Connect with us

2024 NFL Draft

Farabaugh: Five Steelers Draft Thoughts on My Mind

Three weeks out from the NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers plans remain as murky as they have been over the last few seasons.



Steelers GM Omar Khan
Pittsburgh Steelers GM Omar Khan scans the field before Pittsburgh's game against the 49ers, Sept. 10, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

There’s not much going on with the Pittsburgh Steelers right now. Free agency has died down. The Pirates and Penguins have more enthusiasm locally. But believe it or not, time flies, and the NFL Draft is under three weeks away. From where the team stands now, it could be the most crucial checkpoint of the offseason.

With those three weeks left, I have some significant thoughts about where it all stands. So, let me run them down. It’s nothing in-depth, but the more time goes on, the more grasp and clearer picture I think we are getting of their strategy.

1. Premium Position in Round 1

I’ve waxed poetic about this, from their interest in offensive tackles to wide receivers to cornerback. While the lack of interest in first-round centers is glaring, the Steelers’ strategy seems quite clear. It could be any of those three positions, and I would not be surprised, but it sure feels like the team is on a collision course toward taking a premium position, at least if they stick at 20th overall (more on that later).

There are more 30 visits to come, but those three positions are where they are concentrated. The team has put much work into the first-round tackles, cornerbacks, and wide receivers. Position coaches or Mike Tomlin and Omar Khan went to the pro days of top players at those spots. They did, too, at center, so maybe this is all a smokescreen, but I think center will be addressed in the second round. The first round? Best player available at a premium position. Khan values positional value, or if you are at a non-premium position, premium players (ex: Patrick Queen). So, for now, I expect tackle, cornerback, or wide receiver to be the pick, and I’m leaning offensive tackle.

2. Which Center? I Have a Hunch.

Okay, so they wait until the second round. If the rumors are true that some of these guys, notably Zach Frazier and Jackson Powers-Johnson, will fall, it is essential to note immediately. If Powers-Johnson gets anywhere near 51st overall, the team should trade up. A second-round trade-up for a center makes a lot of sense.

But I can’t shake what I’ve heard for most of the process. The Steelers love Frazier, and he is the most straightforward guy to project into a day-one starting role at center. He could be a ten-year starter on the offensive line, an essential piece to any offensive line. And that love reverberated back at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, again at the NFL Combine, and remains today. My guess is Frazier will be the Steelers’ starting center in 2024. That’s my hunch.

3. A Trade Down Looks Very Appetizing

The Steelers have a LOT of needs. Wide receiver, offensive tackle, slot cornerback, center. Those four feel like the obvious top four needs and could be classified as positions they have to draft in some respects. But beyond that, another receiver, outside cornerback depth, inside linebacker depth, and defensive line depth are also wants. Pittsburgh still has targets at all of their top needs out there in free agency, really outside of center, but another day two pick would help sprinkle in more ammunition to fill all of those voids and allow for another luxury pick.

Pittsburgh can trade down and get a player at a premium position to fill a void. Just going through each position, Tyler Guyton, AD Mitchell, and Kool-Aid McKinstry would likely be there on a trade-down. That could allow the team to pick a center if they wanted to while maximizing value. It all makes sense from multiple angles. If the right offer comes, a trade-down has to be in play.

4. What’s Going on With Their WR Scouting?

The Steelers wide receiver scouting is perplexing to me. They have not focused on one type of receiver and have scouted all over the range of the draft board. Guys like Ricky Pearsall, AD Mitchell, Brian Thomas, Malachi Corley, Tahj Washington, and others are diverse. And when you scout such an eclectic cache of styles like that, it points to one thing to me — double dipping at the position.

The Steelers have scouted a lot of defensive linemen in this draft period, too, but almost all of them have significant pass rush upside. So, you see the commonality. Most of the offensive tackles they have shown interest in are right tackles. Makes sense. Receiver, it feels like they see a need for two others to be added to that room, and it could be different styles of players. I don’t think there’s a clear view of what they want yet from that first receiver they pick other than someone who can immediately step in and play. But all the signs point to double dipping.

5. The Post-Draft Free Agency Period is Key

One positive aspect with four picks in the Top 100 and five in the Top 120 is that the Steelers can expect to fill a good deal of their voids, but not all of them. There will be one clear need that likely ends up underwhelming. And I think the post-free agency period will be huge for that. After last year’s draft, they signed Chandon Sullivan, Markus Golden, and Kwon Alexander to bolster their team.

The Steelers are likely to do that again at some point, but maybe that’s what sparks the decision to sign Tyler Boyd. Or perhaps they decide to gloss over tackle and bring in Mekhi Becton. Maybe cornerback doesn’t get addressed how they wanted, and Sullivan or Patrick Peterson return. That’s how this all figures to play out, but the post-free agency period of the draft, and I suppose the trade market, will be essential towards filling out the remaining weak points for Pittsburgh since I believe they are going to play it best player available for most of the draft.