If you’ve ever stepped foot in the lobby of the Steelers South Side office, you wouldn’t recognize it now. It’s under construction. Completely torn apart. So are the parking lots on either end of the indoor facility. An addition is being tacked onto the river side wing too.

Many Steelers fans are hoping for a similar reconstruction for the team’s secondary this weekend during the NFL draft. And the good news for them is that this year’s selection class is a veritable Home Depot at that position.

“We said at the combine that this was a defensive draft. And over the last 6-8 weeks we haven’t seen anything to change our minds. We think that whole defense is strong. We think that up front and in the secondary it’s particularly strong as we expected going in,” said Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert Monday.


That’s exciting news for those who want the Steelers to take a cornerback in the first round for the first time since 1997 (Chad Scott, MARYLAND). Believe it or not that isn’t the longest drought for any position when it comes to the Steelers addressing a need with a first round pick. They haven’t taken a first round offensive tackle since 1996 (Jamain Stephens, NC A&T). But through free agency and more effective use of second round picks, that streak somehow seems less notable.

“We’ll put a capable secondary on the field. I’m not concerned about that,” assured Mike Tomlin Monday.

Well, he may be the only one in Pittsburgh who feels that way. Because as of now his Steelers are looking for a new starting corner to replace Antwon Blake, a back up corner to replace Brandon Boykin, and a starting safety to replace Will Allen (unless Allen comes back).

Bemoaning the loss of those players isn’t the point here. At least in Blake’s case, that may be an example of addition by subtraction. But high pedigree players instead of just bodies are the target of draft-nick Terrible Towel wavers from Greene County to Gibsonia. And the well warranted gripe from Steelers fans over the years is that the front office has spent far too long patching over problems at the corner back position instead of addressing it with first round talent or free agent dollars.

To be fair to the Steelers, they have attacked the corner position in second round many times. But Ricardo Colclough will be remembered as way too much of a small school experiment. Bryant McFadden was viewed as being over slotted. And Senquez Golson is nothing but an injury redshirt so far.

When it comes to acquiring help in the mid-to-late rounds, Ike Taylor was a gem (‘03/4th rd). And Deshea Townsend was selected in the fourth round of 1998 before Colbert’s arrival. But the Cortez Allen’s, Curtis Browns’, and Crezdon Butler’s of the world were all tragic swings and misses.

With projections of six first round worthy corners on the board in 2016 though, will this finally be the year Colbert overcomes his apparent aversion to drafting a player at that position on night one?

“We don’t intentionally go in and say that we won’t take a corner in a particular spot,” he insisted. “I think we’ve probably averaged picking around 23rd since I’ve been here. A lot of the top corners usually have gone in the top 15….I can’t say that we’ve ever intentionally ignored that position. It just happened to break that way.”

Colbert is pretty close. It’s was the 21st slot actually (prior to being #25 this year). However, over his 16 years as GM only two corners per year on average have been taken before the Steelers made their first round pick. It’s tough to believe that taking the perceived third best corner in any average year would be looked upon as a reach.

Colbert reiterated though, that the team refuses to emphasize the importance of any one position over another. “We try to stack them accordingly to their abilities…We don’t necessarily grade them based on where we think they are going to be taken. We grade them based on how we think they are going to fit in the league…. In a given year, positionally, they may get drafted higher. But we try to stay away from evaluating them that way and grade them on how we see them as players.”

So for instance, on your board a quarterback isn’t more valuable than, say, an outside linebacker? That was a question asked of the GM Monday at his press conference.

“No. They are graded exactly the same and we’ll draft them accordingly.”

That is particularly frightening to hear for whenever the Steelers may need a quarterback again. But let’s worry about that later.

For now, the reconstruction of the secondary is a more pressing concern. And based on hearing Colbert and Tomlin talk, it may not be fully done before that new lobby.

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