Why Steelers received a third-round compensatory pick and what they can do with it

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announces a pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announces a pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

The Steelers were recently rewarded for losing Le’Veon Bell to the Jets. Here’s what they can do with their compensatory third-round pick.

With NFL free-agency right around the corner, the NFL has begun the process of awarding compensatory picks for the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft. A total of 32 compensatory picks were awarded to 15 teams. The Steelers were one of the beneficiaries of this system.

Although the algorithm for awarding compensatory picks is not clear, the general formula is based on a player’s salary, playing time, postseason honors, players lost, and players gained. No team can have more than four compensatory selections in any single season.

The New England Patriots were awarded an NFL-high four compensatory picks for the 2020 NFL Draft, including two third-round selections (No. 98 and No. 100) and two sixth-round selections (No. 212 and No. 213).

Coming off their Super Bowl run, the team lost WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson, WR Chris Hogan, DE Trey Flowers, OT Trent Brown, and DT Malcom Brown. A huge blow for the defending champs.

Although missing the playoffs, the Pittsburgh Steelers also had their fair share of key players departing via free agency. The team lost its workhorse in RB Le’Veon Bell and special-teams ace OLB L.J. Fort.

The Philadelphia Eagles signed Fort to a three-year, $5.5 million deal, only to release him four games into the 2019 season. That greatly affected whether the Steelers would receive third-round compensation, as Fort was no longer on an NFL roster.

However, Fort’s unemployment was short-lived, as the Super Bowl favorite Baltimore Ravens picked him up while then inking him to a two-year extension in the process. The Steelers quickly found themselves back in the mix for third-round compensation.

Bell was the obvious unquestioned starter with the New York (new look) Jets, so all that was standing in the Steelers way now was the free-agent signing of WR Donte Moncrief.

Added to be a complementary piece to WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, Moncrief never found his role in the Steelers offense. He was a healthy scratch early in the season and with rookie third-round pick (No. 66) WR Diontae Johnson’s quick rise, it became clear Moncrief was on his way out.

In order to gain more leverage of third-round compensation, the Steelers needed to act fast. Releasing Moncrief before Week 10 of the 2019 season would all but assure a lock of third-round compensation. The move was swift.

Fast forward to today, and the Steelers find themselves as one of only nine NFL teams who were awarded third-round compensation for the upcoming 2020 NFL draft.

The Steelers now own a compensatory third-round pick (No. 102). That brings their 2020 draft pick total to five. Remember, they traded away their first-round pick (No. 18) for All-Pro FS Minkah Fitzpatrick. A move I absolutely loved at the time.

Now, the Steelers have a little more draft capital at their disposal. They can package picks and move up for a coveted player or trade down. It all depends on what NFL teams do ahead of them.

A third-round pick is extremely valuable for a number of reasons, with the main one being that every year NFL teams draft for need rather than BPA (Best Player Available) at the top of the draft. That means higher-graded players will fall, it happens every year, and this upcoming draft is no exception.

The Steelers have a plethora of needs. But they must first take care of their No. 1 in-house priority OLB Bud Dupree. From there, they can address their top three needs on defense: NT, ILB, and SS.

I don’t anticipate ILB Mark Barron coming back while the team should find competition for SS Terrell Edmunds. Sure, the team needs an insurance policy for RB James Conner, but I fully anticipate them targeting LSU RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins or Florida State RB Cam Akers in the second-round (No. 49).

The third-round (No. 102) is where I see them really reaping the benefits. They can trade up or trade down. No longer are NFL teams tied to the compensatory pick of not being able to trade out. That was changed in 2017.

If they so choose, the Steelers can package their third-round pick (No. 102) and a fourth-round pick (No. 124) to get a coveted player or they can stockpile more picks. The decision is theirs. And with more NFL coaches and GM’s on the hot seat, teams are more inclined to accept the risk-reward of instant gratification over long-term gains.

With the Steelers now having five selections in the 2020 NFL draft, it will be interesting to see how GM Kevin Colbert plays it, as he works his magic one more time.

Next. Steelers Draft: 5 under the radar prospects on offense. dark

2020 NFL Draft Picks:

1st-round pick (No. 19) traded to MIA

2nd-round pick (No. 49)

3rd-round pick (No. 102) compensatory

4th-round pick (No. 124) from MIA

4th-round pick (No. 135)

6th-round pick (No. 198)

7th-round pick (No. 232)