They can call it the NFL draft all they want, but today the Steelers will play poker, and they are among the ones ready to deal.
With the 15th pick in this draft, the Steelers reside in an ideal spot to trade. There will be a handful of teams willing to offer a prized draft choice to swap places with them in the first round, and Jacksonville is at the top of that list.
The Jaguars want Pitt cornerback Darrelle Revis more than anything. Jacksonville picks 17th, two spots behind the Steelers. The Jaguars know the Steelers also like Revis and could draft him if they stay at No. 15.
Two important pieces of evidence appeared during the team's only news conference before the draft Monday. Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert has been as secretive as any personnel man in the league since his arrival with the Steelers in 2000. He refuses to talk about the draft in the month leading up to it except for the Monday news conference. He orders his scouts to keep their mouths shut and he refuses to talk about individual players.
Yet Monday he expressed a willingness to trade down in the first round, if the price is right, of course. And then coach Mike Tomlin praised Revis no end when asked about him. When Tomlin was asked about another player, Colbert stepped in and said there would be no more player evaluations.
Was it a mistake on new coach Tomlin's part to open up about Revis or was it planned?
The Steelers certainly could sit still and draft Revis with the No. 15 pick, provided someone above them does not snap him up first. They have three young cornerbacks, but aren't sure yet what they have in one or two of them. Revis also would upgrade their return game.
But what if the Jaguars offered a third-round draft choice to make the swap? The Steelers would move down just two spots and acquire what many believe to be the best value picks in any draft -- the third round.
That 15th pick carries even more value because teams drafting 1 through 16 can sign their picks to contracts up to six years in length. Teams drafting in the second half of the round can sign them to a maximum of five years. The longer the contract for a top rookie, the better for the team.
A third-round draft pick to move two spots would not be too much to ask, in this case.
So, what do the Steelers do after that? They entertain more offers to move down in the first round. Why not? Instead of getting one good player, they could get two by picking up another pick in the third or fourth round.
If they stay put at No. 17, they'll have a handful of players to consider. It's probable that outside linebackers Lawrence Timmons of Florida State and Jon Beason of Miami will be available, and the Steelers desperately need outside linebackers. Jarvis Moss, a pass-rushing end at Florida, may still be on the board. Central Michigan's Joe Staley, the third-best tackle in the draft, should be there. Auburn's Ben Grubbs, the best guard in the draft, surely will still be available, and the Steelers may need guards next year when it is possible both of their starters will depart.
If the Steelers are lucky, defensive end Jamaal Anderson of Arkansas also will be on hand still. The Steelers would not seem to need a defensive end with Aaron Smith, newly signed to a contract extension, and Brett Keisel. But Anderson could represent a shift to the 4-3, or at least give Tomlin and coordinator Dick LeBeau more options along those lines.
Anderson is a 6-5 & 1/2, 288-pound pass-rushing end who fits perfectly in a 4-3, but also could play in a 3-4. He's a former high school wide receiver and basketball player who has wonderful athletic ability. His long arms remind some of L.C. Greenwood.
A so-so postseason workout dropped him slightly and he's not fast running the 40, but he's quick and plays fast enough. He could be a steal at No. 17.
The Steelers could use him either as a spot rusher this season, putting him on the edge when they move to their dime defense instead of using one of their outside linebackers in that role. They also could use him in a true four-man line by moving Smith inside and putting Anderson on the outside, in essence playing a 4-3.
Here's the payoff -- not only could they get Anderson, but it gives them more options by obtaining the extra pick from Jacksonville. They could use their fourth-round draft choice (they also have a compensatory fourth-round pick) to move up in the second round with a trade. They might be able to move high enough to draft Grubbs, a player some mock drafts figure they'll take in the first round.
Even if Grubbs is gone, they'll get a solid choice in the second round -- a guard, a running back, a receiver, a linebacker.
Should the Steelers not make the trade, they still could take Anderson at No. 15. But they don't want Jacksonville to know that, or else the Jaguars might roll the dice and decide to stay put at No. 17.
Back in 1969, Chuck Noll made a defensive lineman his first pick in the draft. Now it's Mike Tomlin's turn to go for Jamaal Anderson.
Click photo for larger image.
Facts & Figures
What: 72nd Annual National Football League Player Selection Meeting.
Where: Radio City Music Hall, New York City
When: Noon today to approximately 10 p.m.: Rounds 1-3 11 a.m. to approximately 6 p.m. Tomorrow: Rounds 4-7.
Details: There will be 255 selections, including 32 compensatory choices awarded to 16 teams that suffered a net loss of certain quality unrestricted free agents last year.
Time Limits: Round 1: 15 minutes each team. Round 2: 10 minutes each team. Rounds 3 through 7: Five minutes each team.
TV: NFL Network and ESPN/ESPN2 will televise the draft on both days.
Ed Bouchette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org