Mark Madden: Steelers must choose between sizzle, steak at NFL draft

The NFL Draft is a week away. The Steelers have two options:

Do a showbiz draft.

Do a draft that 100% benefits the team.

The showbiz draft consists of taking a quarterback with the 20th pick overall, then a wide receiver in the second round.

Perhaps some tenuous connection between the two can be manufactured: “They’re going to grow into champions together!” Just like Mason Rudolph and James Washington didn’t despite being teammates at Oklahoma State.

The “team” draft entails taking a defensive lineman from Georgia in the first round, preferably Jordan Davis. Then a safety in the second round and a receiver in the third. (This year’s draft is deep in receivers. Most are. Over the past decade, the receiver position has averaged four first-round picks and over 13 top-100 selections per draft.)

The showbiz draft placates the marks and gets talk shows buzzing.

The “team” draft fills needs, improves the Steelers now and employs a logical timeline.

If there’s any serious thought given to drafting a quarterback this year, the Steelers shouldn’t have signed Mitch Trubisky. Use Rudolph as your bridge QB instead.

But the Steelers should have signed Trubisky hoping that, at 27, he realizes some of the potential that made him the second pick in 2017. If Trubisky ends up being a subpar stopgap, OK. But the first preference should be that he proves himself worthy of starting beyond 2022.

If Trubisky doesn’t, then pick a quarterback in 2023. That draft has more quality QBs. Taking one now illogically skews the timetable.

If the Steelers make the playoffs or even dodge a losing record, it will be because of Trubisky, not despite him. Here’s betting Trubisky exceeds the citizens’ meager expectations.

But taking a quarterback now is sexier, whether it’s the Pitt kid who would so inspirationally use a different parking lot at the same practice facility or the guy from Liberty Biberty.

The fervor for selecting a QB is whipped into a nonsensical frenzy by innocuous happenings like coach Mike Tomlin eating wings with Mr. Liberty Buchemal.

The latest example: The Steelers hired David Corley as assistant quarterbacks coach and the local football intelligentsia yelped, “Aha! The Steelers have never had two quarterbacks coaches before! They must be picking a quarterback! ”

But Corley got his job as dictated by changes made to the Rooney Rule, which mandates that each team must hire an offensive assistant who is either a person of color or a woman. Corley is the former. It’s got nothing to do with who the Steelers are drafting.

By the way, if Kenny Pickett drops to No. 20, there’s a reason for that. Maybe his small hands.

Speaking of hands, wide receiver Diontae Johnson dropped seven balls in the Steelers’ last seven games, including playoffs. But he had a good year: 107 catches, 1,161 yards, eight touchdowns.

Johnson has one year to go on his contract. One report suggests Johnson wants $ 90 million over five years. Another says Johnson is skipping voluntary workouts because he’s frustrated by the lack of progress in the pursuit thereof.

But voluntary workouts are just that: voluntary. Troy Polamalu rarely attended voluntary workouts. Polamalu still did OK. Looked to be in decent shape.

But the Steelers would be nuts to give Johnson $ 90 million over five years.

That’s No. 1 receiver money. Johnson is not a No. 1 receiver. He may be the Steelers’ best receiver, but that’s different than being a No. 1 receiver.

Johnson isn’t a big-play type. He’s not a game-changer. He’s Hines Ward minus the blocking, minus the clutch and not as good.

Johnson isn’t in a class with receivers Deebo Samuel, AJ Brown and DK Metcalf, all drafted in 2019 like Johnson and all looking for big-money deals. (But Johnson is better than Jacksonville’s Christian Kirk, who signed for four years, $ 72 million despite stats dwarfed by Johnson’s. One screwy deal can throw things off.)

If Johnson really wants $ 90 million over five seasons, let him play out his contract and walk. He’d have to come down a lot to interest me. Even four years, $ 80 million seems too much. It’s easy to replace receivers, especially one of his ilk.

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