For inside linebackers mocked to the Pittsburgh Steelers, you know the names. Alabama’s Rashaan Evans, who I just mocked to them yesterday. Boise State’s Leighton Vander Esch, who has gained plenty of steam through this pre-draft process. This Bleacher Report mock draft has the Steelers taking an inside linebacker but it’s not either of those names. In Matt Miller’s mock released yesterday, he has Pittsburgh grabbing Texas inside linebacker Malik Jefferson.
On Jefferson, he writes:
“Jefferson is a bit of a project, but his raw athleticism can’t be overlooked. If the Steelers are comfortable that his production and diagnosing skills can improve in the NFL with a better crew around him, then Jefferson is a match for the Steelers’ style.”
It’s not the first time someone has mocked Jefferson to Pittsburgh but it’s a name that doesn’t come up very often, especially lately, so at minimum, it’s refreshing to see. For context, he has Evans off the board at 19 and Vander Esch gone at 23.
Jefferson profiles as a great athlete but he’s a divisive prospect. Some see him as just that, an athlete, and even Miller hints at how raw he is. A second-team All-American last year as a junior, he recorded 110 tackles, 10 of those for a loss, and four sacks. He impressed at the Combine by running a 4.52, jumping 36 inches in the vert, and 10’5″ in the broad.
The first round has become really interesting for Pittsburgh. The board truly does feel wide open, no obligations to a certain position after the free agent signings of Jon Bostic and Morgan Burnett. Inside linebacker and safety are still two positions that need to be addressed but the urgency has been tamped down. Jefferson would be a high upside pick who might be able to see the field in dime packages to begin his career.