Last year, the Steelers made a move during the draft to trade WR Martavis Bryant to the Oakland Raiders. This was the first time since 2013 that the Steelers had made a Draft-day trade. Since 2013, the Steelers trades of draft picks had mostly 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. 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 Raiders have become a recent trading partner, with deals made to trade Martavis Bryant, acquire Ryan Switzer, and trade away Antonio Brown all within the last year.
The Steelers have 10 picks in the 2019 Draft. Overall, the Steelers have the 20th, 52nd, 66th, 83rd, 112nd, 141st, 175th, 192nd, 207th, and 219th 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.
Unlike in past years, the Steelers certainly have the draft capital to make a big move up the board in the first round. The player commonly connected to a “trade up” scenario is Michigan linebacker Devin Bush (Prospect Profile). How high could the Steelers realistically move up to get Bush? Since a 2013 trade with the Browns that netted Shamarko Thomas, the Steelers have not traded away future draft picks during the current draft. For purposes of this analysis, we will focus only on scenarios involving current draft picks.
In the “Ricky Williams” scenario, the Steelers could potentially move up as high as the #3 overall pick if they packaged all 4 of their first, second, and third round picks together plus their early 6th round selection. This is a highly unlikely scenario and Top 5 picks have generally garnered at least one future first rounder in return. Even with 10 draft picks in total, it seems unlikely the Steelers would trade away 5 or 6 of them to move up into the Top 5 of the draft. All that said, the Jets only have 6 picks in the draft and lack picks in the 2nd and 5th rounds. They may not trade all the way back with the Steelers from the 3rd overall pick, but a trade-back scenario with another team is possible.
Denver has 8 picks in the Draft but John Elway seems a bit wayward in his drafting strategy. After trading for Joe Flacco rumors still abound that the Broncos could be in the quarterback market. This may be true but there is also a lot of uncertainty about where said quarterbacks will land in the draft. It would likely take the Steelers’ first and second round picks in order to get up to #10 in the draft. While a jump into the Top 10 in the first round is unlikely given the cost, a move up in the 2nd round seems much more feasible.
The Packers have two first round picks at #12 and #30. If Devin Bush makes it past Cincinnati at #11 (who will not trade with the Steelers as they are a division rival), the Steelers could look to make an aggressive move up the board. The Packers cleaned house at the end of last season and have established a new philosophy by bringing in a number of highly-priced free agents. A trade of the Steelers first (#20) and early third (#66) could get them up to the #12 spot in the Draft. In all honesty, the only way I see the Steelers making this move is if Devin Bush makes it past Cincinnati, which might be an unlikely scenario at this point. This pick may also be coveted by teams looking for a quarterback that want to get in front of Miami.
The Dolphins may be in full-on Tank Mode in 2019. Miami has 7 picks but if they are focused on the future could certainly be in the market to acquire more. They may also be in the running for a quarterback, which remains to be seen. The Steelers could probably get up to the #13 pick at the cost of their first (#20), later 3rd (#83) and 5th (#141). If a player like Devin Bush was still on the board at #13, this move would make all kinds of sense as the Steelers would retain their second and early 3rd round selections.
The Falcons need some serious help on both the offensive and defensive lines. That said, there is a bevy of talent at those positions. With 9 picks already in the draft, it is more likely that the Falcons will try to make aggressive moves up the board than trading down to acquire more assets. That said, the trade of a first (#20), later 3rd (#83) and 6th (#192) should be enough to get a deal done to move the Steelers up 6 spots to 14th.
The decision by Arizona at the top of the Draft will certainly have ripple effects down the board. One of those is with Washington, who is said to be in play for Arizona QB Josh Rosen if the Cardinals take Kyler Murray with the first overall pick. Arizona’s asking price for Rosen could be negotiable, and Washington may choose to part with either their first or second round pick (the Giants are also rumored suitors). The Redskins already have 9 draft picks, including 2 third rounders. If Washington isn’t able to land Rosen, a quarterback could be in play here as well. However, without a QB-needy team picking between 15th and 20th, the Steelers could make this trade up work in multiple ways. Trading a 1st (#20) and 3rd (#83) for Washington’s 1st (#15) and late 5th (#173) could work, as would trading a 1st (#20), 4th (#112), 5th (#141), and 6th (#192) for the 15th overall pick.
