NFL Draft day is upon us. It’s time to make some great picks. Nowhere in sports can you find selections as discerning as those in each week’s edition of the Pittsburgh Sports Power Rankings, and here is your Steelers draft edition of The Rankings. I trust you will grade it an A with a lot of upside.
10. Wide receivers
No team will get a player in the draft with more potential to make a positive impact on the 2017 season than the Steelers already got this week with Martavis Bryant’s reinstatement to the team. Adding the deep threat — who reportedly added 20 pounds of muscle during his involuntary staycation from football — means the Steelers almost definitely won’t look to add another receiver in the draft to a roster that already includes Antonio Brown, Justin Hunter, Eli Rogers and Darrius Hayward-Bey. But then what do I know. The Steelers seem to add a good receiver in the draft ever year. Where they struggle is finding people who can cover good receivers.
9. The Steelers draft hat
I have bad news: If the Steelers’ draft picks are forced to put on a hat this ugly, they may refuse to sign with the team.
8. Kevin Colbert tipping his hand
The Steelers GM had his pre-draft press conference Monday. Here is what he had to say about whether the Steelers will make a trade. “Of course we are open to trading up or trading down. We will make all the calls. We will know what the cost is to go up. We will know what we can pick up to go down. We will leave ourselves open.”
And here were his thoughts on drafting a quarterback: “We’re always open to putting a quarterback in the mix. It is the most critical position in our game. If you don’t have a quarterback, then you’re probably going to be leaving your team short at some point.”
Well, I feel informed.
7. Milo Ventimiglia
Is Milo Ventimiglia the name of an off-the-radar linebacker from Rutgers that the Steelers are looking at? Good guess. But, no, he is one of the stars of the NBC drama “This Is Us” and, along with co-star Mandy Moore, they will announce the Steelers 4th Round pick at Heinz Field on Saturday at the Steelers Fan Blitz. This is so us.
6. NFL Network
If you’re not sure whether to watch ESPN or NFL Network for your draft coverage, the league network might be the way to go because they’ll have a camera in the Steelers war room this year. The big plus in ESPN’s category? Chris Berman has been replaced as host by Trey Wingo. (Read the NFL Draft Q&A with Trey Wingo and ESPN producer Seth Markman over at our sister site in Philly, Billy Penn.)
You know the position stinky teams look for every year in the draft, but the Steelers almost never do? This year they might draft one of them — and fairly early, too. Fun! ESPN’s Todd McShay has them taking Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer in the second round. That seems unlikely, but who knows. The Steelers could very well take a quarterback in Round 2 or even 3. Rounds 7, 1, 4 and 5 are also rounds in which the Steelers could pick a quarterback. Round 6, though? I just don’t see it.
4. James Conner
Even though Pitt manages to regularly churn out NFL stars (that somehow struggle to win in college), the Steelers rarely draft anyone out of their shared practice facility. In fact, it’s been 17 years since the Steelers drafted a Pitt player: cornerback Hank Poteat in the 3rd Round in 2000. Before that it was Alex Van Pelt in 1993.
Considering the team’s only current backups to the oft-injured and oft-suspended Le’Veon Bell are Knile Davis and Fitzgerald Toussiant, James Conner could be in the mix for the Steelers in the early to middle rounds. Conner’s impressive football abilities and his great character aside, it’s not too often you can sell 10 million jerseys off of your 3rd round pick. Do it, Steelers.
Considering the Steelers have a very good fantasy football team in Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Ladarius Green, it’s likely the team focuses on the other side of the ball in the draft — especially since the defense was shredded by Tom Brady and a lacrosse player in the AFC title game. Patching the Fabric Curtain becomes even more of a priority in light of Lawrence Timmons leaving via free agency and the team’s top free agent target, Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower, choosing to stay in New England. Pittsburgh needs to find some defense. (This also goes for the Pirates.)
In the 1974 draft, the Steelers selected Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster in the first five rounds. All four eventually made it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. No one is expecting the Steelers to nab four Hall of Famers in this year’s draft — that’s not reasonable — but two would be nice. Or even one. One Hall of Famer is all we ask. Final offer. Just one.
1. Two screens
As much as we all want to watch several hours of the NFL Draft on Thursday night waiting to see a Steelers representative say a college player’s name at No. 30 — while, of course, mocking Cleveland’s selections at No. 1 and 12 along the way — the fact is that Thursday evening has other appointment viewing, as well: Game 1 of Penguins-Capitals.
A year ago we were faced with the same issue. The Penguins opened up in Washington and lost 4-3 in overtime (Oh, no! Panic! Bench Matt Murray!), while the Steelers selected Miami cornerback Artie Burns at No. 25. The former turned out well; we still don’t have a clear answer on the latter.
What we do know is that you should have a two-screen setup ready for tonight: multiple TVs, a sports bar, a laptop and your phone, whatever. There are many options and everyone has their opinion on what’s best. Just like the Steelers have in the draft.