One draft that has gone differently than any mock would have expected is the Pittsburgh Steelers. It started on Thursday when the team “reached” for a safety prospect that the national media was not as high on as others.
However, whether you like the player or not, that move did hit a need. From there, the team drafted James Washington, a high upside Martavis Bryant replacement. Given the trade of Bryant, getting four years of Washington back for one year of Bryant is a win.
However, from there, the team stopped worrying about 2018, and winning a Super Bowl, and shifted their focus completely. With a Bryant replacement and some defensive depth, the Pittsburgh Steelers traded up for quarterback Mason Rudolph from Oklahoma State.
Now, let’s break away from the prospect of Rudolph and discuss the philosophy of drafting a quarterback in the 2018 NFL draft.
Yes, Ben Roethisberger can get hurt in which case this pick may present value. However, quarterback obviously is not a position the Steelers expect to start in 2018. In fact, despite the fact the team can move on from Roethlisberger after 2018, you really hope that Rudolph does not see the field in at least his first two seasons.
The Steelers have a Superbowl window. They can argue that this roster can win a Super Bowl next year, it can. But is it the most maxed out roster in terms of potential? Not even close. The Vikings made it further than Pittsburgh last year and added Kirk Cousins and Sheldon Richardson. The Eagles get back Carson Wentz and added across the board. Aaron Rodgers gets healthy and gets Jimmy Graham. The Pittsburgh Steelers…replaced the loss of Martavis Bryat and get a backup quarterback?
Aside from the fact that this is a win now window and any resources not going into winning a Super Bowl with Ben Roethlisberger are becoming sunken assets, is the contract behind drafting a quarterback.
Everyone wants a succession plan to Ben Roethlisberger. Nobody understands the best replacement plan is to just start taking shots when Roethlisberger retires.
Thanks to the new CBA, rookie quarterback contracts have become a cheat code. Rookie quarterback contracts are on the same scale as any other rookie position. However, the entire quarterback market is financially out of whack compared to any other. Even the Mike Glennons of the world will be making about what #1 overall pick Baker Mayfield is. The Cleveland Browns getting Mayfield at the price of Glennon for five full seasons gives them heaps of cap space to build a roster around Mayfield.
In the Steelers case, even if Roethlisberger retires after 2019, they would then have two years with Mason Rudolph to win a Super Bowl with heaps of cap space. If they do not, they just wasted the best chance they will have in the career of their young quarterback. From there, he will have to carry a team because he holds a huge piece of the salary cap pie.
The smarter play would have been to let Roethlisberger retire, start taking quarterbacks high and plug them into the lineup to look for sparks while you used the added cap space to build a stacked team around your future.
The future over present theme came back around in late round three when the team jumped on Chukwuma Okorafor, a project tackle. Again, this is nothing against the prospect. However, even in a worst-case scenario, he does not see the field in 2018. His upside is enormous, but he is raw and undisciplined for his position.
In four years, the Steelers could be starting Mason Rudolph behind his big left tackle Chukwuma Okorafor. However, to me, if that duo comes together without another Super Bowl ring in the Ben Roethlisberger era, the picks were not sound investments. The Pittsburgh Steelers are in win-now mode. The roster is close, but it is not there. It is unfortunate to see the Steelers not take every measure to go all-in on something special and instead hedge on an uncertain future.