The Steelers should trade down in the first round if this happens on draft night

Could Omar Khan and the Steelers trade down on draft night?
Could Omar Khan and the Steelers trade down on draft night? / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager Omar Khan and Head Coach Mike Tomlin have some important decisions to make in terms of what positions are the most important to consider for the upcoming NFL Draft. A trade down in the first round due to a large volume of needs is not out of the question.

The Steelers finished 9-8 overall last season in year one of the post-Ben Roethlisberger era, winning seven of their final nine games with rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett. While the team didn’t make the playoffs, the strong ending to the season provides a lot of hope for the 2023 campaign. But to challenge for an AFC North title and playoff berth, the Steelers have to get better at some key positions.

The good news is that Pittsburgh currently has five draft choices in the top four rounds thanks to the Chase Claypool trade that netted the Steelers the Bears’ second-round pick (number 32 overall).

The bad news is that the Steelers arguably need immediate help to come from the draft at a minimum of six different positions: offensive tackle, cornerback, edge rusher, inside linebacker, nose tackle, and wide receiver.

While the Steelers have seven draft choices overall, immediate help doesn’t normally come from players drafted after the fourth round. In fact, since Tomlin arrived in 2007, only seven players in rounds five through seven have become multi-year starters for the Black & Gold.

Those seven include CB William Gay (2007, 5th Round), WR Antonio Brown (2010, 6th Round), OT Kelvin Beachum (2012, 7th Round), LB Vince Williams (2013, 6th Round), TE Jesse James (2015, 5th Round), TE Zach Gentry (2019, 5th Round), and P Pressley Harvin III (2021, 7th Round).

Gentry has been a part-time starter at best, and Harvin is a specialist, so one could argue that in reality, only five of Tomlin’s 61 draft choices (8%) in rounds five through seven have panned out.

I’m not sure how that compares to other teams around the league, but I am sure that the Steelers can’t expect a solid contribution from their two seventh-round draft picks this year (they don’t currently have a fifth or sixth round pick).

Knowing this, if the following nine players are no longer available when the Steelers are on the clock at pick 17 in the first round of this year’s draft, Khan and Tomlin should trade down to collect another pick or two in rounds 2-4.

For the purposes of this article, the players listed below are in no particular order.

OT Paris Johnson Jr. (Ohio State)
OT Broderick Jones (Georgia)
OT Darnell Wright (Tennessee)
WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Ohio State)
WR Jordan Addison (USC)
CB Joey Porter Jr. (Penn State)
CB Christian Gonzalez (Oregon)
CB Devon Witherspoon (Illinois)
DL/EDGE Lukas Van Ness (Iowa)

Note that some highly-ranked players are not included on this list because there’s not a first-round need at their position or they’re expected to be long gone by the time the Steelers go to the podium. Those that are included are perfect fits for the Steelers that you don’t pass on because they play positions of need and/or they have tremendous upside.

In addition, I would only trade back to a team that has a first-round pick remaining so that the Steelers would still have an opening round selection. A couple of teams that fit this criteria and who could be in the market to move up to pick 17 include Seattle and Jacksonville.

The Seahawks have two picks in the first round and two in the second, which could put them in business to move up from pick 20. Like the Steelers, they need help on both the offensive and defensive lines, as well as wide receiver.

The Seahawks could offer a swap of first-round picks, as well as pick 83 in the third and pick 198 in the sixth round. In exchange, besides the Steelers moving down three spots, they would also give up one of their two seventh-round picks (234 or 241).

According to Wikipedia’s NFL Draft pages, Seattle made a similar trade in 2018, sending their first and seventh-round selections (18th and 248th) to Green Bay in exchange for the Packers’ first, third, and sixth-round picks (27, 76, and 186 overall).

The Jaguars could also want to move up from pick 24 if the right pick is available at 17. Based on recent trades, the Steelers could swap first round picks with them and also receive the Jags’ third-round pick (88 overall) and one of their fourth-round selections (121 or 127 overall).

A similar trade occurred last season when New England traded pick 21 overall to Kansas City in exchange for first, third, and fourth-round selections (29, 94, and 121 overall).

Next. 15 all-time greatest draft picks in Pittsburgh Steelers history. dark

Of course, if the Steelers can’t find a trade partner at pick 17, they can always try to trade down from pick 32 to collect additional draft capital. But I would be less tempted to do so at 32 because I feel that players like OT Anton Harrison (Oklahoma) and LB Jack Campbell (Iowa) would be immediate starters and available at the top of the second round.