Steelers Predicted to Make Rare First-Round Draft Move to Find WR

Mike Tomlin Ladd McConkey

Getty CBS Sports' Josh Edwards projected in his latest NFL mock draft that the Pittsburgh Steelers would trade back and select Georgia wide receiver Ladd McConkey.

The Pittsburgh Steelers traded up in the first round of the NFL draft twice in the past five years. But in his latest NFL mock draft, CBS Sports Josh Edwards projected the Steelers to make a different type of first-round trade that they haven’t done in more than two decades.

On April 4, Edwards predicted the Steelers to trade back from No. 20 overall to No. 27 in the first round. Then at No. 27 in the mock draft, the Steelers selected Georgia wide receiver Ladd McConkey.

“Steelers fans will probably not be fans of the team’s decision to trade out of the opportunity to select one of the perceived top interior offensive linemen, but they still address a position of need while adding draft resources in the process,” wrote Edwards.

McConkey posted 30 catches for 478 receiving yards with 2 touchdowns in nine games during the 2023 season. He finished his NFL career with 119 receptions, 1,687 receiving yards and 14 scores.

Trading back in the first round for additional draft capital, though, would be highly unusual for the Steelers. The last time they traded back in the first round was 2001.

In that draft, the Steelers moved from No. 16 to No. 19. The trade worked successfully, as with the later pick, Pittsburgh selected 5-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Casey Hampton.

How WR Ladd McConkey Could Fit With the Steelers

The Steelers drafting McConkey at No. 27 overall might be considered surprising for another reason other than Pittsburgh’s rare trade back history.

The draft experts at ESPN, Pro Football Focus and Bleacher Report do not have McConkey ranked as a top 30 prospect in the 2024 draft class. Neither does NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, who rated McConkey at No. 34 overall, and sixth at wide receiver, on his latest 2024 draft big board.

“McConkey is a slightly undersized receiver with excellent speed, quickness and polish,” Jeremiah wrote. “Overall, McConkey isn’t quite as physical as former Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin, but I see a lot of similarities in their route running and instincts.

“I could see McConkey having a similar career.”

While Doug Baldwin had a solid career with the Seattle Seahawks, he was an undrafted free agent. So, that’s not exactly a great player comparison for the potential first-round pick.

Baldwin posted a pair of 1,000-yard receiving seasons in his career. He also made the Pro Bowl in 2016 and 2017. He finished his eight-year career with 493 catches, 6,563 receiving yards and 49 touchdowns.

Targeting McConkey, though, would fill a need for the Steelers. Pittsburgh only possesses one wide receiver currently on their roster who had more than 209 receiving yards last season. That one receiver is George Pickens.

Ironically, Pickens and McConkey were teammates at Georgia from 2020-21.

With the lack of potential starting wideouts on the roster, McConkey could arrive in Pittsburgh with the possibility to contribute immediately.

Could the Steelers Trade Back in the First Round?

In 22 years at the helm of the Steelers organization, former general manager Kevin Colbert traded back in the first round once. In new general manager Omar Khan’s first draft, he moved up the board in the first round instead of back to grab offensive tackle Broderick Jones.

A lot of mock drafts have predicted the Steelers to trade up again this year. The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly argued on April 2 a trade up in the first or second round is more likely for the Steelers than a deal to move down the board.

“I think they would have to move up in the second round to get [Zach] Frazier, and I don’t see why that wouldn’t be in play,” Kaboly wrote to a question whether the Steelers could trade down. “One thing I don’t see is trading back. That doesn’t seem like a Khan trait.

“I am looking at Georgia offensive tackle Amarius Mims at 20 and maybe moving up to 45 or so to grab Frazier. But as we all know, the draft is a fluid situation.”

Even Edwards admitted a trade down the board will be a tough pill to swallow with offensive line prospects available to satisfy needs at center and tackle with the No. 20 overall pick.

But a trade back would allow the Steelers to acquire more draft capital. Edwards didn’t specify the exact trade compensation Pittsburgh could receive from the Arizona Cardinals for the No. 20 pick. But Steelers Depot’s Ross McCorkle argued it could be Arizona’s 2024 third and fifth-round selections in addition to No. 27 overall.

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