AFC North

The Steelers’ Compensatory Formula

Kevin Colbert
(Post-Gazette)

Nick Korte of Over The Cap gave some comp pick updates on Twitter this Tuesday. He included an update on the Steelers’ compensatory formula as it relates to offensive lineman Joe Haeg.

This came just a few weeks after learning of another situation regarding Bud Dupree’s inclusion in the formula.

The depleting comp pick resources will certainly impact the Steelers offseason plans.

How Did We Get Here?

Last offseason the Steelers lost a number of key starters in free agency. Running Back James Conner, Tight End Vance McDonald, Offensive Linemen Maurkice Pouncey, Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler, Linebacker Bud Dupree, and Cornerbacks Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton. Linebacker Vince Williams, and Offensive Guard David DeCastro were also casualties to the roster once the team got to training camp.

The only silver lining was the team was expecting some comp pick value to come as a result.

The Steelers were originally slated to receive a third-round pick for Dupree and a fifth-round pick for Feiler. Unfortunately, the injury and time missed to Dupree is causing that third-rounder to look like a fourth. And Joe Haeg’s playing time this year could end up canceling out the fifth-rounder for Feiler altogether.

Where Are We Now?

With this update on the Steelers’ compensatory formula, fans are left wondering how this team will replenish the roster this summer. The offense will have holes along the line and at wide receiver. The defense needs fresh faces at all levels.

As of now, the Steelers have picks in the following rounds of the draft:

  • 1st
  • 2nd
  • 3rd
  • 4th (comp)
  • 6th (via Kansas City)
  • 7th
  • 7th (via New York Jets)

The 6th round pick is also up in there, as the parameters of the Kansas City trade have not been released. One would hope it’s based on a snap count for linebacker Melvin Ingram, who has been a key contributor for the Chiefs since the trade, but we can’t say for certain at this time.

With that said, how can the Steelers best help themselves in the draft?

Where Are We Going – Free Agents

The Steelers always try to go into the draft with no gaping holes on the roster. Meaning they like to have options at every position they’re willing to go into the season with so they don’t have to reach for any one player/position.

This year that should be all the more accurate without and franchise quarterback taking a bulk of the cap entering the summer.

I expect the team to focus their wallets on the offensive line and defensive backfield in free agency before entering the draft.

With a young part of the line in place from the left side to the middle adding another young player in the draft does not seem ideal to a team that still wants to compete. And with cornerback being one of the toughest positions to scout, and thanks to the Steelers’ troubled history at drafting cornerbacks early, there’s another position that should be focused on in the free agency.

Where Are We Going – Draft

While I can see the team drafting these positions later in the draft, attaching them in free agency eliminates the need to prioritize them early in the draft.

This frees the Steelers to focus on their front-7 during Days 1 and 2 in the draft. Due to injuries and underperformance nose tackle and middle linebacker are the biggest needs of the Steelers’ defense. Pittsburgh has given up the third most rushing yards in the league this season, a stat that does not fly in the Steel City.

They are also missing rotational help at pass rushers, leading to a lot of soft tissue injuries to starters T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. For a variety of reasons, the team has lost out on their depth at outside linebacker that was touted so highly before the season. The draft would be a great time to make a commitment to a long-term rotational player.

Some other mid to late-round selections I’m anticipating are wide receiver and defensive end. Pittsburgh is known for constantly drafting and hitting on wide receivers, however, they opted to skip the position last year. With the need for a downfield burner and possibly a new kick returner I think they go back to the well this year.

The defensive line was supposed to be this team’s best position group this year. But with injuries to Tyson Alualu, Stephon Tuitt, and Carlos Davis they have relied too heavily on the likes of Henry Mondeaux and Isaiah Buggs. Adding more depth here for insurance could also be a possibility.

Conclusion

With all of that said, here’s just a glance at some positional targets for the before-mentioned draft picks. This is in no way based on certain players, or a “must draft this position here” list. That’s not the way most teams, especially the Steelers, operate. Rather, it’s just an exercise of what kind of investment (early, mid, late) could be used for certain positions.

  • 1st – Middle Linebacker
  • 2nd – Nose Tackle
  • 3rd – Edge Rusher
  • 4th – Offensive Line
  • 6th – Wide Receiver
  • 7th – Defensive Back
  • 7th – Defensive End

I know I’ll be killed for the offensive line here but this is with an assumption the team makes a heavy investment in the position during free agency. It’s also a good reminder that the draft is not a cure-all. A team can never fill all the holes they have in the draft.

The times are certainly changing for the Steelers as they transition into a new era. Their free agents and draft class, including those picked with compensatory selections, are all going to be important to keep the team above water.

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  1. Pingback: Pittsburgh Steelers Mock Draft 1.0 - Championship Sports Media

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