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Analysis: Will the Steelers Trade Up In this Year's Draft?

This past Tuesday, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert attended Liberty Pro Day to see one person, quarterback Malik Willis.

The Steelers have had their eye on Willis since Senior Bowl week in January, and have made no secret of their desire to take him in the first round. Unfortunately, the biggest obstacle in their way are the numerous other teams above them, who are equally interested in taking Willis. Several mock drafts have simulated the Steelers moving up in the draft to take a quarterback like Willis or Kenny Pickett out of Pittsburgh. Putting these mock drafts aside, we should ask the question, are the Steelers willing to move up in this year's NFL Draft? To gain a sense of what they might do in April, it is appropriate to explore what they have done in the past.

In order to select linebacker Devin Bush Jr., the Steelers moved up ten spots (from the 20th overall pick) in 2019. The compensation at the time was a second round pick in 2019 and an 83rd overall pick in 2020. In last year's draft, the Steelers gave up a fourth round pick in this year's draft to move up into the fifth round to take defensive lineman Isaiahh Loudermilk. It should be noted that in both cases, the Steelers had at least eight picks at their disposal heading into the Draft.

By nature, the Steelers are generally not big risk-takers, but if they have a reasonable amount of draft capital in a given year, they are more willing to move up. To emphasize this point, we should go even further back to 2006. That year, the Steelers traded up from 31st to draft receiver Santonio Holmes at the 25th spot. Even with the trade they made with the New York Giants, they had a total of nine draft picks at the time. As has been their pattern, the more picks they have in their possession, the more likely they are to make moves in the draft.

The one notable exception was in 2003, when the Steelers traded their first, third, and sixth-round picks to move up and nab future Hall of Fame safety Troy Polamalu. Heading into that draft year, they had just seven picks. In general, the last two decades have shown the Steelers' moving up in the draft when they have eight or more picks in their possession.

What does this all mean? It is simple, with only seven draft picks in their possession, the Steelers are less likely to move up in the draft, unless they believe one of the quarterbacks available can become a franchise player that is near or the equivalent of Ben Roethlisberger. Though there is no guarantees to this answer, the Steelers are the type of team that stays true to form. Either way, it is about getting the best player that could help them achieve big things in 2022.

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