We’re back with our first official mock draft of the season. It’s obviously tough to get a feel for who the Pittsburgh Steelers like and without Combine information, the data is still incomplete. But my first crack at it. Like last year, I’ve decided against using a Fanspeak draft simulator for these. I’ve added in a hypothetical compensatory pick too since the Steelers should get at least one.
Let us know your thoughts on this mock and tell us your own in the comments below.
Round One (30th Overall): Carl Lawson/OLB Auburn – 6’2 253
Analysis: The position is predictable. It’s still the biggest need on the roster, even assuming James Harrison will return for another go. And Lawson is excellent from a value standpoint; most have him pegged in the late first round range.
It was disappointing he couldn’t go to the Senior Bowl but the tape is all you need to see. Lawson is a plus athlete with a wicked first step and, most importantly, the ability to bend the edge. He shows heavy hands, giving him a hearty punch, and shows overall good technique against the run. He’s a smart pass rusher who already can win in multiple ways and shows the recognition to counter.
He’s from SEC land, where the Steelers hunt for gold more than anywhere else, with solid production in 2016. 13.5 TFL and 9 sacks. The biggest problem is his injury history, playing in only seven games from 2014 to 2015.
Lawson checks all the boxes and can rotate at a 50/50 split with Harrison at ROLB. The one issue there is the Steelers’ right side drops more than the left and Lawson doesn’t have much experience in coverage.
Check out our scouting report on Lawson, which went up today on Depot.
Others Considered: TE David Njoku, OLB Haason Reddick, WR John Ross
Round Two (62nd Overall): Cam Sutton/CB Tennessee – 5’11 182
Analysis: Carry over from the Senior Bowl mock draft. I wrote in my scouting report, one you’ll see at the end of this breakdown, that I would prefer to keep him at corner than safety. He’s got great ball skills and ability to play the football at catch points with above average athletic ability in speed and excellent quickness/fluidity.
The need for cornerback only heightens with the release of Justin Gilbert, creating major needs at both cornerback spots, inside and out. Sutton also has a lot of return value but who am I kidding, we know he won’t be used there.
Others Considered: CB Jourdan Lewis, WR Zay Jones, OLB Tarell Basham
Round Three (94th Overall): Dawuane Smoot/OLB Illinois – 6’2/7 255
Analysis: Yup, we’re double-dipping at outside linebacker. And as they should be. It’s the biggest position of need. When you stock up for a big moment (hurricane, power outage, Steelers vs Ravens), you don’t dabble. You go all in.
Smoot is someone the Steelers appear to like and put on an impressive string of practices in Mobile. I didn’t see a guy with great ability to bend the edge in the couple games I saw but he repeatedly showed it at the Senior Bowl, so much so that his shoulder pad looked war-torn by the end of each practice.
He’s not the athlete Lawson is and might not have the ceiling but he’s a steady, consistent player. Over the last two years, Smoot record 29.5 TFL and 12 sacks.
Lawson, Smoot, and Dupree could make the team stable at this position for years and years. Also, killer law firm name.
Others Considered: CB Chidobe Awuzie, TE Jake Butt, RB Kareem Hunt
Round Four (124th Overall): Jordan Leggett/TE Clemson – 6’5 260
Analysis: I decided to change my thought process on addressing tight end. It does need addressed but I wanted to go with a lower investment selection. If Ladarius Green is cleared, a tight end wouldn’t have much of a role. Sitting a 4th round pick is an easier pill to swallow than a 2nd, like I had in my last mock.
The strong tight end class ensures the talent is still plentiful. Leggett has the size that the Steelers are attracted to while being a mighty weapon as a receiver, averaging exactly 16 yards per catch in 2016. He has 18 career touchdowns, 15 over the past two seasons.
Only problem with this pick is that it’d be on the lower end of his draft projection spectrum but still within range. NFL Draft Scout has him as a 3rd to 4th round pick.
Others Considered: TE Gerald Everett, WR Josh Reynolds, RB Jamaal Williams
Round Five (156th Overall): James Conner/RB Pittsburgh – 6’2 235
Analysis: The geography makes it a logical connection for the average fan to connect but Conner fits the mold of the big, power back the Steelers are normally attracted to (Bell, Mendenhall, Dwyer). Of course, Conner has a great story, beating cancer and having a fantastic final year at Pitt, averaging over 5 yards a pop and scoring 16 touchdowns.
He also became an asset as a receiver, something not every 235 pound back does, catching 20 passes for another four touchdowns.
Conner will slide in as Bell’s immediate backup and give the Steelers an excellent backup plan.
Others Considered: RB Corey Clement, CB Corn Elder, ILB Alex Anzalone
Round Five (Compensatory Pick): Davis Webb/QB California – 6’4/5 229
Analysis: Decided to project in a compensation pick since it’s reasonable to expect the Steelers get one. The league seems to have done away with 7th round comps, helping take out some of the guesswork. It’s coming in the 5th or 6th.
Based off of Art Rooney II’s comments, the Steelers seem set on selecting a quarterback this season. I’m personally against it and honestly, against taking Webb. He’s got a great arm in terms of strength but he’s far too erratic and too limited in what he does well.
But Webb does mesh with the vertical-minded offense the Steelers run so I could see the stars aligning. He’s essentially the same size as Landry Jones and had a high level of production, throwing for 37 touchdowns this past year for the Golden Bears.
Others Considered: ILB Ben Boulware, S Damarius Travis, QB Josh Dobbs
Round Six (187th Overall): Jamari Staples/WR Louisville – 6’3 190
Analysis: Could’ve gone with Chad Williams, the Grambling St kid I picked in my last mock, but wanted to throw out a new name. Staples had his Senior Bowl week cut short because of a concussion but I still like the potential.
Potential is the key word because a guy like Staples isn’t going to be expected to do much in Year One. He may end up going to the practice squad and that’s totally ok. Keep investing in the position you know best, and for the Steelers, that’s wide receiver.
Staples has the height and speed the Steelers like. He told me at Mobile he wants to touch the 4.2’s, which would be absurd and probably take him out of late round consideration. His resume isn’t heavy, never more than 37 catches in a season, but averaged a tick under 17 yards in his career and is fearless over the middle.
Others Considered: WR Chad Williams, WR Jalen Robinette, DE Ryan Glasgow
Round Seven (219th Overall): Isaac Rochell/DE Notre Dame – 6’4/3 282
Analysis: Sticking with the same selection as our Senior Bowl mock because this one just makes too much sense. Size, length (33 1/4 arms), and the big school pedigree the Steelers will drool over. Defensive line isn’t a heavy need but it’s the seventh round so need isn’t warranted. Rochell’s motor should make himself competitive and at worst, make him an asset on the practice squad. Steelers found out quickly how important depth there, reaching down for Johnny Maxey at the end of 2016.
Others Considered: ILB Hardy Nickerson, CB Sojourn Shelton, S Leon McQuay III