Clearly, the Steelers liked the talent still available to them in Round Four.
Trading up early in the round — with AFC North rival Cleveland no less — the Steelers acquired the No. 111 overall pick to take Syracuse safety Shamarko Thomas.
Here’s what made this transaction especially noteworthy: the Steelers dealt away their 2014 third-round selection to Cleveland in order to take the 5-foot-9, 213-pound Thomas, a speedy, physical understudy for Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark in the near term — and likely in the plans as a future starter, given what Pittsburgh gave up to get him.
Four picks later, the Steelers used their own fourth-round selection on Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones, a move that essentially completes a revamping of the depth chart behind starter Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers signed Bruce Gradkowski earlier in the offseason, and he could figure as the primary backup to Roethlisberger this season as Jones settles into the pro game as the third option.
Nevertheless, the Steelers have somewhat tipped their hand on Jones. Perhaps they could have packaged selection No. 115 to move up for Thomas. Instead, they kept the pick — and took a young passer to develop behind Roethlisberger.
Any way you look at it, Round Four featured quite the memorable sequence of events for the Steelers. There was the quirkiness of dealing with the Browns — the first time that’s happened since 1968, per Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland. And then there was the Steelers trading away a future pick for the first time since 1973, per Bob Labriola of Steelers Digest.
Then there is the sheer confidence the Steelers have shown in Thomas, who plays a position where the Steelers have to be planning for the future.
Finally, we have Jones, the former Oklahoma star. If he plays in Year One, the Steelers’ best-laid plans are probably in tatters. His development in practices and in the classroom will be key. So too will his preseason play. If he shows promise, a league that’s always looking for QB help will notice. In short, there can be multiple benefits to taking him in Round Four.
The Steelers shaking up Day Three of the draft? Who would have thought?