Anybody who follows me knows I’m not one to put much stock in mock drafts. I’d never even published one before last season, but I figured I ought to do it given that everybody else is anyway.
As always, my mock draft is based on what I believe the Pittsburgh Steelers might do if the draft unfolds in the manner I expect, and not necessarily what I would do if I were making the decisions. My aim is to be realistic based on where I anticipate players will go, but there is always some wiggle room.
I like to run a number of mock draft simulators to give me a general feel for who might be available when. Though it’s a flawed process I’m sure their guesses are better than mine. The selections below are all based on players I was able to select multiple times.
Round 1 (28) – ILB Leighton Vander Esch – Boise State
I made no promises that this mock would be exciting. In fact, I hinted at the latter. Based on the way I see the draft falling and the level of interest the team has had not only at inside linebacker but also specifically in Vander Esch, I’m expecting him to be the pick if he is there, and there is a good chance he is.
Others Considered: ILB Rashaan Evans, RB Derrius Guice, QB Mason Rudolph
Round 2 (60) – S Jessie Bates III – Wake Forest
I don’t think Ronnie Harrison or Justin Reid fall this far, so Bates is the next best thing. He has major concerns with his tackling, and it’s unclear how Tom Bradley’s evaluation might factor in, including whether or not he believes he can clean him up.
Others Considered: WR Christian Kirk, TE Hayden Hurst, OLB Lorenzo Carter
Round 3 (92) – WR James Washington – Oklahoma State
I do think the Steelers’ interest in the wide receiver position is very serious, and I was close to taking Kirk in round two. He may not even make it that far. Instead, they take Rudolph’s wide receiver, whom they met with for dinner. He should fit well in Pittsburgh.
Others Considered: S Terrell Edmunds, WR Dante Pettis, WR D.J. Chark
Round 5 (148) – TE Will Dissly – Washington
The team’s belief in Vance McDonald cautions them regarding the position, but they don’t pass up on Dissly, whose toughness as an in-line blocker and capacity to develop are intriguing.
Others Considered: DT Bilal Nichols, DT Poona Ford, ILB Dorian O’Daniel
Round 5 (165) – RB Kalen Ballage – Arizona State
I’m not sold on a running back, and I don’t know that the Steelers are either, but Ballage could be of interest thanks to his return ability. The team showed some interest in him at his Pro Day, which ultimately won the connection for me.
Others Considered: RB Josh Adams, DT Bilal Nichols, DT Poona Ford
Round 7 (220) – DT Joshua Frazier – Alabama
I was very close to taking a defensive tackle in the fifth round but took my chances to wait on Frazier in the seventh, giving new defensive line coach Karl Dunbar one of his own players. If Dunbar likes him, they will take him.
Others Considered: ILB Chris Worley, ILB Joel Iyiegbuniwe, WR Russell Gage
Round 7 (246) – OLB Olasunkanmi Adeniyi – Toledo
The Steelers nearly make it out of the draft without an edge rusher. Combined with their seeming confidence in Bud Dupree and satisfaction with Anthony Chickillo as a top reserve with the reality that they haven’t given the position much attention, it wouldn’t surprise me if it takes this long. Adeniyi might lack the size and agility to make it in the NFL in a role other than special teams, but in that capacity he could excel.
Others Considered: WR Russell Gage, WR Quadree Henderson, OT Jordan Mailata
When all is said and done, I’m not in love with the haul at all. It’s a mostly utilitarian, expected effort, and represents a solid class, for sure, but I don’t see a lot of difference-making here. Which is fine, and realistic.