According to recent reports, the Pittsburgh Steelers front office is working tirelessly to evaluate potential scenarios where they could trade up in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft and select Florida guard/center Mike Pouncey, pairing him with twin brother Maurkice, who made the Pro Bowl with the team in his rookie season last year.
Head Coach Mike Tomlin wants his people ready to pounce should Mike "start to slip," namely beyond the Miami Dolphins - who have been linked to Pouncey in a number of mock drafts - at pick No. 15. The other likely destination for the young lineman is pick No. 19, as the New York Giants are also looking to rebuild their aging offensive front.
Look, this just isn't going to happen. It's unlikely that Miami passes on Pouncey after the season his brother had last year, and it's just about inconceivable that he'll still be on the board in the 20's. This means that the Steelers would likely have to make a deal with Jacksonville at pick No. 16 or New England at No. 17, which would be a steep price to pay for a team with as many needs as Pittsburgh.
Let's do the math on this really quick. Assuming the Giants or some other Pouncey enthusiasts don't trade above Miami and the Dolphins decline to select him, Pittsburgh could trade to pick No. 16. (I think this is just about the best-case scenario the Steelers could realistically hope for, if they want to land Mike.) According to the NFL Draft value chart, such a trade would leave Pittsburgh depleted for the rest of the proceedings:
Pittsburgh gets pick No. 16 (1,000)
Jacksonville gets picks No. 31 (600), No. 63 (276), and No. 95 (120)
The moral of the story is that trading up more than just a few spots in the first round can leave you with extremely limited options later in the draft - in this case, no more Steelers selections until the tail end of the fourth round.
The Post-Gazette hit the nail on the head earlier this morning:
Let's say Ziggy Hood starts at left end. Who plays if Brett Keisel is hurt? Who rotates in with those starters? And who succeeds Casey Hampton [at nose tackle] in a few years?
No need to mention the cornerback situation, an all-too familiar topic in Pittsburgh for a few years. Even if Ike Taylor returns, he's 30. Two more ages of starters: Linebackers James Farrior 36 and James Harrison 33. Those are not opinions, but facts.
That's why the Steelers cannot be throwing away draft picks in order to move up and take a guard, no matter they think of him. He's still a guard. And if you do that, and you don't have another draft choice until, say, the fourth round because of it, then where do you get your defensive linemen, cornerbacks and offensive tackles? Next year, maybe.
This problem is, of course, exacerbated by the current absence of free agency, thanks to the labor disputes between the league and the NFL Players Association. The Steelers will have to address their needs now, through the draft. What's more, thanks to the collective bargaining disagreements, teams can trade draft picks but not players in this year's draft, further limiting the team's options.
Look, it would be a great story if the Pouncey boys anchored the interior line in Pittsburgh for the next decade. Seriously, it would be adorable ... until Chris Berman ruined everything with his insufferable, lowest-common-denominator wordplay, of course. (Something involving pound cake or "pouncing like a lion" or Ezra Pound?)
But this isn't a made-for-TV movie. And a great story does not a great draft make. The Steelers brass are too smart to mortgage their entire draft for one guy, and Pouncey's name is going to be called long before a trade up the board wouldn't make that a reality. Have fun in South Beach, Mike.