We’ve been through most of the free agency period. The Steelers crew is currently on the road to hitting all the top spots and getting a closer look at the rookie class. Omar Khan has put his stamp on his first full season as general manager. However, there were still gaps to fill and I thought it would be my turn to take my first stab at how the draft would go.
I won’t be expecting any deals in this release, but I do expect the new system to move quite a bit. Personally, I think there aren’t a lot of players seeded in the first round in this draft, so going down might be a possibility. Plus, I think most of us hope the Steelers can add an extra pick or two to help fill in the gaps. I think the deeper part of this draft is with the players who are going to provide depth to the NFL roster and not be counted on as starters at the start.
Round 1 (No. 17 overall): Broderick Jones OT Georgia 6053311
Analysis: Right out of the gate, this is some wishful thinking but let’s go with it. The Steelers currently only have three tackles on their roster, so the position is a huge need. Jones is not a finished product but that’s fine. He won’t have to start the first year and offensive line coach Pat Meyer can take a year to shape him up.
Jones is athletic, tall, and won’t be 22 until May. If you’re going to be drafted in the first round, it should be one who can definitely play left tackle if not both spot tackles. Dan Moore Jr. and Chukuma Okorafor are both under contract until 2024. Jones could push them to get a starting spot.
Others saw: Brian Pressey DL Clemson, Duent Banks CB Maryland, Brian Branch S Alabama
Second round (No. 32 overall): Mazi Smith DT Michigan 6030323
Analysis: The run defense has not been up to the standards we would like over the past few years. The Steelers returned Larry Ogunjobi, which was the right move. He played well last year. Tyson Alo struggled last year and is not expected to return. Chris Wormley is recovering from a knee injury. He may not come back either. The Steelers need a strong body in the middle to complement and displace Montravius Adams at the end.
Smith is quick and athletic and can control blockers in the middle of defence, with the strength of his hand. The pass rush isn’t fully developed, but if he can improve his snapping speed, he should see improvement there.
Others saw: Kelly Ringo CB Georgia, Darnell Washington TE Georgia, Drew Sanders LB Arkansas
Second round (No. 49 overall): Anthony Johnson Jr. Iowa State 6000205
Analysis: There was some thought that Terrell Edmonds might re-sign but he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. This creates a need to draft a safety if the veterans cannot be signed. Johnson is a former cornerback who is athletic enough to play in the slot and has the physical strength to play in the penalty area. He is a downhill player with a penchant for hitting people.
The Steelers showed great interest at Iowa Pro Day with Mike Tomlin, Omar Khan and Trell Austin attending. Austin Johnson put in some practice and the defensive back concluded the team sees him as a safety/nickel linebacker.
Others saw: Jack Campbell LB Iowa, Tully Toypoloto Edge USC, Clark Phillips CB Utah
Round 3 (#80 overall): Dorian Williams LB Tolan 6010228
Analysis: Getting rid of the old and the new. This lineup of positions has been completely revamped with the Steelers bringing in Ellandon Roberts and Cole Holcomb for their latest attempts to fix the situation. We can all hope Roberts and Holcombe are an improvement, but the Steelers also need to add some youth and speed to the group.
Williams is another player the Steelers have shown interest in during the Pro Day tournament. New linebackers coach Aaron Curry was in Tulane to watch and the two men had crossed paths before. Clocked at 4.49 at the Combine, Williams has the speed this group needs and projects as a Mack midfielder. He can play behind the veterans and hone his game as a rookie.
Others saw: Darius Rush CB South Carolina, Byron Young EDGE Tennessee, Jayden Reed WR Michigan State
Round 4 (#120 overall): Luke Schoonmaker TE Michigan 6052251
Analysis: Zach Gentry remains unsigned and the Steelers need a number two tight end who can block him. Pat Freiermuth and Connor Heyward are not excellent blockers, but they still have room to grow. After the success in the second half of last year, we can expect more appearances of the tight end attack. The use of tight end kits doubled after the bye week; Three tight sets rose from 8 to 29 in the second half of the season.
The Steelers drafted the Gentry from Michigan in 2019, so why not go back there for a more athletic version? Schoonmaker may be what they hoped the Peers would develop into. Schoonmaker is a very effective blocker, who understands positioning and is very aggressive with his hands. As a receiver, I believe the best is yet to come.
Others saw: Clayton Tune QB Houston Habakkuk Baldonado EDGE Pittsburgh Puka Nacua WR BYU
Round 7 (#234 overall): Williams Fuhuko Edge San Jose State 6040276
Analysis: The depth behind TJ Watt and Alex Hightower has been missing for some time. The Steelers don’t need a superstar, just someone who can be serviceable on the run and add a quality rush when starters need a break. They seem to monitor pass rushes during the draft process and might take one earlier.
Fehoko weighed 13 pounds heavier at the Combine than his listed weight. He was rehabbing a knee injury after the season so maybe that was the reason. He’s tough enough to tackle the run, has good blasting and recorded nine sacks last year as the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year.
Others saw: Carrington Valentine CB Kentucky, Jadon Haselwood WR Arkansas, Lonnie Phelps EDGE Kansas
Round 7 (#241 overall): Cory Durden DL NC State 6042292
Analysis: The Steelers have a history of being a defensive lineman late in the draft. They are looking for players who fit a physical mold that they can try to turn into a rotational defender. I’m going to take a stab here at a player I don’t know much about.
Durden played in the NFLPA Bowl and his size and height (arms are 34.5 inches) suited him as a defensive end in Pittsburgh’s scheme. After doing a little research, he started his professional career at Florida State before transferring to NC State and played up and down the defensive line. He totaled 20 tackles for loss and 11 sacks for his career.
Others saw: Miles Brooks CB Louisiana Tech, Jacob Copeland WR Maryland, Mark Evans II OT Arkansas Pine Bluff
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