Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
It's too early to tell if the Steelers' 2013 draft will be a success, but general manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin are offseason winners because of the slight shift in their draft philosophy.
In the past, the Steelers often would pick the best player available regardless of their needs at a certain position. That's why they drafted Rashard Mendenhall in the first round in 2008 when they needed offensive line help after losing Alan Faneca.
Mendenhall wasn't a bust, although his career in Pittsburgh came to a disappointing end. Limas Sweed, however, was an unmitigated bust. Some mock drafts had the Texas wide receiver going in the first round. So when he was available to the Steelers at No. 53, they snapped him up. He caught seven passes in two seasons with the team.
The Steelers waited until the fourth round to address their most pressing need in the 2008 draft, taking offensive tackle Tony Hills, who couldn't get on the field until 2010. Even then, he only played in three games before going to the Broncos in 2011.
Like Mendenhall four years earlier, David DeCastro was projected as a top-15 pick in 2012 and tumbled to the Steelers at No. 24. They took him even though guard wasn't necessarily their biggest need.
Time will tell how the DeCastro pick turns out, but in the 2013 draft, Colbert and Tomlin understood that the Steelers had urgent needs at several positions, and they checked them off like a shopping list.
Their first six picks and seven of their nine picks came at positions where the Steelers lost at least one player from the 2012 team.
James Harrison went to the Bengals, and the Steelers drafted Jarvis Jones. Mendenhall went to the Cardinals, and the Steelers drafted Le'Veon Bell. Mike Wallace went to the Miami Dolphins, and the Steelers drafted Markus Wheaton.
After addressing their biggest free-agent losses in the first three rounds, the Steelers took care of positions that needed depth in the middle rounds.
Backup safeties Ryan Mundy and Will Allen went to the Giants and Cowboys, respectively, and the Steelers drafted Shamarko Thomas. Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich remained unsigned, and the Steelers drafted Landry Jones. Keenan Lewis went to the Saints, and the Steelers drafted Terry Hawthorne.
There might have been a time when the Steelers could afford to think they were smarter than anyone else and draft the best player regardless of position.
The Steelers are coming off a .500 season and haven't won a playoff game since 2010. Colbert and Tomlin couldn't afford to over-think the draft, and they didn't.