With just under a week until the 2016 NFL Draft kicks off, I figured it was the best time to take my shot at a seven-round mock draft for the Steelers, who hold seven picks in total this season.
While I’m not a huge fan of the endless mocks that get posted day-after-day by big media members, I think it’s certainly justifiable for those that have good feels for team needs, as evidenced by Dave and Alex’s mocks that have been published in recent months.
As always, let me know how I did in the comment section below. Here goes nothing.
Round One, 25th overall — Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia — 5’10”, 205 LBS, Senior
I’ll admit up front that Joseph is my favorite player in this draft class due to his absurd physicality and great coverage ability. He’s a team leader and has tremendous tape, but what could scare teams off is his knee injury that has kept him from working out for teams.
That doesn’t bother me much. We have to remember that Heath Miller was unable to work out for teams due to a groin injury and that didn’t faze the Steelers one bit. Worked out pretty well too.
While I understand a groin is much less serious than a knee injury, it’s clear what type of player Joseph is on film. He’s a guy that could miss the start of Training Camp and will likely be behind the 8-ball in terms of development in the system, but Robert Golden can do the job at a reasonable level until Joseph is ready.
Round Two, 58th overall — Kamalei Correa, OLB, Boise State — 6’2”, 243 LBS, Junior
From recent reports by Tony Pauline, the Steelers spent a considerable amount of time with Correa at his Pro Day, which bodes well for the 2016 version of the Steelers.
They desperately need some help on the edge moving forward as James Harrison is at the end of his career, Jarvis Jones just isn’t the answer and Arthur Moats will be a year older and playing the final year of his contract.
Correa isn’t an explosive pass rusher, but he’s a great athlete on the edge who has a good dip and bend to get around the corner to get to the quarterback. While he does have short arms that falls below the mark for what the organization looks for in its pass rushers, Correa makes up for that with a great compete level and has a relentless motor.
Correa could form a dynamic duo with Bud Dupree moving forward.
Round Three, 89th overall — Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina — 5’11”, 203 LBS, Junior
Again, not an explosive athlete that I have the Steelers taking here, but Cooper is a good football player that can make an impact right away in the return game for the Steelers, giving guys like Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton much-needed breaks, allowing them to focus on doing major damage as pass catchers.
As a receiver, Cooper projects to be more of a No. 3 or No. 4 receiver, but he’s a savvy route runner who can make plays after the catch, which fits in well with what the Steelers look for.
He won’t see much action as a receiver from Day One, but I like what he can bring to the team overall not just in 2016, but beyond. This could be the return specialist that the Steelers have been desperately searching for.
Round Four, 123rd overall — Javon Hargrave, DT, South Carolina State — 6’1”, 309 LBS, Redshirt Senior
Missing out on Baylor’s Andrew Billings in round one and Louisiana Tech’s Vernon Butler in round two, the Steelers get a gift in round three with Hargrave, who is a significant disruptor in the middle of the defensive line that could add a serious power threat in the middle of Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt.
He might not offer the position flexibility of a Billings or Butler right away, but he’s an athletic defensive tackle that spends a ton of time in opposing backfields.
Although he’s a bit short and doesn’t really have the arm length (32 inches) that the organization looks for, there’s no denying the impact he can make as a pass rusher and run stuffer in the Steelers’ 3-4 front.
Round Six, 220th overall — David “DJ” White, CB, Georgia Tech — 5’10”, 193 LBS, Senior
White was another guy that made a trip to Pittsburgh for a pre-draft visit and completely fits the mold of cornerbacks that Kevin Colbert tends to draft.
He’s a productive senior from a Power 5 school who played in at least 40 career games (48 career games).
White is good at shadowing receivers and staying on top of routes while also being a sound tackler.
I know it might be crazy to not mock a corner to the Steelers until the late rounds, but with William Gay and Ross Cockrell in the fold, along with Senquez Golson and (possibly) Doran Grant, the Steelers should feel comfortable waiting until the late rounds to add to the position.
White could come in and contribute as a special teamer as well as an occasional nickel corner.
Round Seven, 229th overall — Caleb Benenoch, OL, UCLA — 6’5”, 311 LBS, Junior
If Pittsburgh is going to take a late-round lineman, expect it to be one with plenty of position versatility.
Enter Benenoch, who has shown he can play right tackle in addition to guard. Pittsburgh brought him in for a pre-draft visit, so it makes sense to include him in my mock.
By no means is he a lock to make the roster, but he’s worth taking a shot on.
Round Seven, 246th overall — Ryan Smith, CB, North Carolina Central — 5’10”, 189 LBS, Redshirt Senior
This guy might be the steal of the draft at cornerback. While others project him as a mid-round pick, I think he could fall to the end of the draft due to competition issues, durability concerns and lack of production.
In four years at NC Central, Smith hauled in just six interceptions, but he has great body control and contribute as a kick and punt returner if he can’t see the field as a cornerback right away.
Smith also played some safety in college as well and could be a versatile piece in sub packages.
He’s another guy that made the trip to Pittsburgh for a pre-draft visit and all signs point to the Steelers having a good level of interest in the fifth-year corner.
Overall, I think I addressed some key positions in this mock for the Steelers.
Safety — 1
Cornerback — 2
Outside Linebacker — 1
Defensive Tackle — 1
Offensive Lineman — 1
Wide Receiver — 1
Joseph might not be ready day one, but once he is he’ll be a solid contributor to a young, improving defense.
Correa, White and Smith might take a bit to be ready to hit the field in some form due to adjustment issues within a complex defense, but all three address serious areas of concern for the franchise beyond 2016.
Just two offensive players were selected in my mock, and for obvious reasons.
The Steelers are loaded on offense and really shouldn’t miss Martavis Bryant all that much should everyone stay healthy, but Cooper provides a steady presence at receiver while also offering Mike Tomlin and his staff another option as a returner.
Benenoch could be that swing tackle to replace Mike Adams, while also being able to drop inside to guard should one of Ramon Foster or David DeCastro suffer an injury.