The Panthers have 7 picks in the Draft with their biggest needs on the offensive and defensive lines. Carolina has a number of linemen-needy teams behind them including the Giants and Vikings who hold the next two picks. The Steelers could get a deal done for a 1st and their later 3rd or a 1st, 4th, and 6th. Given Carolina’s needs and the teams picking behind them, it’s hard to see the Panthers passing on what might be the top offensive tackles in the draft to give the Giants and Vikings first crack.
The Giants have two picks in the first round of the Draft. They are loaded with draft picks but also lack a pick between #37 and #95 due to using a 3rd rounder in the supplemental draft last year. To get up to the #6 overall pick would likely cost too much (probably the Steelers 1st, 2nd, later 3rd, and early 5th round picks). However, the 17th overall pick could be in play if the board falls in a way favorable to the Giants. After trading away Odell Beckham and based on their General Manager’s comments, New York seems content to ride Saquon Barkley all season. The Steelers may be able to entice the Giants to trade down with the offer of a 1st and a 4th round pick.
It might not make a whole lot of sense to move up 2 spots, but the Titans snagged ILB Rashaan Evans last year who was clearly on the Steelers radar. Tennessee at #19 may be in the market for similar positions as Pittsburgh once again. Therefore, a trade up by 2 spots with Minnesota (which may only cost an early 5th) could be worth it. Additionally, the Vikings lack a 5th rounder and have a 70-pick window without a selection between #120 and #190. Trading picks 20 and 141 to Minnesota to move up 2 spots would be beneficial to both sides if the Steelers are afraid Tennessee will pilfer one of their targets.
The “Trade Down” Market is not as robust this year as it has been in past years. The Seahawks pick directly after the Steelers and with only 4 picks in the whole draft, John Schneider will almost certainly be looking to move down. The Steelers won’t trade with Baltimore (#22) or New England (#32).
The Texans, like the Steelers, have 4 picks in the first three rounds of the Draft. Houston has 2 second round picks and none in the 4th round. They have a 75-pick gap between their 3rd rounder (#86) and their 5th rounder (#161). The Texans need help on the offensive line, and the Steelers have virtually no need there. Given that, this could be a worthwhile trading scenario where Houston and Pittsburgh swap firsts (#20 for #23) and swap a 2nd for an early 3rd (Pittsburgh gets #55 and Houston gets #66).
The Raiders have 3 first round picks and were not willing to part with any of them in the Antonio Brown negotiations. Two of their picks (#24 and #27) along with their second-rounder (#35) fall after the Steelers’ first round pick. If the Raiders want to move up to #20, the Steelers could move down either 4 or 7 spots and retain a first round pick while acquiring an extra 4th round pick.
The Eagles pick 25th overall and have two picks in the 2nd and 4th rounds but lack a 3rd round pick. A trade where the Steelers and Eagles swapped picks could be beneficial all around. The Eagles could give up the 25th and 57th picks (their second 2nd rounder) in exchange for the Steelers 1st rounder (#20) and second 3rd rounder (#83). This would be an approximately even trade and get the Eagles back in the 3rd round. Philadelphia currently has no picks for 70 spots between #57 and #127. If the Steelers do not make this move in the first round, a deal to move up from the early 3rd (#66) to the mid-50s for one of the Eagles picks would make a lot of sense on Day 2.
The Colts are stacked with draft picks in the early rounds. Like Houston they have an extra 2nd round pick. A similar pick-swapping scenario could benefit both teams. Indianapolis could give up their 1st (#26), later 2nd (#59) and 5th (#164) in exchange for Pittsburgh’s 1st (#20) and later 3rd (#83). In all likelihood, if the Colts do move up, they will probably make a move with either Seattle or Baltimore who pick directly after Pittsburgh. The Colts are in the market for defensive line help and the Seahawks and Ratbirds will both likely be looking to move down to amass more picks and be easier trading partners than the Steelers.
The Chiefs also have two second-round picks and lack a 4th rounder. Kansas City is clearly in the need of help in the secondary after getting torched all of last season. A swap of their first (#29) and one of their seconds (either #61 or #63) for Pittsburgh’s first (#20) and early fifth (#141) could make the deal happen. Additionally, a straight up trade of Kansas City’s 1st and 3rd (#92) for Pittsburgh’s first could work. That said, if none of the cornerbacks are off the board by the time the 20th overall pick rolls around, the Steelers and Chiefs may be vying for the same player which could make a deal unlikely.