They ended up checking the position boxes they needed to check, but as it turned out the Steelers weren’t just looking for whatever offensive lineman, defensive lineman, cornerback and edge rusher they could get toward that end.
“Just talking to Coach (Mike) Tomlin, the main thing I had taken away from that was that he wants goons out there,” second-round nose tackle Keeanu Benton reported.
There was also this from first-round offensive tackle Broderick Jones regarding the “edge” he plays with, one that was honed at the University of Georgia:
“You’ve just got to be able to play dominant. You’ve got to play physical. You’ve got to thug it out at the end of the day.”
Tomlin publicly took Benton to task for revealing what he had to reporters and vowed to coach the kid up on media relations “so he can keep some of our private conversations private.”
But Benton’s use of the term “goons” was nonetheless confirmed by Tomlin as “an accurate description.”
A LITTLE HELP FROM THEIR FRIENDS: To what degree was the trade up to get Jones impacted by Patriots head coach Bill Belichick’s desire to see someone jump ahead of the Jets at No. 15 overall and get their hands on Jones before the Jets could?
According to a Steelers’ staffer, it was “100 percent” influenced by that dynamic.
That’s a contention that’s backed up by the math.
According to the trade value chart, New England’s pick at 14th overall was worth 1,100 points.
The Steelers’ selection at 17th overall was worth 950 points.
The extra pick the Steelers threw New England’s way, the 120th-overall selection (fourth round) was worth 54 points.
That’s a gain of 96 points in the Steelers’ favor.
They got their guy, and at a bargain price.
Contrast that with the trade down with Carolina that dropped the Steelers from 80th to 93rd overall in the third round.
The third-round pick they gave the Panthers was worth 190 points.
The one they got back was worth 128.
And the fourth-rounder they also gleaned in the transaction was worth 40 points.
That’s an advantage of 22 points in Carolina’s favor.
That slight discrepancy was well worth the investment once the Steelers turned getting back into the fourth round into Wisconsin outside linebacker Nick Herbig.
RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME: Third-round tight end Darnell Washington went 93rd overall after being projected initially as the 30th-best player available by Dane Brugler of The Athletic and the 33rd-best prospect by the NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah.
There was a reason.
Teams all over the NFL, according to a league source, had Washington “downgraded significantly” because of perceived knee issues and resulting fears about Washington’s potential longevity.
What’s amazing about his falling to the Steelers where he did is they were considering Washington at 32nd overall, along with Benton and their eventual selection, cornerback Joey Porter Jr.
They wound up getting Benton at 49th overall and then Washington after trading down in the third round.
At that point, the gamble on how long he’ll last was well worth taking given Washington’s freakish physical skill set and his vast upside.
ON, WISCONSIN: Herbig was projected by many as an edge who would transition to inside linebacker in the NFL but the Steelers intend to keep him outside, a position where they need a No. 3 behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith.
There shouldn’t be much doubt about what they’re getting.
Watt and his older brother J.J. are superstar outliers from a Wisconsin program that is more recognizable for producing hard-working, tough, resilient, responsible and accountable players who are easy to coach.
Badgers defenders, in particular, are relatively easy evaluations for the Steelers.
“There’s not a lot of speculation, man,” Tomlin emphasized in assessing the Herbig selection. “That guy held down the same position I watched T.J. play in that place.
“You see them do NFL things.”
Alabama and Georgia led the way with 10 selections each, which should surprise no one.
But if you know what you’re looking for Wisconsin, likewise, isn’t a bad place to find it.