Proposed Draft Trade Ships Steelers Rookie Cornerback to NFC Contender

Mike Tomlin

Getty ESPN proposed head coach Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers drafting a cornerback after a blockbuster trade.

Most NFL draft rumors have the Pittsburgh Steelers trading up in the 2023 NFL draft. But ESPN’s Bill Barnwell proposed an alternative move — trade down the draft board.

In an article where he suggested at least one NFL draft trade for every team, Barnwell proposed the Steelers trading their first pick — No. 17 overall — to the Minnesota Vikings for the No. 23 pick and a third-rounder.

Dropping back six spots in the first round essentially landed the Steelers an extra top 100 selection in Barnwell’s proposal. With that extra pick, Barnwell recommended Pittsburgh addressing perhaps their most glaring hole on defense.

“Moving down six spots would net the Steelers a third-round pick, which would leave them in range for a cornerback,” wrote Barnwell.

Steelers Could Drop Back in 1st Round?

New Steelers general manager Omar Khan has been very aggressive this offseason. He’s signed several free agents to address needs and on April 18, he brought in veteran wide receiver Allen Robinson in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams.

The offseason aggressiveness, which is new in Pittsburgh, has helped fuel rumors that the Steelers will trade up. The most popular rumor has been Khan conducting another move with the Chicago Bears for the No. 9 selection.

But it’s not clear which player the Steelers would be trading up for in such a deal. That could make moving back in the first round a more prudent option for Pittsburgh.

Despite Khan’s free agency moves, the Steelers could still use depth or upgraded starters in several areas on the roster. If the team’s preferred first-round targets aren’t available at No. 17, rather than sacrificing draft capital to move up for one of those prospects, the Steelers could move back to acquire more picks.

A move back could also increase the likelihood that Khan finds value in his new first-round selection at No. 23.

Pittsburgh’s Draft Capital With Extra Day 2 Selection

The Steelers currently possess five picks in the top 120 selections, including four in the top 80.

That’s a lot of capital, but on Day 3, the Steelers do not have a fifth or sixth-round pick. They could go from selection No. 121 to 241 without picking a prospect.

The proposed trade with the Vikings doesn’t add a pick in between those selections. But it would give the Steelers a fifth choice on the first two days of the draft. That more than offsets not having many Day 3 choices.

It would also be nearly unprecedented in Steelers history. As it is, Pittsburgh is set to make four picks in the first 80 selections for the first time since 2002. With Minnesota’s third-rounder added as well, the Steelers would have five picks in the top 90 for the first time since 1976.

Drafting a cornerback with one of those Day 2 selections makes a lot of sense for the Steelers as well. The 2023 NFL draft class is expected to possess great depth at cornerback, providing teams value at that position in the second and third rounds.

The big board from ESPN has 14 cornerbacks ranked in the class’s top 100 players. Of those prospects, eight of them have second or third-round grades according to ESPN.

If one of the top-rated cornerbacks falls to No. 17, then the Steelers could very well add to their secondary and not trade back in the first round. But the more likely scenario is the top three or four cornerbacks going off the board before No. 17.

In that situation, the Steelers could find value for the position later after acquiring more picks.

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