The day after the draft, I posted my thoughts, my initial reaction, to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ draft haul based on my understanding of their needs and wants and what was available to them at the time that they were selecting. I am hoping to be able to provide the same sort of insight for the Steelers’ divisional opponents, perhaps from a bit of a Pittsburgh perspective.
I will be beginning fittingly enough with the Cleveland Browns, who kicked off the draft with the first-overall selection and ultimately added 10 players through the draft, including a substantial three draft picks in the first three rounds—all of them ahead of Pittsburgh’s first pick.
While the clamor has and will always be for a quarterback until they get one, the Browns did the most reasonable thing and took the near-consensus best player in the draft with their rightfully-earned top draft pick, adding a dynamic and impactful outside linebacker in Myles Garrett.
Garrett is now somebody that Alejandro Villanueva is going to have to handle twice a year, and he certainly has the potential and then some to develop into his biggest headache, and the best pass-rusher in the division. That is what you would expect from the top pick in the draft, after all.
Sitting at 12, after losing out on Mitchell Trubisky and Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, the Browns elected to trade down rather than take Deshaun Watson at 12, ending up falling to 25 and taking versatile joker safety defender Jabrill Peppers.
This is an interesting pick for the Browns because they are the sort of team, and Hue Jackson is the sort of coach, that will take advantage of his full skill set. Expect him to be a dynamic part of their defense, probably pretty early, and even contribute on offense, with the possibility of returning kicks as well.
Tight end David Njoku finished off their first-round selections and he is a receiving threat that the Steelers are going to struggle to match up against. They may have to get creative with the quarter package and slide Sean Davis into the slot.
Cleveland got its quarterback late in the second round in DeShone Kizer. I don’t particularly have high hopes for his future, but I don’t have a problem with them passing on the top-round picks and taking a chance on Kizer, to whom they will not be committed.
The Browns are not very deep at cornerback, so it’s somewhat surprising that they didn’t take one until they got Howard Wilson with the 126th-overall pick. He may be good enough relative to their group to compete for significant playing time, however.
They bolstered their defensive line with Larry Ogungobi and late in the draft Caleb Brantley, the latter of whom is very talented but has off-field trouble. They immediately went on record in saying that they may release him if they find out something they don’t like, but at the top of the sixth round in a 10-player draft with three first-round selections, I don’t have a problem with the gamble for them. The upside is tremendous if you can live with the character. Fortunately the Steelers have a strong interior offensive line.
Zane Gonzalez was I believe the second kicker drafted in the class, but the Browns were among the teams that had the most issues in this aspect of the game, so drafting a kicker makes sense. Matt Dayes with one of the last picks in the draft is a receiving threat out of the backfield, but would be at best third or fourth on the depth chart.