Armed with the No. 20 overall pick, the Pittsburgh Steelers went into the NFL Draft on Thursday night confident they could find a player who will help them get back to the playoffs and chase a seventh Lombardi Trophy this season.
Although general manager Kevin Colbert was prepared to trade up or down to get the player he wanted, he entered the process knowing exactly which players he would target in the first round.
The legwork that began during the college football season and continued through the all-star games, NFL Combine, pro days and predraft visits was finalized Wednesday. That’s when scouts and members of the team’s personnel department gathered at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex to piece together the team’s version of a mock draft.
“It’s a very simple process,” Colbert said Monday afternoon. “We’re going to have 20 guys, and we know exactly how we will pick them. It’s one through 20. We’re not going to vary from it.”
Colbert said the Steelers, about 10 years ago, discontinued the traditional mock draft that predicts which team has a need for which player. The Steelers approach their draft preparation like they are the team on the board for each pick in the first round.
“There’s really no guessing to it after Wednesday,” Colbert said. “We’ll know what 20 guys we’re picking in the specific order on Wednesday afternoon. The only change is (if we) trade up or trade down.”
Although the Steelers haven’t traded down in the first round since dropping three spots to No. 19 to select Casey Hampton in 2001, Colbert prepares for that unlikely scenario each season.
“We’ll get past 20,” Colbert said, “because if we trade down, then we know (that if) we can go to 28, we’ve already done it (in our mock).”
A more likely scenario is the Steelers trading up, something they have done twice in the first round since Colbert conducted his first draft in 2000. Their targets are believed to be one of the top two inside linebackers in the class: LSU’s Devin White and Michigan’s Devin Bush.
The last time the Steelers traded up in the first round was 2006 when they moved up from No. 32 to No. 25 to get wide receiver Santonio Holmes. It cost them third- and fourth-round draft picks. The other time was in 2003 when the Steelers jumped from No. 27 to No. 16 to grab safety Troy Polamalu. That cost them a third- and sixth-round selection.
The last time the Steelers used the No. 20 overall pick in the draft was 1985 when they selected Wisconsin defensive lend Darryl Sims. He spent two seasons with the Steelers and had three sacks while never starting a game. After two seasons with the Cleveland Browns, Sims was out of football, playing his last game in 1988.