When it comes to the NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a system that works. No one can debate that. With the Steelers having three BIG needs entering the 2011 NFL Draft, there is a lot of talk about what the Steelers should do. Trade up to get one of the elite players at a position of need? Or trade down to acquire more picks to fill more depth?
Understand that the Steelers system for drafting is not like most teams. Only twice in the last 30 years have the Steelers traded up in the first round. In both cases, the Steelers struck gold, landing one of the best players in the history of the NFL, Troy Polamalu, and another that could have been, Santonio Holmes.
For the Steelers to trade up in the first round, there is going to have to be a person that they REALLY believe will be an elite player for years to come.
Unfortunately, for the Steelers to trade up, it is probably going to cost them their third round pick. Some would argue that in the third round, the Steelers have missed more in the last few years than they have hit.
Sure, people think of Mike Wallace as being an amazing player, but look at Kraig Urbik (2009), Keenan Lewis (2008), Bruce Davis (2008) and Willie Reed (2006). In the last five years, the Steelers have struck out in a few different third rounds.
What should the Steelers do with thier first round pick?
If the Steelers decide to trade down, they would have to trade out of the first round (unless the Packers want to trade up). Depending on how the early part of the draft plays out, the end of the first round picks could be a hot commodity.
With so many teams at the top of the first two rounds needing quarterbacks, if many are not taken in the top five picks, then the teams at the top of the second round will want to move back into the first round, to get that coveted "franchise QB".
With the depth of the offensive and defensive lines in this years draft, by acquiring another second and third round pick, the Steelers would be able to address their three biggest needs—all by the beginning of the third round, instead of the end of it.
Sure, this would eliminate the chances of drafting Mike Pouncey, but the odds of him being on the board when the Steelers draft are about that of winning the lottery.
Teams that are slotted to select at the end of the first round are there for a reason. The Steelers were a couple plays away from winning the Super Bowl. They could argue that they could stay put, still address all their needs and improve their team enough to win the 2012 Super Bowl.
Here are the Steelers first round selections over the last decade. There are no real "misses":
Who is the best player drafted by the Steelers in the last decade?
2010—Maurkice Pouncey, Pro Bowl rookie season.
2009—Ziggy Hood, eventual replacement for Aaron Smith.
2008—Rashard Mendenhall, starting running back.
2007—Lawrence Timmons, starting ILB.
2006—Santonio Holmes, won Super Bowl MVP with Steelers.
2005—Heath Miller, one of the top tight ends in the NFL.
2004—Ben Roethlisberger, one of the elite QB's in the NFL.
2003—Troy Polamalu, defensive MVP and one of the best defenders in years.
2002—Kendall Simmons, great guard until diabetes derailed his career.
2001—Casey Hampton, multiple Pro Bowls and anchor of the 3-4 defensive line.
As you can see, the Steelers have struck gold in the first round in all (but one) of their first round picks. It is hard to say that with this kind of success, the Steelers should do anything but keep their pick, and draft the player they think is the next in this long line of players.