Steelers must return to ‘best player available’ philosophy for 2021 NFL draft

Former Pittsburgh Steelers great Joe GreeneGw51266
Former Pittsburgh Steelers great Joe GreeneGw51266 /

The Steelers would be well served by returning to the ‘best player available’ mentality for the 2021 NFL draft

As we wrap up the 2021 free agency period and look toward the impending draft, I can’t help but think that the Steelers have somewhat gotten away from a formula that served us well for many decades.  I know I have stated this on numerous occasions, but we once drafted four future Hall of Fame players in a single draft, the 1974 NFL draft.

Call it good luck, call it skill, call it outstanding scouting or call it what you want, but the fact of the matter is this:  At one fell swoop, the Steelers went from a playoff team in 1972 and in 1973 to the Super Bowl champs in 1974.

To be fair, there were really good drafts leading up to the aforementioned 1974 draft, there were some really good drafts after the 1974 draft and there were some mediocre drafts after the 1974 draft.  The drafts prior to and the draft that culminated in the aforementioned Super Bowl win in 1974 had, I believe, one thing in common:  We drafted the best player available.

I do; however, think it’s fair to say that the Steelers also drafted for need back then as we have done several times since Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert have been running the show, as it were.  Unfortunately for us, drafting for need under the Tomlin, Colbert regime has at times proven to be not only unfruitful, but it could be argued that drafting for need has set us back a bit in terms of player development.

The Steelers need to draft the best player available throughout the 2021 NFL draft

Admittedly, the NFL draft is really nothing more than a ‘pot luck’ endeavor that has the possibility of either being a boon or a detriment to any team and the Steelers are no exception.  Can we fans honestly say that there were drafts where we were ‘spot on’ with every pick?  Of course not.  Can we fans honestly say that there were drafts where it seemed like we reached for a certain player? Of course.

The 2021 NFL draft is, in my opinion, one of the most important drafts in recent memory.  The Steelers have dealt with retirements and free agency losses thus far during the 2021 off-season.  My hope is that we will not be tempted to draft a player solely because there is a need at a certain position.  Drafting for need is usually a recipe for disaster.

Full disclosure, we do have positional needs that we must address in the draft, but only if the value is there when we pick.  What I mean by that is this:  In a seven-round draft, you have to ‘hit’ on the players drafted in at least the first four rounds, which, to me, means that the Steelers need to draft the best player available regardless of position in at least the first four rounds.

That may be a bit controversial, but consider this:  If a highly touted QB, for example, slides to slot 24, where the Steelers currently sit, how can we pass on that player?  We don’t necessarily need a QB, but passing on one may be foolish. Conversely, drafting a center, for example, at pick 24 may be a bit of a reach, especially if there is a better player available at 24 whom we could have drafted instead.

Related Story. 2021 NFL Draft: Breaking down the top three edge rushers. light

Look, every draft is important, but the 2021 draft is vitally important.  The Steelers have holes that need to be filled, but, in my opinion, those holes should not be filled at the expense of mortgaging the future, so I say the Steelers return to drafting the best player available philosophy and let the chips fall where they may.