The Pittsburgh Steelers gambled in the 2023 NFL draft hoping to hoodwink the rest of the NFL when they drafted Cory Trice Jr. in the 7th round. Trice was one of those players who had potential, but the rest of the NFL felt there was too much risk in drafting Trice because of his college injury history. The Steelers gambled and lost, as Trice is now on the IR list.
When NFL teams go to the scouting combine each year, they acquire much of the pertinent information needed, including extensive medical histories. When the NFL draft commences, the teams have way more information regarding personalities, medical history, and playing talent. Most of this information is unavailable to the general public or the media.
When the draft starts and a player drops beyond where he is expected to be drafted, then the media speculates why NFL teams are passing on a specific player. This was the case with Cory Trice, and the same thing occurred with Darnell Washington before the Steelers drafted him in round three of the 2023 draft.
Why the Steelers took a risk on Trice
All teams go through this dilemma every year. They all weigh the pros and cons of drafting a player who had college injuries. Some players come to the NFL with serious medical concerns and end up having stellar NFL careers. John Elway is one. In fact, Elway played his entire college career without his ACL. For most athletes losing your ACL is a career-ending injury. The Broncos gambled when they traded the Colts for the rights to sign him and won.
Another example is Willis McGahee. In the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, he tore his ACL, PCL, and MCL. The injury turned his knee into a swivel joint. Nevertheless, the Buffalo Bills gambled and drafted him in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft. He then went on play ten years in the NFL.
Injuries do have to be taken seriously. NFL executives weigh the risks with the amount of money tied up into today's NFL rookie players. If a college player has a particular injury, perhaps they wait until the 3rd round or lower to draft him; thus, the amount of money in his contract is much less than if they gamble and take him in the first round. The Steelers did the same thing in 2022 when they drafted George Pickens, another player projected to possibly go in round one who had college injuries and then fell in the draft before being drafted in the 2nd round.
The Steelers liked what they saw in Trice and felt despite his college injuries, he had value in the NFL. Thus drafting him in the 7th round would be a safe place to draft a college player with an injury history. Still, he signed a contract worth $3,924,436; however, only $84,436 is fully guaranteed. Thus if he can not return in 2024, Trice only gets a small portion of his contract, although the Steelers do not get hit with all the dead cap money either. Whey weighed the pros and cons, drafted Trice, and in this case, lost.
While they lost, it’s not all monetary in this case, but the Steelers had high hopes Trice could have been one of those sleeper picks in which they could have made the rest of the NFL say, why didn’t we draft this guy? Perhaps that can happen in 2024; we will have to wait. For now, the Steelers will have to go all of 2023 without Trice.
However, sometimes in the NFL, risks pay rewards regarding championships. In this case, the Steelers rolled the dice and lost. On the flip side, Darnell Washington could pay huge dividends in 2023, and so far, the gamble on George Pickens shows lots of promise. If the Steelers want to win another Superbowl, sometimes they have to make a gutsy call. In this case, it didn’t work out as they hoped.