Those who follow my writing know that I typically leave the draft talk up to the rest of the Steelers Depot crew, who, of course, do an exceptional job as a resource not just to Steelers fans, but fans of all teams, and of the sport as a whole. That doesn’t mean that I don’t keep up, of course.
I still will not be doing mock drafts any time soon, as fun as it might be to toy around with the idea. There are just too many variables for me to weigh, and, frankly, we supply enough mock drafts over the course of the offseason for commentary.
As I have done for the past two years, however, I will provide my list of the top players that I believe are most likely to be the name announced by the commissioner for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ number one draft pick, weighing in talent, perceived team interest, and the likelihood of them being available at 25. I had Ryan Shazier on my list in 2014, but left Bud Dupree out in 2015, expecting him to be gone.
Again, the goal is oriented not toward originality or driving discussion, but rather, hopefully, accuracy. I should say, however, that I would gladly be wrong if it meant a high-talent player falling in a way I did not expect. The list is not necessarily in order.
Karl Joseph, S: The Steelers haven’t been shy about their interest in safeties this offseason, as they’ve brought in about a dozen to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex for pre-draft visits. Karl Joseph is the best of the class, and perhaps the only true first-round value. The ACL injury is of course a concern, but I don’t think he makes it out of the round.
Andrew Billings, DT: Another player that they have shown clear interest in, meeting with him extensively at his Pro Day, to which they sent a large contingent of representatives. He fits their stated desire for a nose tackle that can get after the passer, and would also accomplish the task of cutting into their defensive ends’ snap counts.
Noah Spence, OLB: Arguably the most naturally talented player at his position in getting around the edge, if Noah Spence manages to get down to 25, after having reportedly sent his last 20 drug tests to all 32 teams, the Steelers would have to weigh the risk. They are waiting on the draft to determine whether or not to pick up Jarvis Jones’ fifth-year option, which certainly makes it sound like the position is in play in the first round.
William Jackson III, CB: There is a case to be made for William Jackson III being the third-most talented cornerback in the draft, and he could be one of the better scheme fits. He has size and speed and a greater readiness to play than many other cornerbacks in this class might have in their system.
Eli Apple, CB: The Ohio State alum’s possibility has to be taken seriously, as I wrote about earlier today, even if I and several others don’t personally believe he would make the most sense. If they do end up taking Apple, it would be an indication that they would like to do different things with their coverages after playing in more zone schemes than any other team last year. His youth is both an upside and a downside, and would buck previous trends for the Steelers.