NFL Draft

Carney: 2018 Steelers Mock Draft

With just under a week left until the 2018 NFL Draft kicks off, I figured it was the best time to take my shot at a seven-round mock draft for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who hold seven picks in total this season.

While I’m not a huge fan of the endless mocks that get posted day-after-day by big media members, I think it’s certainly justifiable for those that have good feels for team needs, as evidenced by Dave and Alex’s mocks that have been published in recent months.

As always, let me know how I did in the comment section below. Here goes nothing.

Round One — 28th overall — Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama — 6’3”, 234 LBS

With a major hole at inside linebacker due to the injury to Ryan Shazier, the Steelers have a chance to plug that hole moving forward by selecting Evans.

Granted, the signing of Jon Bostic as a free agent might have plugged that hole temporarily. But by selecting Evans, the Steelers get a linebacker with a ton of high-level experience and a high ceiling.

Evans might not be in the same conversation as Roquan Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, or Tremaine Edmunds, but if you want a rock solid guy against the run, and one who has the versatility to drop into coverage at times, Evans would be a great consolation prize for the Steelers, should they miss out on the three guys mentioned above.

Plus, Evans would probably become a fan favorite right away, with his throwback style of play. If there’s any linebacker in this class that appears born to be a Steeler, it’s Evans.

Round Two — 60th overall – Jessie Bates, S, Wake Forest — 6’1”, 200 LBS

Bates checks nearly every box when it comes to the Steelers’ history of draft picks. While I’ve seen Bates get some serious first round love, I could see him falling to the second round, largely because he’s not elite in any one area.

That being said, he’s very sound overall, and would be able to contribute right away.

After signing Morgan Burnett in free agency, bringing in Bates would take an area of weakness for the Steelers and make in that much stronger.

He’s versatile enough to play in the box, deep center field, or line up in man. Sounds a lot like Burnett, doesn’t it?

Round Three — 92nd  overall —  Dante Pettis, WR, Washington — 6’1”, 192 LBS

Look, I know the Steelers haven’t been even remotely tied to Pettis this year, aside from a few mock drafts here and there, but I think he could be a surprise pick for the Steelers, much like JuJu Smith-Schuster was a surprise pick for Pittsburgh in Round Two last year.

Pettis is an underrated receiver in this class. He’s a very good route runner, excels on deep balls and combated catches, and brings an explosive element to the return game, which has been a major hole for the Steelers when Antonio Brown isn’t back there.

The Washington receiver could make an immediate impact in the return game, while continuing to develop behind AB, JuJu, and Martavis Bryant.

Round Five, 146th overall — Kalen Ballage, RB, Arizona State — 6’1”, 228 LBS

Another popular name tied directly to the Steelers during this draft process.

Often compared to Le’Veon Bell for his style of play, Ballage was part of a running back by committee at Arizona State, which left a lot to be desired in his game film. He’s famous for the eight-touchdown game against Texas Tech in 2016, and he’s a great receiving back.

The Steelers have shown some interest, as running backs coach James Saxon went to the Sun Devils’ Pro Day.

Ballage needs to get into an NFL weight lifting program to add some strength. He could even push James Conner for playing time right away, due to his third down abilities.

Round Five, 165th overall — Skai Moore, LB, South Carolina — 6’2”, 226 LBS

A bit off the board here, but Moore makes a ton of sense as another option at linebacker, especially when you consider his coverage abilities.

Moore recorded 14 career interceptions at South Carolina, often showcasing his comfort dropping into zone and reading the quarterbacks eyes, jumping routes with impressive athleticism.

Physically, I see a lot of D’Qwell Jackson in his game.

With his coverage skills and lengthy history of production in the SEC, Moore would be a player worth taking a shot on in the fifth round.

Round Seven, 220th overall — Bilal Nichols, DL, Delaware — 6’3”, 306 LBS

A depth defensive lineman coming from a small school? Yep, sure sounds a lot like what the Steelers could do late in the draft.

This might be a round later than some think he might go, but with small school guys late in the draft, especially ones projected as a nose tackle — which is nearly extinct, I could see Nichols sliding to the Steelers.

A two-year starter at Delaware, Nichols made the transition to nose tackle nicely for the Blue Hens. Nichols is a raw pass rusher and lacks distinguishing traits, but he’s a versatile defensive lineman with the right skill sets and body that type gives him a chance to earn a roster spot, projecting best as a one-technique or nose tackle.

Round Seven, 246th overall — Quadree Henderson, WR/KR, Pittsburgh — 5’8”, 192 LBS

I know, I know:  I just said earlier with Dante Pettis that he could fill the role right away. Well, it’s been such a problem for so long under Mike Tomlin that I think it makes sense for the Steelers to throw a bunch of stuff at the position and see what sticks.

Henderson could be a late-round gem that not only makes an impact in the return game, but could give the Steelers something as an occasional slot receiver.

Coming into a situation where he’ll actually get coached up as a receiver could do wonders for him, considering that Pitt used him as the gadget guy, and never really forced him to develop his receiving traits.

As you can see, I didn’t have the Steelers address the EDGE position in this mock. It certainly makes sense for the Steelers to do just that, especially early, but I just couldn’t find one I’m comfortable taking a shot on, aside from Lorenzo Carter, or Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, both of whom I don’t believe will be there at 60th overall.

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