Ealier this week, Steelers Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert declared that the Steelers were committed to drafting the best available athlete in the 2008 draft.
According to the Post Gazette, Colbert said: "We do [have the luxury of taking the best player available], and like I said, we're not going to take a quarterback, we're not likely to take a tight end, but we could take a player at just about any other position. We wanted to go into this draft and not be need-specific."
It’s hard to know how to interpret this, given that Ben spent much of the last two years either running for his life or on his back.
Steelers Digest’s Bob Labriola has commented that during the latter years of the Cowher era the Steelers drafted for need, to their peril, particularly on the second day. Indeed, the drafting for need folly is painfully evident in the 1999 selection of Troy Edwards with the 13th pick.
Nonetheless, the Steelers urgently need to shore up their offensive line – something that would be true even if a miracle happened and we managed to keep Alan Fanaca.
So how to read Colbert? Well, Colbert’s coyness about the Steelers draft plans is legendary. Is he trying hand at misdirection through the media, or could the Steelers really select another outside linebacker with the 23rd pick?
In the Cowher era, the Steelers seemed to have an unofficial policy of using one premium pick (1st-3rd) on offensive lineman. While guys like Jermain Stephens, Chris Conrad, Paul Wiggins, and Kris Farris did not pan out, others did. The decision to invest top picks in Fanaca, Stephenson, Starks, and (for a time) Brendan Stai, paid handsome dividends.
Pittsburgh has not used a premium pick on a lineman since 2005. All of the talk about selecting aside “the best available player” aside, the Steelers would do well to revisit the practice.