With the 2016 NFL Draft set to get underway later on this evening in Chicago, it’s now time to take one last look at the final mock drafts from the major media analysts.
As you can see below, the consensus of those included in this final mock draft tracker is that the Pittsburgh Steelers will address their secondary with their 25th overall selection in the first round. In fact, 14 of the 15 analysts below have the Steelers taking a cornerback in the first round whether it be Eli Apple, William Jackson III, Mackensie Alexander, Artie Burns, or Vernon Hargreaves III. Only one of them has the Steelers going safety and that’s Louis Riddick, who has Karl Joseph headed to Pittsburgh. It’s worth noting, however, that Joseph was the only player to make a pre-draft visit to Pittsburgh, according to our tracker.
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin said this past week that they both attended nine pro days this year and according to our tracking, that included them both visiting Clemson, Ohio State, Baylor, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Houston, West Virginia and of course Pittsburgh.
When you look at the list of the names below, there’s a good chance that at least two of the players these analysts have mocked to the Steelers in the first round will still be on the board come time for them to make their selection in the first round.
Should they indeed wind up selecting a cornerback Thursday night, it will mark the first time that position has been taken in the first round by the Steelers since 1997. Should, however, they go safety, it will mark the first time that position has been addressed in the first round since 2003.
Apple was a redshirt sophomore and three years removed from high school in 2015. Is he raw? Absolutely. Does he have a lot to learn? Yes. But, he’ll be coached up in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers are desperate for some help at CB.
The Steelers’ transition to a Tampa 2 system could prompt the team to take a long, rangy corner with outstanding instincts and awareness.
A confident player with some length, Burns can run and make plays on the ball downfield. He’s needed to help the Steelers deal with the Bengals’ A.J. Green and Ravens’ Steve Smith.
Alexander could fall out of the first round. Then again, the Steelers need a cornerback and Alexander has the swagger and cover skills that should appeal to Mike Tomlin.
Some will say this is a reach but he is my next best cornerback.
The Steelers need to come out of this draft with upgrades at CB after allowing 272 passing yards per game last season (30th overall). Jackson, who led the FBS with 28 pass breakups last season, has the best ball skills of any defensive back in this draft.
The secondary is the top priority in this draft if I’m drafting, and the availability of Apple late in Round 1 makes him an easy call. He has length, outstanding athletic ability and a willingness to tackle. He needs to refine his cover skills, but that goes for just about any young cornerback, and Apple has tremendous talent.
Our PFF analysts are worried about Apple’s ability to play in a zone-heavy scheme like the one Pittsburgh used last season, but perhaps the presence of an excellent cover corner like Apple would encourage the team to play more man coverage. Either way, cornerback is a big need for the Steelers, and Apple is the best one available here. He is very tough and physical with receivers at the line of scrimmage, and has good-enough speed and quickness to upgrade this position group for Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh’s leaky secondary was a season-long issue with reinforcements almost surely coming in the offseason, whether via the draft, free agency or both. Hargreaves might slip a bit on draft day because at 5-10, 204 pounds, he lacks the height scouts prefer. The three-time All-SEC selection offers the physicality and playmaking ability Pittsburgh has prioritized in the past.
All 32 teams need more cornerback help, but especially the Steelers. Jackson has the height, length and speed that NFL teams covet and he is the best corner in this draft with his back to the ball.
They have to get corner help, and with Apple off this board they go with the Clemson man-cover player. He is brash, but they need help there.
Very interesting slot, because the Steelers, it would seem, have to address cornerback, and the traditional Steeler way is to take the best guy here, almost regardless of position, and there could be some value picks at cornerback here. But I will not be surprised if hard-hitting safety Karl Joseph of West Virginia is the pick here. He’s probably a better value pick than the corners, and Pittsburgh can use a long-term answer at safety, where there is age and inexperience now.
I’m told the Steelers had a great dinner with Jackson after his Pro Day, one that included Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin, and defensive backs coach Carnell Lake. The Steelers need a corner. If Jackson’s there, I like it.
They (the Steelers) really need to address their secondary, they need to address it at corner and safety. This is my favorite player of all of the defensive players in this draft, Karl Joseph. Now, he’s coming off of an ACL, but I’ll tell you this, as far as what you ask safeties to do in the National Football League; cover, tackle, make adjustments, make plays on the ball, there’s nothing that this kid can’t do. The only reason why right now he’s not being talked about is one, because he’s hurt. I get it, but he’s going to fine. His combine re-check, from everything that I hear, was great. This kid can do it all. 5-9, 205 pounds, between 205 and 210 pounds, runs in the mid 4.5s. If he’s healthy, he will be one of the better safeties in this league I guarantee it.