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Steelers Should Use Added Draft Picks to Move Up

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Left from the dust of the Antonio Brown drama is the Pittsburgh Steelers sitting with 10 draft picks. While the Steelers have ten picks it would be surprising to see them walk away with ten rookies. The team needs to package some of these picks together to pick and choose their spots in the draft to add impact players.

According to a study done by Optimum Scouting, players drafted in the first 48 picks are almost three times more likely to be retained on a second contract compared to players picked from 48-97.

Picks 48-97 are still twice as likely to be retained than a pick from 98-208. That wide range of picks have a similar outcome of success, and any pick after 209 is a 1-in-100 proposition. Yes, the Steelers hit on Antonio Brown and Tom Brady was a sixth-round pick. Those are the ones in the many hundreds of misses.

The Steelers need to draft potential impact players, not lottery tickets.

The idea is to get into the top 48 or even 97 with as many picks as possible because the odds of finding a hit after are just as good no matter the draft slot.

The Steelers have ten picks, but only one is in the top 48 and four are in the top 97. At this point, they have the chance to add four potential impact players with six lottery tickets on the back end.

The Steelers need to try to turn some of those lottery tickets into picks that have the potential to make an impact next year.

This may not mean moving up in the first round. However, if there were ever a year to make a splash with a high draft pick, this could be that year. This may not mean moving up in the second round. However, if they did want to move from 52 into the low 40s to add a player they know can get on the field right away, the odds show that is likely worth a couple of those lottery tickets.

The Steelers have two third-round picks. They could package one of those with a lottery ticket or two to move up into the second round.

However, their best bet would be to try to move their fourth-round pick, pick 122 and get into the top 100 using the fifth round pick the Raiders gave them or any of their three sixth-round picks. They could also try to move that fifth-round pick, at 147 to move up closer to the top 100.

The Steelers could also try to turn some of their lower draft capital into veterans, bypassing free agency and keeping them in play for a compensatory pick for Le’Veon Bell.

The New England Patriots do it all the time. Last year, they turned their sixth-round pick into a seventh-round pick and cornerback Jason McCourty. This year they traded a fifth-round pick for Michael Bennett.

The Steelers acquired a sixth-round pick for an injury-riddled right tackle on the wrong side of 31 with one year left on his contract. The Steelers did not need help on the offensive line but could they take a risk similar to Gilbert on defense? Could the Steelers flip a sixth-round pick for the cornerback version of Marcus Gilbert?

The Steelers have a variety of options with these picks. However, what they cannot do is sit on their six picks outside of the top 100 and hope that one of them hits like another Antonio Brown. The Steelers have draft assets. Having draft assets is good, but in this case, the Steelers must sacrifice some dart throws to pinpoint top 100 players.

NFL

Around the NFL: Championship Game Sunday Features four Star QBs

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers, 3:05 p.m., WPGH-TV

It will be a Battle of the Bays in the early slot Sunday, as Tom Brady and the Buccaneers visit Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

Tampa and their athletic defense got the better of Green Bay back in Week 6, winning handedly 38-10 and holding Rodgers to his worst performance of the season.

The Bucs’ relentless pass rush had Rodgers under constant duress, sacking to probable MVP four times and picking him off twice. Rodgers was also held without a touchdown pass for the only time in 2020.

As for Brady and the Bucs, he tossed for 166 yards and two touchdowns of his own. Tampa Bay running back Ronald Jones II had 113 yards and two scores on the ground.

Playing the best football of his career since that loss to Tampa Bay, Rodgers will assuredly be looking to avenge his poor performance back in October to reach his second Super Bowl. He carved up a stout Los Angeles Rams defense for 296 yards and three total touchdowns a week ago, and has tossed one interception over his last 210 pass attempts.

He will try to keep that unblemished streak alive against a Buccaneers defense that picked off New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees three times a week ago.

Tampa’s Tom Brady can reach his tenth Super Bowl with a win over the Packers. No stranger to performing in the elements, Brady will look to carve up the improving Green Bay defense with his patented surgical precision.

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs, 6:40 p.m., KDKA-TV

While two legends are squaring off in the NFC, a pair of rising stars will go toe-to-toe in the AFC Championship game, as Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs welcome Josh Allen and the Bills.

Cleared from concussion protocol after leaving last week’s win over the Cleveland Browns, Mahomes is still battling a toe injury that could hamper his signature mobility. Luckily for Kansas City, Buffalo is 22nd in the league in pressure rate.

Even without his scrambling, Mahomes is still a threat from the pocket, coming off a season where he threw 38 touchdowns and just six interceptions.

The Chiefs offense will get a boost to take the heat off Mahomes on Sunday night as well, with rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire set to make his return from injury.

Turning to the Bills, they are here behind an MVP-caliber season from Allen, who has made tremendous strides in his third season. His 45 total touchdowns this year are the most ever by a Buffalo quarterback, while he improved his completion percentage by 10.4 percentage points, now at 69.2%.

Allen has protected the football well this season with just ten interceptions, but he will have to be extra cautious opposing the safety Tyrann Mathieu and the Chiefs defense. The “Honey Badger” has five interceptions in his last six games.

Kansas City is looking reach their second-straight Super Bowl, while Buffalo is pursuing their first appearance since 1993.

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NFL

Baltimore Ravens Sign WR Deon Cain to Reserve/Future Contract

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The Baltimore Ravens have signed former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Deon Cain to a Reserve/Future contract, the club announced Friday.

Cain spent the last two seasons with Pittsburgh, spending the majority of the 2020 season on the practice squad. He appeared into two games this past season, including the season finale loss to the Cleveland Browns, but recorded no stats.

Cain saw more extended action in 2019, where he appeared in six games and made three starts. He tallied five receptions for 72 yards a season ago.

A star for the Clemson Tigers, Cain was selected in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts. He caught 130 passes for 2,040 yards and 20 touchdowns during his Clemson career.

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NFL

Washington’s Alex Smith Beats Ben Roethlisberger for PFWA Comeback Player of the Year

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Washington quarterback Alex Smith has been named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America, edging out Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

After suffering a significant leg injury in 2018 and subsequent infection that nearly took his limb, Smith made his unlikely return to the field in 2020, leading Washington to a division title and playoff appearance.

Smith passed for 1,582 yards and six touchdowns with eight interceptions, but led Washington to a 5-1 record in his six starts. He is the first Washington player to win the award since its inception in 1992.

Roethlisberger was also believed to be a worthy candidate for Comeback Player of the Year, leading the Steelers to a 12-4 campaign and AFC North title after missing the majority of 2019 with a season-ending elbow injury. The 38-year-old threw for 3,803 yards and 33 touchdowns with ten interceptions.

Running back Jerome Bettis (1997) and quarterback Tommy Maddox (2003) are the only two Steelers to have previously been awarded Comeback Player of the Year.

Smith was not the only quarterback recognized by the PFWA on Friday, as Buffalo’s Josh Allen was awarded Most Improved Player of the Year.

Allen made a remarkable jump in 2020, passing for 4,544 yards and 37 touchdowns with ten interceptions. He also accounted for eight scores on the ground.

Not only were his 37 touchdowns seven more than in his first two seasons combined, but Allen also completed a career-high 69.2% of his passes, a ten percentage-point increase from a season ago.

Allen will have another opportunity to demonstrate his jump in play Sunday when the Bills visit the Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC Championship game.

Two Steelers have previously been named the league’s Most Improved Player, quarterback Kordell Stewart in 2002 and running back Le’Veon Bell in2015.

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