Ordinarily, my time writing for Steelers Depot has been filled with more concrete matters. I have for the most part left the vast majority of the pre-draft heavy lifting to the rest of our writing staff, particularly Alex Kozora, who is probably an honorary BLESTO scout at this point or something.
However, I have always made an exception every year in writing a column in which I list a handful of whom I believe to be the Pittsburgh Steelers’ most likely targets in the first round of the draft. I had Ryan Shazier on my list in 2014, but not Bud Dupree or Artie Burns the past two years, so it doesn’t always go as planned.
I did already post a mock draft, the first one that I have published on the site, detailing my pick for the Steelers’ selection in the first round—as well as every other round—but here I broaden the scope while trying to narrow the choices down to a small handful of names that I feel are the most likely. This differs from my ‘also considered’ nominees in the mock.
Takkarist McKinley, OLB: The Steelers biggest long-term need on defense is the outside linebacker position, and McKinley, in spite of his injury history, is one of the top talents. They brought him in for a pre-draft visit,and the 250-pounder checks a lot of the boxes they look for here physically with great speed and long arms.
T.J. Watt, OLB: Perhaps nobody ticks more boxes at the outside linebacker position than T.J. Watt, and though they didn’t bring him in, they did meet with him elsewhere. He is still somewhat raw, but so have been their last couple of first-round picks. They can do with some upside with James Harrison still here.
Jabrill Peppers, S: I’ll admit I’m not the biggest fan of Peppers in the first round, because I think it requires too much projection, and the failed drug test is a concern. But it’s hard to argue against his physical traits and his makeup. Not to mention his willingness to do whatever you ask of him and give it everything.
Jarrad Davis, ILB: The Steelers lost a starting inside linebacker. The last time that happened they drafted Shazier. Davis is quite a specimen in his own right the way Shazier is, but can serve in the buck role. He could potentially be a day-one starter, though that won’t necessarily be the case.
CB Marlon Humphrey, CB: The draft positioning for Humphrey has been all over the board, but despite my better judgement, I not only am leaving him here, I mocked him to the Steelers at 30. I have a feeling he’s going to go high the way Eli Apple did a year ago. He’s somewhat limited based on relatively little experience, but he has all the tools to develop him.
Chidobe Awuzie, CB: Solid in terms of size and speed, Awuzie offers versatility at the cornerback position that could potentially get him onto the field pretty early should he be the pick. I think his height might make him slightly more attractive than Tre’Davious White, but White would be the next person on this list.
Feel free to call me a fool for leaving off the player you know the Steelers are going to draft, and to remind me next year that I got it wrong three years in a row.