This is the year the Steelers should trade down.
We say that, of course, almost every year. But this year, yeah, this year ...
On the other hand, the last time they had the 17th overall pick in the draft, Emmitt Smith was on the board. It was 1990. They traded down.
You know how that turned out. In exchange for the rights to Smith, a Hall of Famer and the NFL's all-time leading rusher, the Steelers secured the rights to Eric Green TE, Liberty, with the 21st pick overall, and Craig Veasey, DE, Houston, with the 81st overall pick, the last of the third round. Oops.
Fast-forward to April 2013. Should the Steelers stay put at No. 17? Well, maybe. If, by some miracle, Lane Johnson, T, Oklahoma, is still available at No. 17, the Steelers should take him. Same with Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina. Both will probably be off the board.
If those two are gone, trade down.
Trade partner? The San Francisco 49ers have 14 draft picks (fourteen!) and want Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia, who just might make it to No. 17. Probably not. In any case, the Niners are going to trade some of those 14 picks, which include two seconds, two thirds, two fourths and seven picks from rounds five through seven.
See if they'll bite: Our first-rounder (No. 17 overall) for their own first-round pick (31st overall), the higher of their two seconds, and a third-rounder in 2014. They may go for it.
A trade with the 49ers would drop the Steelers 14 picks. They'd miss the opportunity to draft 14 players. Not to say the Steelers will draft a tight end with their first pick, but is there that much difference between tight ends Tyler Eiffert and Zach Ertz? We'd rather have Ertz anyway, although Eiffert will get drafted before him -- maybe by the Bears at No. 20.
That's just an example. We're just suggesting the Steelers should be able to find good players later in the draft. They might not get Tavon Austin or Keenan Allen (WR, Cal), but with more picks later in the draft, they might be able to get a receiver like DeAndre Hopkins (Clemson), Stedman Bailey (WVU), Markus Wheaton (Oregon State) and, later, Zach Rogers (Tenn.). Any of them would help, presumably.
We're not going to like seeing Hopkins, Bailey, Wheaton or Rogers go to other teams. Those four are among our favorite players in this draft. Well, you can't get 'em all.
Another favorite, a bit later in the draft, would be running back Le'Veon Bell (Michigan State). He'd also look good in Black 'n Gold.
As would defensive end Margus Hunt (SMU), yet another favorite, and a guy who some people project to go late-first round, possibly to the 49ers or ... the Ravens. Joey Porter's Pit Bulls have been pushing for the Steelers to draft Hunt and convert him to inside linebacker, and wouldn't it be sweet to snatch him with the pick immediately before Baltimore's? He will be off the board when the Steelers's second-round selection comes around.
Speaking of linebackers, none of the highly rated 3-4 linebackers available this year look like a sure thing. We wouldn't take any of them at No. 17. Not Jarvis Jones (spinal stenosis, a 4.92 40). Not Barkevious Mingo (great athlete, but maddeningly erratic production at LSU). Not DaMontre Moore (a lousy Combine and a lousy Pro Day). Not Ezekial Ansah (very raw and inexperienced).
Kansas State's Arthur Brown plays inside linebacker. Joey Porter's Pit Bulls like The Crazy World of Arthur Brown much better than any of those aforementioned linebackers, and we also like Brown much better than the higher-rated inside linebackers, Alec Ogletree (off-field issues, including a DUI the week before the Combine); Manti Te'o (small and slow; imaginary girlfriend) and Kevin Minter (a bit stiff, slow).
Other Potential Trade Parters
Besides the 49ers, another team with a lot of picks is the Minnesota Vikings, but they need to stockpile talent, too, just like the Steelers.
Guess who else has a lot of draft picks? The Baltimore Ravens. We can rule them out as a potential trade partner.