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There was nothing splashy about the Steelers draft. They took no massive dangers, made no gonzo trades. They did not choose any “storyline” guys. The Steelers did not do any of the issues that advantage A-plus or D-minus grades, which is why most draft-graders ranked them someplace in the low/center of the pack.
The Steelers draft class might look bizarre at first look. But a better look reveals Pittsburgh might have chosen the rookie crop that lastly returns it to the Super Bowl.
Before we begin itemizing draft picks—you might be most likely already weary of decide lists, anyway—let’s recall that the Steelers received 13 video games final season and have been one in every of the NFL‘s most profitable franchises for a few years. Ben Roethlisberger reveals no indicators of slowing down besides for infrequent accidents, which he all the time recovers from shortly thanks to his mutant therapeutic issue. Antonio Brown is the league’s greatest receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster amongst its most fun younger gamers. Le’Veon Bell, whereas perpetually perturbed about his contract scenario, is one in every of the NFL’s greatest all-purpose gamers. The Steelers protection recorded a league-leading 56 sacks final yr, although it combined these massive performs with some ill-timed catastrophes.
A group like the Steelers would not go into the draft with the similar priorities as the Browns or Colts. It’s simple for awful groups to get higher by simply hoovering up proficient our bodies. Finding the marginal values that flip 13 wins and playoff disappointment right into a Super Bowl victory is way trickier.
But Pittsburgh might have simply pulled it off. Meanwhile, a sure perennial AFC powerhouse with a fame for having all the solutions couldn’t.
The Steelers’ draft began quietly. Virginia Tech security Terrell Edmunds is greatest referred to as the Other Edmunds Brother: His mega-talented 19-year previous youthful brother, Tremaine, chosen by the Bills with the 16th general decide, received all the predraft consideration. Edmunds was a necessity decide in a secondary stricken by blown coverages and missed tackles final yr. Need picks do not get the draftnik juices flowing.
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The attractive factor for the Steelers to do would have been to commerce up for Minkah Fitzpatrick or Derwin James (trumpeting both as the new Troy Polamalu) and even for Tremaine (a substitute for injured Ryan Shazier). Those could be headline-grabbing offers, and we’d all be speaking about how the Steelers are all-in for a 2018 Super Bowl run.
But regardless of final yr’s accomplishments, the Steelers didn’t child themselves that they had been only one participant away from profitable the AFC. Instead, they used the remainder of the draft to cram upgrades into as many corners of the depth chart as potential.
The second spherical introduced Oklahoma State’s James Washington, a smooth-operating deep-threat receiver who’s constructed like a feisty working again. Washington was obtainable with the 60th decide as a result of he’s simply 5’11” and posted an bizarre 40 time at the mix (four.54 seconds). But to paraphrase an previous saying about Cris Carter, all he does is get open and catch bombs.
Washington joins Brown and Smith-Schuster to give the Steelers the mismatch nightmare that Martavis Bryant (traded to the Raiders throughout the draft) gave them when obtainable and dialed in final yr. Good luck determining a manner to cowl all three Pittsburgh receivers whereas at the similar time stopping Bell from working roughshod over your on-its-heels dime protection.
Mason Rudolph, Washington’s quarterback at Oklahoma State, arrived in the third spherical. Rudolph threw for four,904 yards and 37 touchdowns final season, however the knock on him was he operated in a talent-gorged offense that allowed him to simply float passes to wide-open receivers. If pressured to begin some video games in Pittsburgh, Rudolph will function in a talent-gorged offense that can permit him to float passes to wide-open receivers.
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Big Ben’s backups sometimes begin some significant video games every year, whereas he takes two weeks to get better from an harm with a 10-week timetable. Losses by backups like Landry Jones or Michael Vick have meant the distinction between house and highway playoff video games in previous seasons. If Rudolph can hold the Steelers out of Jacksonville or Foxborough in January with a bullpen victory or two, he may prove to be the most respected contributor on this draft class. Also, Roethlisberger is 36 and infrequently mumbles retirement-sounding phrases.
Worried about depth alongside the offensive line? Chuks Okorafor might have been the greatest long-range deal with prospect in the draft. Not positive Edmunds can patch the secondary by himself? Penn State’s Marcus Allen is a Mister Dependable kind. Alabama seventh-rounder Joshua Frazier is the type of mammoth space-eater the Steelers have gotten most worth out of for 30 years. Every decide fills a necessity or eliminates a fear.
Then there’s fifth-round decide Jaylen Samuels. He’s a changeup for Bell and a holdout insurance coverage coverage. He’s additionally an H-back, tight finish, potential fullback and slot receiver. Pittsburgh by no means had an all-purpose matchup weapon fairly like him, and he can be the fifth or sixth choice in its offense.
The Steelers considerably upgraded each their offense and protection, and so they did it whereas investing in the future as a substitute of mortgaging it. The Steelers are insulated towards any Doomsday Scenario you may think about. Big Ben lastly buckles? Rudolph is a viable quarterback of the future. Bell holds out endlessly and ever? The Samuels/James Conner backfield can transfer the ball.
To see how good the Steelers draft was, simply examine it to the Patriots draft. New England entered it with two first-round picks, two second-rounders and a longer-than-usual record of apparent wants. Yet it walked away with much more questions.
The Patriots wanted a left deal with, however they drafted a possible guard (Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn). They wanted a number of our bodies to restore their secondary, however they drafted one (Florida’s Duke Dawson) prior to the seventh spherical. They wanted Gronk insurance coverage however scooped up a blocking tight finish in the seventh spherical (Florida State’s Ryan Izzo). They wanted a backup quarterback however seem to have hedged their bets towards Tom Brady’s bruised emotions after they settled for seventh-rounder Danny Handoffs (listed in the LSU media information as Danny Etling). The Patriots did not really want committee backs or skinny slot receivers, however they chose Georgia’s Sony Michel and Miami‘s Braxton Berrios out of behavior.
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You do not have to leap onto the remark thread to remind me what number of Super Bowls the Patriots have received or clarify how their draft is secretly good. Instead, ask how the draft makes them higher in 2018. How does Wynn, Trent Brown (acquired in a draft-day commerce) or anybody else exchange Nate Solder? What does Michel do this Dion Lewis, James White and others have not finished for years? How do Dawson and a few late-rounders spackle all the holes on that protection? And what occurs if Brady misses some begins or Gronk injures a knee enjoying bike paintball?
The Steelers now have a greater roster for 2018 and a greater long-range plan than the Patriots. Oh. And we’ve not forgotten you, Jaguars followers: You’ll be in the combine so long as Blake Bortles’ late-season enchancment was 100 p.c real, which…perhaps.
After the draft, we talked about massive-haul groups like the Browns and Colts, the quarterbacks and Saquon Barkley and Shaquem Griffin. But in late January, we can be speaking about James Washington, Jaylen Samuels and a Steel Curtain that not has holes in it. The Steelers did not put collectively a draft class that sizzles. They put collectively one which issues.