The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the 2019 draft season hot off of a disappointing season that ended in chaos as Antonio Brown demanded a trade shortly after the season was over. With the needs expanding due to wide receiver now being on the list of early, immediate needs, the Steelers will have to target their needs strategically in the draft.
But just who could they target at those positions of need? Here are five guys the Steelers could look at in Round 1 of the NFL Draft (Ed Note: This article was written before Antonio Brown was
definitely maybe heading to Buffalo).
Washington CB Byron Murphy
This might just be the dream scenario right now for the Steelers. And maybe it isn’t one that is all too unlikely anymore with Byron Murphy running a 4.55 at only 5’10”, 190 lbs at the combine. Greedy Williams set himself apart in testing, although he looked clunky in the drills.
However, what makes it even more likely seems to be the fact that Kevin Colbert is more open than ever to changing his philosophy to drafting defensive backs. At the combine, he noted that maybe the Steelers had to shy away from the athletic Corners, and over to technical, more skilled corners.
Murphy fits that just about as well as anyone. There is no CB that will be more fluid than he is, none more feisty, and there won’t be many that can top his elite processing and instincts. Murphy thus has everything that screams of a first rounder, and the big fact that might draw the Steelers in?
Elite ball skills.
The Steelers lacked the splash play on the defensive side of the football in 2018, and Murphy would bring all that and more.
Michigan LB Devin Bush
He ran a 4.43 at the combine and he’s an athletic game changer in the middle of the field. No matter your opinion of L.J. Fort and Vince Williams, it is clear the Steelers have a significant hole in the middle of the defense. Bush completely eradicates that with his sideline-to-sideline range and coverage ability that the Steelers have not had since Ryan Shazier was injured.
He might have actually tested himself out of the Steelers’ range, but with athleticism like that, instincts to cover more than well in zone, and fantastic processing over the middle, Bush is a polished, refined product that starts from Day 1 and brings a big impact in the middle of the defense. You can bet the Steelers will have their sights right on him if he is there.
Georgia CB Deandre Baker
Baker is another cornerback that would be outside of the recent Colbert model, but with some of the best pure tape out of any CB in the draft period, there is a case to be made that the Steelers should go after him at 20.
There is no better technical corner in the draft than Baker. If you are looking for polished with potential #1 CB upside, Baker might just be the guy. He was a big winner at the combine after running a 4.53 when I was honestly fearful he might get near the 4.6s.
This a press man corner with the mirroring ability and length to be disruptive in that press role too, but still a more-than fluid athlete and elite processor to play in a cover 3 heavy scheme. Add in the fact that he has ball skills to bring the splash play, and Baker might just be that guy at 20.
LSU CB Greedy Williams
Well, if you want the splash play guy who will create turnovers off of lengthy press man coverage, this is the guy.
Greedy Williams is perhaps one of the weirdest evaluations I have done this year in the fact that he is not really a black and white player by any means. Sure, he has that savvy press man ability and great processing too, so he is a scheme versatile player that can be used in just about any coverage the Steelers would throw at him.
But then you go and look at his run support and lackadaisical play and you have to really step back and question what in the world he is actually doing. I don’t like to knock a guy for effort, but it makes clear he made some business decisions on tape.
If Williams is fully into the play and focused, he is the best cornerback in the draft and it isn’t close. The only issue is that is almost never true for a whole game.
The Steelers must tread Williams lightly, because the last thing we need is another bust, but he fits the athletic mold of the Steelers while still being a pretty polished coverage cornerback.
Florida S / NB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson
This one might surprise some people, but after really reading between the lines after the combine, I figured that the Steelers are paying pretty close to this safety market in the draft. They met with Gardner-Johnson and Taylor Rapp at the very least, so there is absolutely some interest in an early safety.
Gardner-Johnson was played in the slot, single-high, and dimebacker at Florida, so he certainly gives the Steelers a versatile chess piece that they can build around and move around in sub-package football. He’d also be a fantastic replacement for Morgan Burnett.
One of the big things the Steelers have identified in their DBs is versatility, hence why Terrell Edmunds was drafted. Gardner-Johnson has that and then some, and as such, I am sure the Steelers will have him sharply on their radar.