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Savran: Steelers might be in need of a trade

Saturday, March 15, 2003

Silas Marner was downright frivolous with gold doubloons compared to the way NFL teams horde No. 1 draft choices.

For a team to use a first-round pick as a means of barter to obtain other players, it must have a glaring need, one which they believe is preventing it from fulfilling its maximum potential.

And such a gambit only should be attempted when other avenues have been exhausted, only when a window of championship opportunity is open. Because once that window opens, it almost immediately begins to close.

Do these definitions fit the Steelers and their dire need for help in the secondary, or what?

It wasn't all that long ago that the 27th first-round pick in the NFL draft was an early second-round pick.

This isn't to say good or even great players can't be found in that slot. It's just that based on the Steelers' needs, and what figures to be available when the draft plods with glacier-like speed to their turn, immediate help at defensive back is unlikely to be available.

If you are Detroit or Arizona, you are looking to build.

If you're the Steelers, you're looking to top off your building.

So given this unique set of circumstances, they should strongly consider dangling that pick to acquire an existing, top quality defensive back.

There's a provision, of course ... you really have to like the guy.

I'm not suggesting they use the pick to trade for any defensive back; I'm talking about the defensive back who might be the missing link.

Outside of perhaps a quarterback, no one player is going to win the Super Bowl, but a top quality player back there might make the difference, especially since many components of a championship defense are in place.

Dexter Jackson's opting for the desert instead of the 'Burgh doesn't necessarily expose a character flaw.

Last I checked, rejecting an offer to play for the Steelers is not a capital offense.

Nor should it send Steelers fans screaming to the streets. He isn't Ronnie Lott or Rod Woodson.

But he is a good player, better than what the Steelers have at the position, and represented the best and most expedient solution.

So, while it is not cause for people to characterize him as a money-grubber who is disinterested in winning a Super Bowl ring now that he owns one, losing him was a blow.

If you ask the prettiest girl in school to go to the dance, and she turns you down, that doesn't make her any less pretty. Again, Canton, Ohio, probably isn't in his future, but he would have provided an upgrade to a secondary sorely in need of one.

The remaining options are cloudy, at best.

Those unrestricted free agents still floating in the water remain there for a reason.

Restricted free agents are a possibility, the price generally being a lower round draft choice, although their current teams can match that offer.

The draft might provide a big surprise in an early round, but could that rookie provide the immediate impact needed? At a critical position in a very complicated defense on a team with Super Bowl aspirations?

That's asking a lot of even a high No. 1 pick.

The Steelers might attempt to trade up in the first round, but the talent pool at the position this year is thin. And they'd have great difficulty trading up the 15 or 20 spots necessary because, realistically, what do they have to offer in return?

They could offer their second rounder, but that's the 59th overall, and no team is going to trade down that many places in the first round when the only inducement to do so is a pick dangling over the edge of the third round.

Plus, if they gave up first-day picks, it would eliminate the possibility of adding a running back or a legitimate quarterback prospect, which is something they definitely need to consider.

Do they have such a surplus of existing talent that would entice a team to drop that many spots? Not without breaking up what they already have in place, perhaps opening a gaping hole somewhere else.

Free agency or no free agency, you build through the draft.

You maintain excellence through the draft.

If you draft well, you don't spend years away from championship contention. Thus, you hang on to your top draft picks like David Wells hangs on to a beer keg.

But there are times when that No. 1 pick is better spent than kept.

Assuming all the preconditions have been satisfied, I believe this is one of those times.

Stan Savran is the host of a sports talk show from 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays on WBGG-AM (970).

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