That’s head coach Mike Tomlin basking in the afterglow of his first two picks in the 2008 NFL Draft. Tomlin and Director of Player Personnel Kevin Colbert have every right to be pleased with their work as the general consensus seems to be the Pittsburgh Steelers had themselves one of the finest hauls in this year’s draft. Scanning the interwebz, it appears many of the so-called “experts” graded our picks quite generously.
Jason Cole (Yahoo Sports) – A
Paul Zimmerman (SI.com’s Dr. Z) – Very Good
Larry Weisman (USA Today) – B+
Mel Kiper (Great Hair) – B
NPC (Me) – A
Wait, I gave our draft an A? Didn’t I say in my draft preview post that taking a running back like Jonathan Stewart would be a luxury pick? Didn’t I say a luxury pick is not something we can afford with so many pressing needs? Have I gone mad?
Not really. See, when you evaluate a team’s draft, you have to do so on a sliding scale. The teams picking early almost always have the “best drafts” because they pick the biggest name players. Of course, if those drafts were really the best, or if those big names always panned out, then the Detroits and Atlantas of the world wouldn’t be picking in the top 10 seemingly every year. As John Steinbeck would say, “…the best laid plans of Mice and Matt Millen…”
Mangling of classic English literature aside, I judge a draft by value. As in, what did pass up, what did you get, and what did you give up in getting what you got? By those criteria, the Steelers did a tremendous job this weekend.
Did the draft address our needs? Well, in a word, no. Our biggest needs were OL, WR, DL, and CB in that order. The Steelers only filled one of those four needs (WR). Looking at it that way, you’d think their draft was a total disaster. But this goes back to what I said about value. We passed up guys who’d fill our needs but didn’t have legit first round ability, we got players who are talented enough that most people think they should’ve went 10 to 15 picks sooner than when we got them, and we gave up nothing in order to draft them.
Pittsburgh could’ve gone a similar route as Carolina. The Panthers also needed help on the OL and when there was a run on linemen, they panicked and traded up to get Jeff Otah. As someone who saw him play in a few Pitt games this season, the idea of using one 1st round pick on Otah is questionable. Otah has raw talent and great measurables but he’ll definitely need a lot of coaching and is far from a complete package. Carolina, however, gave up not only several picks to draft him, but next year’s 1st as well. That’s far far too steep a price.
I’m glad the Steelers didn’t play that game. Gosder Cherilus and Sam Baker are nice players but they’re both 2nd round talent. Taking them in the first would’ve been dubious. Trading future draft picks to MOVE UP to take them would’ve been insane. Especially when legitimate first round talent was there to be had.
I don’t believe in drafting specifically to fill needs. That’s how you end up with Troy Edwards instead of Jevon Kearse. I firmly believe you take the best player available. Obviously, all things being equal, you try to fill your needs first but this year, things were not equal. Every offensive lineman of any ability, projected to go in the first OR second round, was gone by the time the Steelers picked at #23. What was sitting there was a running back who many considered the 2nd best back in the entire draft.
It’s a no-brainer.
Of course, like we learned with Huey Richardson, we’ll truly see how smart the Steelers are when these guys actually put on some pads and take the field.