Stay Put at #24
Of the 12 Drafts he has presided over, Kevin Colbert has only traded down or traded up a total of three times. That being said, Pittsburgh’s Front Office has usually illustrated a pretty good feel for value and the type of players which will inevitably be available at their normal spot in Round 1. And hey, if no opportunities arise to make a deal to go up and grab Kuechly or somebody else, the Steelers can always stay at #24 and take a quality player. If Pittsburgh decides to stay put at #24, there are three players (in no particular order) which should be available and would make fine 1st Round selections: Offensive Tackle Mike Adams of Ohio State, Inside Linebacker Dont’a Hightower of Alabama, and Mark Barron of Alabama.
In my opinion, Adams will fall to Pittsburgh, and I am not worried about his availability at #24. Nevertheless, like Harry Caray (or Will Ferrell playing him I should say), I’m a bit of a worrier, which is why my friends call me “Whiskers.” I say this because, like most Drafts, there could be a major run on Tackles starting earlier than Buffalo at #10 or if the Cardinals pick Martin at #13 and some teams just before the Steelers panic and draft for need.
If the Top 3 Tackles (Matt Kalil, Riely Reiff, and Jonathan Martin) are all gone by selection #13, Adams will be the top pure Tackle left on the board (Glenn I’m considering an OG/OT) with San Diego, Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit all set to pick before the Steelers. In that case, Adams will likely be gone if these teams decide to go need before B.P.A. and want Tackle over their other needs. Adams has the larger size (almost 6’8″ 323 lbs.) that Pittsburgh covets in their Tackles, and he has come in for a pre-Draft interview to boot. While Adams projects as a Right Tackle, like Marcus Gilbert, he has loads of experience on the Left side, and could be an instant upgrade over Willie Colon at the Right Tackle spot. Adams could open holes on the Right side of the Line for a decade if he stays healthy, and hopefully ensure that Big Ben doesn’t get planted every time he drops back to pass. If Adams character checks out with the club (he was involved in the selling of merchandise scandal at Ohio State), Pittsburgh might consider taking him at #24.
While Hightower’s ability could entice some teams to trade ahead of Pittsburgh at #24, to get him, in my personal opinion, his draft range will likely be between #24 and #32. Hightower is a logical 1st Round pick for Pittsburgh and he fits a perfect trifecta for the franchise in the following ways: being a terrific but value worthy pick at #24, having experience in a pro-style 3-4 Defense, and playing a position of need for the Steelers. I’ve mocked Hightower at #24 to Pittsburgh on multiple occasions, and the pick itself makes complete and total sense for the Steelers if they elect to stay put and higher value players (Martin, Glenn, Gilmore) do not fall to them. Good value, solid B.P.A. at #24, and filling a position of need. Not much more you could ask for, especially so late in the 1st Round.
Barron is sort of a Wild Card at #24, and there’s as good a chance he could slide down to Pittsburgh as there is that he won’t. 2012’s Safety class is weak in terms of the amount of depth of draftable players at the positions. Sure, Pittsburgh could pass and wait until next year, but they might have their sights set on Barron. And sure, the Steelers might not have an immediate need to take a Safety as early as Round 1, Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark have significant “tread” on their “tires” and have played 21 combined seasons between them. Plus, the only significant and experienced depth behind both players is in the form of Ryan Mundy who still is a season or two away from playing as a starter. But that’s why the selection of Barron makes so much sense.
Barron, like Hightower also, would be a solid B.P.A. at #24 and his value at that draft slot would likely fit Pittsburgh’s draft board. In the event that Barron falls past Dallas at #14, Philadelphia at #15, the Jets at #16, and the Chargers at #18, he will likely slide down to Pittsburgh with no issue (barring a trade), as no other teams are in significant need of Safety help in Round 1 until Denver at #25 and Baltimore at #29. Experience in a pro-style 3-4 Defense, ability to play against the run, and a ball-hawking nature would make Barron a terrific choice in Round 1, and Pittsburgh could rest easy knowing that someone competent will hold the fort down at Safety for years to come.
Final Thoughts on Staying Put
At #24, Pittsburgh is in a good spot to make a sensible and heady selection. Whether it’s Adams, Hightower, or Barron, I wouldn’t be opposed, and would applaud the organization for continuing to make heady picks in Round 1. All three are future starters, and in my opinion, project as quality starters at the N.F.L. level.
Plus, maybe the Steelers will get lucky if they stay put, and Martin and/or Glenn fall to #24 and give Colbert and Co. more options to choose from and bolster their roster in the 1st Round. Awesome turn of events aside, #24 could prove be a tricky spot for the Steelers if they do not see any prospects worth taking at that spot though. And if #24 for whatever reason might not be attractive enough of a spot to pick from for the Steelers, it should prove to be valuable for numerous franchises looking to upgrade their clubs in a spot on the draft board (#24) where multiple players at specific positions of need for their team are just about to enter a range of draft picks where they will inevitably start flying off the board.