The last time there was a first round without the Pittsburgh Steelers, the year was 1967. Not only have the Steelers had a first-round pick now for 44 straight years, but they even had two first-round picks back in 1989. Could the Steelers break that streak in 2011, and would it be the right choice?
The Pittsburgh Steelers should absolutely trade down out of the first round, and there are a few teams that could help them make that move.
The Steelers have a solid nucleus for a team and are only a piece or two away from playing for the Lombardi Trophy again. And they know that. They also know that they have a laundry list of impending free agents that will want big money or could move elsewhere.
The NFL is trying to install a rookie pay scale, but that won't happen this year. Whether you are the No. 1 or the No. 31 pick in the draft, you are due first-round money.
The Steelers also won't be able to find a player worth paying that money at their spot either. The Steelers most glaring need is for a cornerback with starting potential. The best three cornerbacks in the draft will all surely be gone before the Steelers have a chance to take one of them. The drop off from Jimmy Smith to Brandon Harris and Aaron Williams is too great for them to be drafted at No. 31.
The Steelers could also use a new offensive tackle in this years draft, and the best player likely to be available for the Steelers in that position would be Derek Sherrod, who some think could slip in to the middle of Round 2. There is also the case that the Steelers could go after the deep defensive line talent in the draft and take Phil Taylor of Baylor. Taylor might not even make it that far to the Steelers, but he also has a condition in his foot that is scaring NFL teams away.
Everyday more rumors pick up steam concerning teams trading into the late end of Round 1 to draft a quarterback. The list of teams covers Buffalo to Minnesota and has caused teams like the New England Patriots to bring in Jake Locker and Ryan Mallett, if only to gauge their value.
Of course, the Steelers would need some sort of value in return for their pick. If you use the NFL trade value chart, the Steelers 31st overall pick is worth 600 points, or the equivalent to an early second and fourth-round selection. Unfortunately for the Steelers, the teams that would supply the most equal trade based on this value chart would be the Browns and the Bengals.
I don't foresee AFC North teams helping each other out anytime soon.
The Steelers have a long history of building through the draft, and an equally long history of finding future Hall of Famers there. The Steelers have had success drafting near the end of the first round, however. Some names that come to mind when I think of late first-round picks would be Heath Miller, Ziggy Hood, Kendall Simmons and Alan Faneca.
The Steelers have also had some unparalleled success drafting in the second round and near the middle of the draft. LaMarr Woodley, Carnell Lake, Dermonti Dawson and the great Jack Lambert were all second-round picks that the Steelers found. The fourth round is a bit different, the Steelers have had more success drafting in the fifth round historically, but they shouldn't accept a fifth over a fourth-round pick based on that.
The fact of the matter is that no player the Steelers are targeting at the end of Round 1 will be gone by the middle of Round 2. If they can move back in to the beginning of Round 2 and still take a Derek Sherrod or a Brandon Harris, as well as gain a fourth-round pick, they will be better off because of it.
The Steelers may only need one more piece to the puzzle, but there are depth issues on the offensive line and the defense is aging. The additional fourth-round pick could afford the Steelers the luxury of going after a high-risk/high-reward type player in late Round 2 or 3, while giving them the opportunity to add depth where it is needed.