Early Steelers 2018 NFL Draft position and picks primer

Yes folks, unfortunately, with the Steelers exit for the NFL Playoffs it’s once again time to shift our focus toward the NFL Draft.

There will be plenty of “early needs for the Steelers” articles in our future. Right now I want to focus on just the basics: where does Pittsburgh draft and how many picks do they have.

As of press time, a few of these items are up in the air, as they require other action to be taken by the league. Currently, here’s what we do know about the upcoming draft.

The Steelers will have at least six picks heading into the 2018 NFL Draft. Their first-round position has been announced as the 28th overall pick based on their 2017 season finish of a 13-3 record, the best of the four teams which lost in the Divisional Round (which nets them the lowest pick, due to having the better regular season record). Only four teams (Patriots, Jaguars, Eagles, and Vikings) will select lower than the Steelers in the first round.

The Steelers have previously picked as high as 15th (2014) and as low as 32nd (2009) over the last ten years. Those spots, in order, are as follows:

Year Overall Selection
2008 23 Rashard Mendenhall
2009 32 Ziggy Hood
2010 18 Maurkice Pouncey
2011 31 Cameron Heyward
2012 24 David DeCastro
2013 17 Jarvis Jones
2014 15 Ryan Shazier
2015 22 Bud Dupree
2016 25 Artie Burns
2017 30 T.J. Watt

Heading into this upcoming year’s draft, the Steelers have already made moves and played with their potential future the last few offseasons.

Those moves began with a wild series of back-and-forth trades with division rival Cleveland. Teams are typically reluctant to swap players and/or picks with teams they do battle with yearly, however, the Steelers and Browns have found themselves trade partners frequently as of late.

Initially looking to dump their former first-round pick and top cornerback taken overall in the 2014 draft, Justin Gilbert, the Browns sent the defender packing to Pittsburgh for a 2018 sixth round pick. Little did anyone know that draft pick would be coming right back to the Steelers the following season, with Pittsburgh trading wide receiver Sammie Coates for their original selection.

The Browns basically lost their first-round pick (Gilbert) who didn’t work out with the Steelers, then gave the future sixth-round pick back to Pittsburgh for a third-round selection (Coates) who also didn’t pan out for them.

It turns out, the Steelers still wouldn’t hold onto that sixth-round pick in this upcoming draft, instead, sending it over to Tampa Bay for safety J.J. Wilcox. Meant to be a depth piece, Wilcox played early in the season before disappearing into obscurity.

Down one of their two original 2018 picks with this series of moves, the Steelers also worked a deal with the 49ers to acquire tight end, Vance McDonald. Pittsburgh would receive the tight end and a 2018 fifth round pick in exchange for the Steelers 2018 fourth round pick. Essentially, The Steelers moved back a round to take on a starting tight end, and his big paycheck.

To summarize, here are the two picks the Steelers are down for 2018:

Lost Picks
4 McDonald trade
6 Cleveland/Tampa trades

A few more moves and potential additions leaves us with a draft pick picture that looks like the table below.

Current Picks
1 28th overall
5 TBD – McDonald trade
COND Ross Cockrell trade
COMP Potential comp

The Steelers sent CB Ross Cockrell to the New York Giants in exchange for a conditional pick. Try as I might, I could find no concrete information on the “conditions” of the trade. Cockrell started nine games this season for the Giants, so that leads me to believe he’s at least worth a late round pick, likely a sixth or seventh rounder.

A sixth-round pick would replace the one lost for Wilcox with a selection that’s actually higher in the same round (due to the Giants have a worse record). It’s also why I don’t sweat the McDonald trade, as the Steelers will be picking later in the fourth round while the 49ers should be selecting fairly high in the fifth. That means the Steelers received McDonald to move back 15-20 spots in the draft.

I’ll consider that a win, especially if they’re able to keep McDonald on the roster for future seasons. (More on that in a future article.)

The last potential addition to the Steelers 2018 draft arsenal could be a compensatory pick awarded for the loss of Lawrence Timmons. The league uses an unknown formula to determine which teams are awarded these extra picks, which are given to teams who lose a free agent. Those free agents are ranked via this unknown method, with 32 total picks being dished out between rounds three to seven.

Last season the Steelers received an additional third-round draft pick by the compensatory method after losing T Kelvin Beachum to free agency during the 2016 season. One might think a full-time starter such as Lawrence Timmons should be among the top 32 free agents in the compensatory lottery; I expect the Steelers to receive a pick, but where that pick falls is unknown.

Of the 32 picks awarded last season, 11 of them were in the third round, six in the fourth, nine in the fifth, and three each in the sixth and seventh rounds.

If I were to guess, Timmons should net the Steelers a pick between rounds five to seven. That would balance out the original seven picks the Steelers had, and give them eight total picks spread through the seven total rounds. With the McDonald pick only moving them back a handful of spots, missing out on the fourth round might not be so bad in the long run, and there’s still a chance they could jump ahead of their fifth-rounder from San Francisco with an additional compensatory pick.

Regardless, the Steelers are in a familiar position, stockpiling some picks with shrewd moves, in order to build their roster via the draft.

Suggested articles from our sponsors