Steelers should look for a trade

PITTSBURGH – The NFL draft is looming, so let’s count the positions where the Pittsburgh Steelers need help.

On second thought, it would be easier to list the positions where they don’t need immediate help: Quarterback and offensive line.

Taking the traditional “best player available” will probably fill a need, too. That’s the situation after an 8-8 season and an exodus of experienced players at key positions.

The pressing needs on offense are running back and receiver. They could also use a tight end, given Heath Miller’s injury status, age and the importance of multiple tight end sets.

There are just as many needs on defense. With James Harrison gone, the Steelers need a pass-rushing linebacker to put heat on quarterbacks. They could also use help in the secondary, both at cornerback and safety.

So who do they choose at No. 17? How about this proposition? General manager Kevin Colbert has said they won’t trade up. But what if they trade down? Yes, deal their first-round pick for more quantity in the second or third rounds.

The consensus on this draft is there aren’t a lot of franchise-type players at the top, but it’s deep with players who will help teams. If the Steelers can’t hit a home run with their No. 1 pick, how about trading it to address their many needs with extra picks?

Credible mock drafts have them all over the place with their first-round choice. There’s sentiment for Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones as the pass-rushing specialist. Florida State Xavier Rhodes has been listed in some projected drafts.

Would the Steelers go for offense? Conventional wisdom holds that quality running backs and receivers are available beyond the first round. Mike Wallace, one of the players they’re trying to replace this week, was a third-round choice, the 84th player taken in 2009.

So let’s assume the Steelers look on the other side of the ball. Scouts are divided on Jones, who has good speed but comes with a couple of red flags. Some reports say he lacks technique and will be blocked easily in the NFL until he adapts. There are doubts about his pass coverage. There’s also the issue of his spinal stenosis. The Steelers would have access to his medical records beforehand.

Rhodes is said to be big and aggressive, but there are questions about his tackling and his ability to play zone.

Based on available information, there is no slam dunk choice at No. 17. Given that, and the deep nature of this year’s draft pool, here’s a vote for finding a trading partner and dealing the top pick for extra choices in subsequent rounds.

That strategy won’t make for much of a headline, but will be a big step toward addressing the multiple needs as the Steelers try to retool.

Mehno can be reached at