The Steelers have not made a Draft-day trade since 2013 when they traded a future 3rd round pick to the Cleveland Browns in order to pick Shamarko Thomas. Since then, the Steelers trades of draft picks have involved future late-round picks for players, typically during the end of training camp when teams are looking to get a return for players they may cut. The Steelers have made 7 such trades over the last 4 seasons, dealing with Cleveland, Jacksonville, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Tampa Bay, and the New York Giants. Looking back over Kevin Colbert’s trade history over the last decade, the Browns, Giants, and Buccaneers have been the most frequent trade partners, having made 3 deals with each team.
The Steelers have 7 picks in the 2018 Draft. They lack a 4th and a 6th round selection due to trades, but have two picks in both the 5th and 7th rounds. Overall, the Steelers have the 28th, 60th, 92nd, 148th, 165th, 220th, and 246th selections. Over the years, the NFL has developed “trade value charts” starting with a revolutionary one by Jimmy Johnson in the 1990s. With the adoption of the most recent CBA and the ability to give first round picks an extra year on their contract with the “fifth year option” the value of picks changed slightly. Rich Hill of PatsPulpit.com took all of the trade data since the new CBA was adopted and created a new trade value chart. Essentially, the 5th year option clause gives a higher value to first round picks, at about the increased cost of an extra 5th rounder from the previous chart. While each team places their own values on certain draft picks, Hill has tested his chart and it seems to be very similar to the league-wide norms for trades under the current CBA. For purposes of this article, I used Hill’s chart to determine trades that would be approximately equal in value.
In the “Ricky Williams Scenario,” if the Steelers packaged all 7 of their draft picks together, they highest they would be able to move up the board would be to the #10 overall pick, which is currently held by Oakland. It is extremely unlikely that the Steelers would make such a radical move up the draft board, especially considering they are not in the Quarterback market and have never traded up in the first round during the Mike Tomlin era.
If the Steelers packaged both their first and second round picks, they could move up 11 spots on the draft board. The 17th overall pick is currently held by the Chargers, but it is uncertain whether Los Angeles will remain there or shop the pick around. There is a lot of uncertainty in the middle of the first round as some teams with picks between 11 and 17 may be in the QB market and want to make a move up the board.
In another scenario of a pick that will likely be traded, the Steelers could package a 1st and a 3rd to move up to the 22nd overall pick. That selection is currently held by Buffalo, but all reports indicate that the Bills are clearly in the QB market and looking to package their first round picks (#12 and #22) to make a move up into the Top 10 to draft a franchise passer. Depending on whom the Bills trade with (the Giants at #2 and the Broncos at #5 seem like viable options at this point), the Steelers may have to take a wait-and-see approach if they want to jump up into the low 20s.
Since the Steelers lack a 4th round pick, their trade up options could be somewhat limited. If they were willing to package both of their 5th rounders (#148 and #165), a move could likely be made to get the 25th overall pick from the Titans. This seems to be the last viable “trade up” scenario, as trading with the Falcons or Saints to move up 1 or 2 slots does not seem worth it. Unless the Steelers catch wind of a pending trade between the Falcons and Saints with another team to try to get ahead of them (probably to take an inside linebacker), then a move up to 25 with Tennessee may be worth parting with the 2 5th rounders.
Like the Steelers, the Vikings also lack a 4th round pick in the 2018 Draft. It seems unlikely the Steelers would move down just 1 spot so the first viable trade down scenario involves the Vikings at the 30th overall pick. In order to make this trade work, the Vikings would likely have to give up their 5th (#167 overall) and 2 of their 3 6th rounders (#204, #213, and #218). Minnesota could also trade a future 4th to make this trade work.
Would the Steelers trade with the Patriots? Unless New England was willing to give up a hefty ransom, it seems unlikely the Steelers would want to make a move that would better the team they consider as the team they are chasing for AFC supremacy. Additionally, the Patriots do not have any picks in the 4th or 5th rounds that could make this happen.
The Eagles have only 1 pick in the first 3 rounds of the draft, the 32nd overall selection. It is hard to say whether they would be willing to part with any of their Day 3 picks in order to move up. The Eagles do have two 4th rounders (#130 and #132) and it would likely take one of those plus their 5th round pick (#169) to move up to 28.
The Browns have 2 of the first 3 picks in the 2nd round. To move from 33 to 28 it would likely take their 4th (#114) and one of their two 6th rounders (#175 and #188). From the 35th pick it would probably take Cleveland’s 4th and 5th (#150) to move up. The Steelers may not be interested in trading with a division rival, though they have made moves with the Browns in the past.
This is one of the most intriguing trade down scenarios. The Steelers and Giants have had good trade relations in the past and there are two viable scenarios here. The easiest is simply New York’s 2nd (#34) and 4th (#108) for the Steelers 1st. This is not a perfect mathematical trade and may require a flipping of 5th round picks or a future Giants 5th rounder to make it happen. The other scenario involve one of the Giants two third round picks. The Steelers could give up their 1st and 3rd in exchange for the Giants’ 2nd and one of New York’s 3rds (#66 or #69). The Steelers would move down 6 spots out of the first round but would move up at least 23 spots in the 3rd round.
The Colts have 3 picks in the 2nd round of the Draft (#36, #37, and #49). There are a number of potential scenarios in play where the Steelers and Colts could work out a trade. Like with the Giants, a trade of the Steelers 1st for Colts 2nd with a flipping of 3rd round picks could be in play. Additionally, a flipping of 2nd rounders (Indy’s #49 for Pittsburgh’s #60) with the addition of Indy’s 4th (#140) could also make a trade work. If the Colts want to move back up to the tail end of the first round, the Steelers are certainly a viable trade partner.
The Steelers and Bucs also have a history of trades, though mostly involving late-round picks. Tampa lacks a 3rd round pick, though depending on what they do with the #7 overall pick could result in them adding a few more selections if they opt to trade down. Based on what they currently have, it would likely take Tampa’s 2nd (#38), 4th (#102), 5th (#144), and one of their 6ths (#180 or #202) to trade with Pittsburgh. A 4th, 5th, and future 5th could also be an option, but it is hard to see the Bucs giving up that many picks unless they acquire some more by trading down earlier in the draft.
Like the Bucs, the Bears also lack a 3rd round pick. However, they have two 4th rounders (#105 and #115). The Bears 2nd round pick (#39) plus both 4th round picks would be an almost perfect mathematical exchange for the Steelers’ first round pick. In this scenario, the Steelers would move down 11 spots but add 2 picks in the first half of the 4th round.
The Broncos are loaded with picks in the middle of the draft. They have two 3rds, two 4ths and two 5ths. In the 3rd the Broncos have #71 and #99, picks #106 and #113 in the 4th, and picks #149 and #160 in the 5th round. There are a number of scenarios that could be worked out involving flipping picks with the Steelers or involving multiple picks in the middle of the draft. The simplest scenario might be Denver’s 2nd, later 3rd, and later 4th in exchange for Pittsburgh’s first rounder. The Broncos have also (repeatedly) said that the #5 overall pick in the draft is open for a trade, and they may acquire even more picks in the middle rounds if someone (Buffalo or Arizona) makes a move up for a QB.