Tim Benz: The complicated road to Steelers drafting Devin Bush or Devin White
Last week, I wrote a column outlining how the Penguins could come back from a 3-0 hole against the Islanders in their Eastern Conference playoff series.
I didn’t believe it would happen, mind you. But I wanted to lay out the best way for that miracle to occur.
Well, consider this the same column for the first round of the NFL Draft for the Steelers.
The NFL holds its annual selection process this week in Nashville. It starts Thursday, and the Steelers have the 20th pick.
Every Steelers fan from Weirton to Wexford seems to have the same hope: Trade up to get a “Devin.” By now, you probably know that means either Devin White (LSU) or Devin Bush (Michigan). Both are inside linebackers. And there are the only two players on the board at that position projected to have great enough talent to potentially replace Ryan Shazier.
As outlined Tuesday, though, trading up to get one of those players will be hard to do. Some mock drafts have both guys off the board by the 10th pick.
Were we too pessimistic? Maybe. Every year, a talented player seems to mysteriously slide much deeper into the first round than anticipated. Perhaps a “Devin” will be victim of that fate in 2019.
Short of that dumb luck, the Steelers are going to have to create their own. And that probably means trading up maybe 10 to 13 picks in order to seize one of these two.
How does that happen? Here’s a roadmap.
• Root for quarterbacks to fly off the board. If all of the teams rumored to have at least some interest in a quarterback take one before pick No. 20, that will help.
So hope Kyler Murray goes to Arizona with the first pick and that the Giants and Broncos overvalue Daniel Jones and Drew Lock.
And hope someone — maybe the Giants or Washington — takes Dwayne Haskins.
• Hope the hype about the defensive front is real. The draft analysts seem to love the talent of front-seven players this year. The more players such as Josh Allen, Quinnen Williams, Ed Oliver, Brian Burns and Montez Sweat get gobbled up, the longer Bush and White remain in play.
• Watch the Iowa tight ends. The buzz around Noah Fant and T.J. Hockensen keeps growing. If teams can’t resist their potential, maybe they’ll blow off taking one of the inside backers.
• Keep your fingers crossed when Tampa Bay is on the clock at No. 5. They have been linked to Devin White forever. But DraftWire’s Luke Easterling has some ties to the Bucanneers and thinks that may not be as much of a lock as the public thinks.
If White drops toward the back half of the top 10, maybe Bush gets pushed within striking distance for a Steelers trade.
• And this is where it gets complicated. Before picks start coming off the board, the Steelers should aggressively reach out to Miami at pick No. 13 and Green Bay at pick No. 12.
Dolphins first-year head coach Brian Flores is a Bill Belichick product. Trading down to acquire multiple selections is an artform in New England. Plus, some in Miami believe Dolphins owner Stephen Ross preferred to trade down last year and may advance the idea again in 2019.
Meanwhile, Green Bay may be in the Bush sweepstakes, too. But many view the Pack preferring offensive skill palyers and offensive line help in this year’s draft. A lot of that will remain in stock late into the first round.
Like the Steelers, Green Bay has 10 picks. So, volume won’t do the trick. But higher-quality rounds for fringe picks late may pique the Packers’ interest.
A tradable young offensive lineman, such as B.J. Finney, or one of the three right tackles (Matt Feiler, Jerald Hawkins or Chukwuma Okorafor) could be used as bait, too.
From there, the Steelers would be in a more advantageous position if White or Bush fall. Or, even better, perhaps they can now trade up again into the top nine before Denver and Cincinnati would get a shot at the inside linebackers at picks No. 10 and No. 11.
Would someone be interested in Mason Rudolph and a draft choice now that Ben Roethlisberger has his contract extension?
If the Giants (No. 6 pick) really do covet Jones as much as people say, and the Jets (No. 3 pick) have a willingness to trade down for the right return, perhaps one of the New York teams could be a dance partner.
Might it cost a second-rounder? Another roster player? Maybe. So what?
How badly do you want to see a legit heir to Shazier in Black and Gold? Again, like coming back against the Islanders, the odds of all — or any — of this happening are slim.
But anything is easier than coming back from 3-0 down.