, he won't give the Steelers as much as Polamalu has. I don't exactly see him foiling a potential game-winning drive with a pick-six in an AFC championship game.

The Steelers probably can't avoid dealing this year's third-round pick if they want to get Poe. It just comes with the territory of moving up in the first round. Let's assume this year's first- and third-round picks are part of any deal.

However, that should be all the Steelers give up in the 2012 draft. The rest of the package should be made up of picks in next year's draft.

The Steelers should offer their fifth-round pick next year as a starting point.

Using the NFL draft pick trade value chart on Scott Wright's NFL Draft Countdown, and assuming a fifth-round pick next year is worth a sixth-round pick this year, that would equal what the Steelers gave up to get Polamalu in 2003.

If no team bites on that, the Steelers can sweeten the pot to a fourth- and a sixth-round pick next year. Their final offer, depending on how far they're moving up in the first round, should be a third-round pick next year.

Draft picks might not be the only bargaining chip the Steelers have on draft day.

According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, several teams are interested in trading for Mike Wallace, even though no team seems willing to give up a first-round draft pick to sign him as a restricted free agent.

Wallace might sulk next season playing for $2.7 million instead of the Larry Fitzgerald money he wants. Then when he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season, he could run from the Steelers like he's done to so many opposing cornerbacks.

Sure, if the Steelers used Wallace in a trade to move up in the first round, they wouldn't have to yield any picks next year and maybe not even their third-rounder this year.

But it would be a bad idea to include a proven commodity like Wallace in any draft-day trade to get a wildcard like Poe.

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Even if the Steelers have Wallace for only one more year, they have a significantly better chance of winning the Super Bowl with him in that one year than they do without him.

So with Wallace off the table and only draft picks to deal, the Steelers can forget about trading into the top 10, where they probably would have to give up their first-, second-, fourth- and sixth-round picks this year and maybe even their second-round pick next year.

Both Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com and Scott Wright's Draft Countdown have Poe going to the Chiefs at No. 11 in their mock drafts. According to the chart, the Chiefs could have asked for more from the Steelers in the 2003 draft-day trade. If Poe slips out of the top 10 and the Steelers call the Chiefs trying to make a deal, the Chiefs might not be as generous as they were nine years ago.

Poe's also been linked to the Dallas Cowboys, who have the No. 14 pick. To move ahead of the Cowboys and get to 13, the Steelers likely would have to trade their first- and second-round picks this year and their third- and fifth-rounders next year.

But that's just according to the chart. To make a trade with the Arizona Cardinals for the No. 13 pick, the Steelers would be moving up 11 spots in the draft, the same number of spots they jumped in 2003.

If the package that landed Polamalu was worth 11 spots in 2003, why not see if a similar haul can move the Steelers 11 spots this year? This is where the aforementioned first- and third-round pick this year and fifth-round pick next year becomes realistic bait, with the Steelers ultimately giving up their third-rounder in 2013 if necessary.

Charley Casserly of the NFL Network has Poe falling to the Bears at 19 in his mock draft.

If the Steelers only need to leap six spots to No. 18 to move ahead of the Bears, next year's third-rounder should be off the table. Their final offer in that situation should be next year's fourth- and sixth-rounders.

If the Bears pass on Poe and the Steelers only need to gain three or four spots to ensure they get him, they likely would still have to give up this year's first- and third-round picks, but they should expect some late-round picks this year in return.

Confused yet? We might be spared all this number crunching if Poe's stock drops even further and the Steelers can just take him at No. 24.

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