My third edition of a Pittsburgh Steelers’ mock draft. I’ll unveil one more, the final one, right before the draft. As always, let me know your thoughts, and your own mock, in the comments below. You can find my previous two mock drafts linked below.
Round One (28th Overall): Jessie Bates/FS Wake Forest – 6’1/1 200
Analysis: I still think there’s a good chance they wind up going inside linebacker based on their draft trends but after taking Rashaan Evans last time, I wanted to go in a new direction. Bates is certainly still a possible selection and he checks pretty much every box in our first round “rules.” Underclassmen? Yup. Pro Day dinner with the Two Bobs (Colbert, Tomlin), with a good level of production and high character to boot.
Safety is tricky this year. Is there enough talent to make the team feel comfortable waiting until after the first round? Sure, there are some names out there, but it’s always a risk to bank on getting the one or two players who would fit, hoping they’ll be around.
Bates can come in and see snaps as part of the Steelers’ dime package immediately so there’s a definite path to serious playtime in Year One. Assuming Morgan Burnett moves into the box, the Steelers will have a seriously good sub-package on third and long, something they haven’t been able to do previously.
Others Considered: SS Ronnie Harrison, OLB Lorenzo Carter, ILB Rashaan Evans
Round Two (60th Overall): Malik Jefferson/ILB Texas – 6’2/2 236
Analysis: If ILB doesn’t happen in round one , it’ll definitely happen in round two. Jefferson may be at the top of their list. Brought in for a visit, he’s a top athlete who nearly checked every box in our study at the players Pittsburgh drafts at the position. Maybe a little raw, he declared early too, but Jon Bostic’s presence means Jefferson doesn’t have to take on a full-time role if he isn’t ready, though I hope there is some role for him. The Mack position demands an athlete and Jefferson definitely fills that requirement with a 4.52 40 and 36 inch vertical.
Others Considered: WR James Washington, WR Anthony Miller, FS Terrell Edmunds
Round Three (92nd Overall): DaeSean Hamilton/WR Penn State – 6’0/5 203
Analysis: I think the odds are good the Steelers place a pretty high investment into receiver. It’s just a question of when exactly it happens between Rounds one through three. Hamilton isn’t the crazy athlete we’ve seen the team draft in the past but he’s one of its most gifted route runners who had a stellar Senior Bowl week. Hands are inconsistent but the Steelers have a new WR coach in Darryl Drake who works on it religiously but at the same time, has admitted he doesn’t really care how “cleanly” you catch it. So I don’t see it as being a knock against him.
Hamilton could play in the slot or the outside and though he didn’t do it in school, could be an option in the kick return game.
Others Considered: WR Dante Pettis, WR J’Mon Moore, OLB Kemoko Turay
Round Five (146th Overall): Kallen Ballage/RB Arizona State – 6’1 228
Analysis: A little Le’Veon Bell in his game in terms of his hands and frame. Not as physical as you’d like but the Steelers seemed to have some level of interest, sending RB coach James Saxon to his Pro Day. Ballage checked every box in our “what they look for” study minus the 15 reps he put up on the bar.
Though not incredibly successful with the Sun Devils, he got work as their kick returner, a job he’d pretty much have to assume if he became the #3 running back, which he most likely would be. Ballage would give Pittsburgh a trio of skyscrapers in the backfield, all three over six foot.
Others Considered: RB Josh Adams, OLB Josh Holland, WR Cedrick Wilson Jr.
Round Five (165th Overall): Oren Burks/ILB-OLB Vanderbilt – 6’3/1 233
Analysis: I gotta be honest. I’m not a huge fan of Burks (you’ll see my report on him later this week). But I can see the Steelers having interest in some of his upside and his background. He began his career at free safety, then moved to a hybrid role, then full-time linebacker (inside and out) last year. He also served as their defensive co-captain with clean character, two traits I imagine they hold in high regards.
Burks will add depth to both spots, though I see him best inside, with the potential to be an excellent special teamer. There’s a chance he goes higher than this, too. Like Javon Hargrave, Burks impressed as a late-week call-up at the Senior Bowl.
Others Considered: NT Joshua Frazier, NT Poona Ford, ILB Dorian O’Daniel
Round Seven (220th Overall): Joshua Frazier/NT Alabama – 6’2/7 321
Analysis: One pick who has shown up in many of Depot’s mock drafts, this one is pretty obvious to make. The need for a backup nose tackle, not addressed in free agency, the Karl Dunbar/Alabama connection, and the ability to stuff the run as a more traditional nose tackle that yes, is pretty rare these days. This one makes sense on almost too many levels.
Others Considered: DE Curtis Cothran, WR/KR Quadree Henderson, ILB Jermaine Carter Jr.
Round Seven (246th Overall): Russell Gage Jr./WR LSU – 6’0 186
Analysis: Another wide receiver but think of Gage as more of a special teamer. Arguably, he made more of an impact there than he did as a wide receiver. It’s just as the Cincinnati Bengals did with James Wright in 2014.
Pittsburgh, a decision I’m pretty happy about, has placed a heavy focus on special teams this offseason. They went after three of them heavily in free agency, finally settling on Nat Berhe, and even some of the futures deals had that in mind (Tevin Jones, Trey Griffey Jr.). Don’t see a high ceiling with him but he’s going to make the room better and give the Steelers another option on special teams.
Others Considered: OT Jordan Mailata, FB John David Moore, OT David Bright