One truth is ascendant among all others when it comes to the NFL draft that begins at 8 p.m. Thursday: Between here and there, the same tireless coverage that has cast this particular draft meeting as 100 percent unpredictable will proceed uninterrupted, predictably enough.
Why, for example, would the NFL Network even bother to point out that five hours of predraft coverage will commence at 6 a.m. Thursday when they know and you know and I know that when that's over, there will be nine more hours of predraft coverage, followed by the actual draft, which is when the real coverage really begins?
After all of its hyperbolic, superbolic anticipation, all anyone can say with confidence here on draft eve is that there is no Andrew Luck in this draft, and that there is no Robert Griffin III.
Seriously, that's all we've got?
Sorry, but it would be far too great a coincidence for people named Andrew Luck and RGIII to turn up in consecutive drafts, so I don't see why people keep pointing that out. I further don't see why people keep saying the Steelers need a wide receiver with outstanding ball skills -- meaning what, he can catch? -- but I decided to visit the annual information-free Mike Tomlin/Kevin Colbert predraft news conference this week to see what they were thinking regarding the draft-eligible wideouts.
I think the Steelers should take a wideout at the first opportunity, the 17th pick of the first round, because their fading competence at the position threatens to obscure their best offensive feature, which is still No. 7.
"A good group," Colbert said. "Some big ones, some small ones, some return-capable ones; it's a nice variety. You feel good about looking at that group."
It's no surprise to hear the general manager of the Steelers describe a potentially electrifying stable of wideouts as if he's dallying in the produce aisle at Whole Foods, but Tomlin augmented that information by noting that more college wideouts are catching more balls than ever before, and so evaluations are bound to be more accurate.
The Steelers have selected a wideout with their first pick five times in the past 30 years, and even the best of them, Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress, could not help much right away. This crop might be different with Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter of Tennessee and Tavon Austin of West Virginia consistently piling up conspicuous measurables and/or recommendations.
One of them should still be available at No. 17, but even if one isn't, DeAndre Hopkins of Clemson almost certainly will be. I don't think the Steelers should pass on him.
"All we try to do is add as many good players as we can; it's not real scientific," Colbert said. "So we're working on it. You can judge us in February as to whether we got the job done."
OK, but for a preview of that judgment, see Friday's editions.
I'm aware that the Steelers have urgent needs in more places than the perimeter of the offense. Colbert started the other day by reading off a list of The Departed, which took nearly as long as commencement at my high school. Sure, they need an outside linebacker, likely an inside linebacker, a corner, a safety, a running back, even a catching back with ball skills.
All those needs can or should or maybe even will be filled with their eight picks.
"This draft is deep in the secondary, as it has been the past number of years, maybe just due to the amount of spread football played in college," Tomlin said. "Corners, sub-package corners and hybrid safeties."
Safeties who get great gas mileage are nice to have, I suppose, and you shouldn't be surprised if the Steelers use a high pick on Kenny Vaccaro of Texas, although I'm not sure if he's hybrid or straight internal combustion. Still, it's more important in this view that when Ben Roethlisberger loads up the big right arm and deals in all that elite gamesmanship, he'll be able to find somebody who's open, or, excuse me, someone who has achieved separation, especially in space.
If the Steelers choose a wideout, they might have to pass on a better, more impactful player, like outside linebacker Jarvis Jones from Georgia. Jones might be the best player on the board to replace James Harrison, but the only thing that is certain is that he's the best player on the board who has been diagnosed with spinal stenosis.
"There will be a good player at 17," Colbert assured. "There's no doubt about that."
For a team that has been in exactly one playoff game the past two seasons, he should hope it's a player good enough to help on or close to Sept. 8.
Not Sept. 8, 2015.
Gene Collier: firstname.lastname@example.org. First Published April 24, 2013 4:00 AM