As the hours before the 2011 NFL Draft wane, it seems as though our recent feature on why the Steelers should trade out of the first round may be prophetic. At the team's pre-draft news conference today, Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert sounded more than willing to trade out of Thursday night's first-round action:
"The pro scouts will be going through their calls to touch base with every team and see who's interested in trading up and trading down. We always tell them we can go either way, and we will depending on who's still available at the top of that first round we might want to go up and get. ... But if there's offers for our picks, we will certainly look at the possibility of going down."
So it's not a huge story, by any means. Teams always touch base with potential trade partners in the days leading up to the draft, because it saves time in a high-pressure situation to have some preliminaries drawn up, in case the teams are dealt certain hands.
Such a deal would mark the first time under Colbert that the team would go without a first-round pick. If Colbert doesn't want to jump up the board to snag a prospect he thinks won't be there at No. 31 (he's shown a willingness to do so in the past with safety Troy Polamalu and receiver Santonio Holmes) and he doesn't feel like he's getting good value when he's on the clock, there will be no shortage of potential suitors for a trade. Any number of the quarterback-hungry franchises peppering picks No. 34 through No. 45 might be willing to negotiate with the Steelers if they opt to bypass a top-tier signal caller with their first selection and sneak back into the tail-end of the first round to address the need.
The Steelers are an aging team with a number of problem areas - some related to talent, others related to age - especially in their defensive backfield and along their offensive and defensive fronts. So it could make sense to stockpile draft picks and try to fill the roster with as much youth as possible. Given the the impressive track record of Colbert and his colleagues in recent drafts, we'll have to assume that whatever course he chooses is the right one, until we see otherwise.