The Pittsburgh Steelers were dead set on trading down with one of their three Friday picks in the 2023 NFL Draft in order to regain the fourth-rounder they lost on Thursday when Omar Khan sent it to the New England Patriots to secure big tackle Broderick Jones out of Georgia.
The Steelers did just that late on Friday night, trading with Carolina to move down from No. 80 to No. 93 and adding the Panthers’ pick No. 132 for Saturday’s fourth round in the process.
That gives the Steelers three picks for Saturday, one in the fourth and two in the seventh. That’s still one below the usual amount and a big gap in between picks from No. 132 to No. 241.
That’s a good thing, because there are a ton of talented players that have spilled over from the second day of the 2023 NFL Draft to the third.
Not only that, the Steelers still have a wide variety of positions to address. They could use a slot cornerback, a coverage-first inside linebacker, an outside linebacker, a safety, a backup center, backup quarterback and maybe even a running back.
As of right now, they only have three picks to do all that, so expectations will have to be tempered. But as long as the talent holds out and the Steelers are able to continue drafting players that are above-average fits for their draft slot, they may try to find a way to get back into rounds five and six and continue stocking that cabinet. How would they go about doing that? Khan has some options. Let’s take a look.
TRADE A VETERAN
The Steelers don’t have a lot of superfluous players on their roster. As I just laid out, there are more than a half-dozen slots where they could still use to add someone. But there are a couple places where their depth seems to have piled up, and if they could get something useful for a player, they could pull the trigger on a move.
Guard is one of those places, where the Steelers have 2022 incumbent starters James Daniels and Kevin Dotson, signed Nate Herbig and Isaac Seumalo and even still have 2022 backup and former third-round pick Kendrick Green. Five guards won’t make the team, and the Steelers would probably prefer to have a backup center than four players that are mostly guards (Daniels and Herbig have played some center).
That could mean that Green and Dotson could be dangled in a trade today. Green’s value would be uncertain, despite his status as a third-round pick not long ago. He lost his starting center job in 2022 and was moved back to guard, with he and the Steelers both considering that a failed experiment. He’s certainly a player that could use a change of scenery, but I’m not sure what the Steelers could expect to get for him at this point.
Dotson, on the other hand, has been a decent if somewhat inconsistent starter for the last two years. If there’s a team that wants to slot a rookie draft pick into a starting role or has an aging vet that they feel needs some injury insurance, Dotson could be a valuable asset. He’s still on his extremely reasonable rookie contract and could be a solid starter if he could grow slightly more consistent. The Steelers should be able to get at least a fifth-round pick in return if they shopped Dotson around.
Outside cornerback appears to be another logjam for the Steelers right now. They still have 2022 starters Levi Wallace and Ahkello Witherspoon, signed Patrick Peterson and drafted Joey Porter Jr. Depth man James Pierre remains on the roster, as well. None of those players has extensive experience in the slot, though Peterson said he is open to playing there.
Meanwhile, there are a ton of very good slot cornerbacks remaining in the draft class. The Steelers could send out one of their vets for a pick to turn it into someone that can do a better job of replacing Cam Sutton like a Clark Phillips III or Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson.
Witherspoon and Wallace are the obvious options. Witherspoon was the better player in 2021, but dealt with a bad hamstring injury that ruined most of his 2022 season. Wallace is as steady as they come. Both players make $4 million in salary, so they won’t be super cheap to the receiving team. That might depress what the Steelers could get, but a fifth-round pick seems like a pretty easily acquired return.
DIP INTO THE FUTURE
If this year’s draft class seems unusually talented, the Steelers can always take a pick away from 2024 to add it to the haul this year. They’ve done that in the recent past, when they traded a 2022 fourth-round pick for a 2021 fifth-rounder to draft Isaiahh Loudermilk. That’s the usual price to pay for moving up a draft year. So if the Steelers want a 2023 sixth rounder, they should expect to pay a 2024 fifth-rounder, and so on and so forth.
Clearly, that’s an expensive habit to be in that can sink team’s future draft classes. But if the Steelers think this is an unusually talented third day of the draft, it could make sense for them to dip into the future draft pool to add another pick.
TRADE DOWN AGAIN
If the Steelers move out of the fourth round and into the fifth round, they should probably be able to add a sixth-round pick to the mix, repeating the same process as late on Friday night.
This might move the team out of the pack of talented players that overflowed from Day 2, but it would certainly add one more pick to the collection. According to the Rich Hill draft value chart, the Steelers could trade pick No. 132 to Arizona for No. 139 and add No. 213 at the end of the sixth round, as well.
Either way, Khan has certainly shown us so far that we definitely shouldn’t expect him to just sit there and wait for his picks to come.