PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers have dozens of possibilities for their first few draft picks, depending on how their board plays out. They've ranked their favorites and will hope one falls to them at No. 28 overall.
Yes, the buzz about the team's affinity for quarterbacks such as Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph is legitimate. But the Steelers typically do the sensible thing early in the NFL draft. They go for the help. Consider these positional picks in the first rounds from 2009-17: defensive end, center, defensive end, guard, outside linebacker, inside linebacker, outside linebacker, cornerback, outside linebacker.
They don't take a ton of chances.
That's in part why the case for not selecting a quarterback high in this year's draft is relatively easy to make.
The quarterback would sit too long: Ben Roethlisberger's informal three-year commitment helps the Steelers' long-range planning but also comes with the promise of solid play at the game's most important position. Roethlisberger was heating up late last season and brings momentum to 2018. At 36, he's showing no tangible signs of slowing, and at least three quarterbacks older than him (Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers) aren't slowing much, either. The offense is built around Roethlisberger staying upright, and he has been pretty healthy for much of the past two seasons.
With backup quarterbacks getting minimal reps in practices, a top pick might watch his clipboard collect dust until he loses value or approaches free agency without much of a résumé.
Too many needs elsewhere: Pittsburgh's roster is one of the most complete in the NFL, but several areas could use a playmaking boost. The Steelers' best cornerback (Joe Haden) is entering his ninth NFL season. The addition of safety Morgan Burnett is more of a short-term solution, and the Steelers just brought in four safeties for pre-draft visits. Ryan Shazier's absence leaves a sizable hole at inside linebacker that Jon Bostic can't fill alone. The offensive line, though stout, doesn't have a starter younger than 28.
The Steelers' offense might be well-stocked positionally, but Pittsburgh faces a different kind of "need" here: It's necessary to surround Roethlisberger with appropriate talent. The Steelers have a chance with Big Ben in every game (like in 2016, when the Steelers went to the AFC title game with the Eli Rogers/Sammie Coates/Cobi Hamilton combination at No. 2 receiver), but the offense flows better when the playmaker spots are consistently replenished. And with Martavis Bryant a free agent in 2019, receiver is very much an option in this draft.
No reason to give up on Josh Dobbs: The Steelers saw Landry Jones transition from struggling practice player to capable NFL backup, but he needed a few years to get there. Dobbs, last year's fourth-round pick, has enough ability to watch him develop for another year or two. He might not be the long-term answer at starting quarterback, but the team will likely give him the chance to prove otherwise behind the scenes.
Some teams believe in drafting a signal-caller every year to magnify the game's most important decision: picking your quarterback. The Steelers might be better off drafting one every other year or longer.
2019 or 2020 makes most sense: The Patriots showed the difficulty of stashing a talented quarterback while the starter keeps performing well. They parted with Jimmy Garoppolo without a succession plan in place.
Roethlisberger will be 38 by the 2020 draft, so the late 30s might be the ideal time to cash in with a newly groomed starter. The Steelers can re-sign Roethlisberger for a few more years (his deal is up in 2020) and give an eventual replacement around two years to prep for the job.