It’s officially draft day! In good due time, we will know the newest member of the Pittsburgh Steelers very, very soon my friends. This is my first full seven round mock for the Steelers this draft season, anyways, and I think they might make these picks a bit more exotic than you would think.
I will obviously be using the Pre-Draft Visits , Pro Day list, and just as important, any prospect interaction I can find with the Steelers specifically in the mention of it all. The Steelers would never make it too easy, because genuinely, who in the world saw Terrell Edmunds being the pick at 28 last year anyways?
That means my accuracy on this mock is probably going to be absurdly dreadful by the end of Saturday night, but just like any Pirates hitter right now, I get a big crack at this stuff, too. And please, since I don’t do these too often, give me your thoughts.
Round One (20th Overall): Byron Murphy, CB, Washington – 5’10”, 190 lbs
Listen, there are about ten different directions I could have gone here. However, my final five really came down to Darnell Savage, Greedy Williams, Rock Ya-Sin, Clelin Ferrell, and Byron Murphy.
You wanna know why Murphy makes perfect sense? Kevin Colbert talked about their change in defensive back evaluation earlier this year at the combine citing that no longer can the Steelers afford to look at a guy who is merely physical tools, but one that shows off ball skills. Murphy, Savage, Ya-Sin, and Williams all have ball skills, but Murphy’s is downright elite. On film, there is seldom a time that I can remember Murphy actually not tracking the ball correctly.
Sure, Murphy does not have the ideal press man fit that this team might be looking for overall, but that is a fine sacrifice for someone of Murphy’s caliber. If you get Murphy to bulk up a bit and fill out a frame that is not fully filled out yet anyways, Murphy’s jams will have a lot more pop to them than they do now. His technique in press is not bad, it has always been that strength. Get the man to a weight room and watch him go into full bloom.
The Steelers’ changing draft philosophy at cornerback is clearer than ever in their pre-draft philosophy. In past years, they would have been all over Lonnie Johnson. Where is he on their radar now? Nowhere to be found. Murphy represents that true paradigm shift and gives the Steelers a guy who can play inside and out and easily has the best tape out of any CB in the draft. It also helps that Murphy not only had contact with the Steelers at the Combine, but with Teryl Austin at his Pro Day, and again with a pre-draft visit. The interest is as clear as day. Oh, and don’t think his rampant posting of all things Steelers is not a clue either.
Also Considered: CB Rock Ya-Sin, CB Greedy Williams, S Darnell Savage, OLB Clelin Ferrell, TE Noah Fant
TRADE: Steelers Trade up to 36th overall with the 49ers, trade 52 and 83.
Round Two (36th Overall): Darnell Savage, S, Maryland – 5’10”, 198 lbs
Okay, I get it, maybe 83 is a steeper price than you would want to pay here, but for Darnell Savage, it is worth it in every way. Obviously, the interest in Savage is there in many ways. Brandon Hunt, who has seemingly been linked to every pre-draft visit of the draft season, was on hand for Maryland’s pro day, and more so, Savage came in for a pre-draft visit.
This fits everything Colbert has harped about in this process. Ball skills galore is the name of the game for Darnell Savage. He has them in vast swaths, and in my opinion, as the best ball skills in this safety class. His 4.3 speed is certainly not a turn off, and the fact that he can slide into the slot, dimebacker, strong, and even have the capabilities to head back to single-high is going to draw the Steelers in big time.
Don’t be fooled by the other interest in safeties. I heavily considered Nasir Adderley and almost stuck myself right at 52 to just scoop him up, but Savage’s fit in the Steelers system is great considering he can man guys up and play that Cover 2 zone about as well as anyone in the safety class.
Also considered: Staying at 52, S Nasir Adderley, OLB Chase Winovich, WR Deebo Samuel, S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson
Round Three (66th Overall): Jace Sternberger, TE, Texas A&M – 6’4”, 251 lbs
The only real question I have is if Sternberger actually makes it to this spot. Rest assured in this mock, the man is there for the taking. I have long been a guy who has said the Steelers need a tight end far more than I believe some think they do. Xavier Grimble is the starter right now if anything were to happen to Vance McDonald, who has not been the model of a clean bill of health throughout his career.
Sternberger makes perfect for a few reasons. One, he is literally McDonald’s clone. Yes, I mean that, he plays just like McDonald did when he was coming out of college. Sternberger might be a raw blocker, but his receiving prowess is what will make him so alluring. With Kevin Colbert on hand for Texas A&M Pro Day, I am inclined to say that I believe that he was there to look at more than just Tyrel Dodson and Otaro Alaka.
With his incredible YAC ability and physicality he displays, Sternberger fits the solid, smash your teeth in type of Steelers TE. Historically, he absolutely seems like a Colbert type of guy, and all things taken into consideration, this pick is in many ways a no brainer.
Also considered: TE Kahale Warring, WR Miles Boykin, IDL Charles Omenihu, WR Andy Isabella, OLB Ben Banogu
Round Four (122nd Overall): Justice Hill, RB, Oklahoma State – 5’9”. 198 lbs
Alright, why not get the whole band together folks. Washington, Rudolph, and now Justice Hill. The Steelers have looked at a good deal of backs, but all of them, with the exception of Benny Snell, seems to have sufficient speed and burst, and more importantly, receiving ability if they are in this range.
With a combine visit and Brandon Hunt on duty at his Pro Day, Hill is certainly not out of the question for any pick. His shiftiness and speed is something that the Steelers are clearly missing in their offense currently, and it would be of no shock to anyone for the Steelers to want to add a shiftier, speedy back.
Hill fits that archetype that the Steelers have not dared to touch since Dri Archer, but it seems they might finally be coming out of the rabbit hole in terms of those types of RBs. Despite the obvious interest in a guy like Snell, I will vouch that the Steelers simply believe they need more speed in their backfield over the power that Snell would bring.
Also considered: ILB Emeke Egbule, WR David Sills, ILB Drue Tranquill, ILB Gary Johnson, ILB David Long
Round Five (141st Overall): Emeke Egbule, ILB, Houston – 6’2”, 245 lbs
You guys are sleeping on this one! I rarely see the Egbule to Pittsburgh connection talked about at all, but he fits just about everything the Steelers are looking for in their ILB this year, and at fantastic value. With Colbert at his Pro Day and him running a solid 4.62, Egbule put himself right onto the Steelers’ radar, no doubt.
Egbule’s role in this defense would be an interesting. He is really a 4-3 SAM that would be stuck in a 3-4, but don’t think he can’t play that hybrid role here. Egbule can still take blitzing snaps while being in the middle, and where he really excels, in coverage.
The coverage part is going to absolutely draw the Steelers in big time. They need to replace the L.J. Fort role, which Mark Barron did not fill. Egbule comes in and fixes that hole and can play in sub-package snaps while also coming in every now and then as an OLB as well.
The biggest thing that caught my eye was that Egbule could be flexed out into the slot and still run with guys because of his lateral quickness. It all seems like a match made in heaven to me.
Also considered: ILB David Long, WR Gary Jennings, OLB Jordan Brailford, WR Cody Thompson
Round Six (175th Overall): Diontae Johnson, WR, Toledo – 5’10”, 183 lbs
A kick returner and receiver from Toledo who is a dynamic route runner and can still play outside and inside? Sounds kinda like a bargain deal, and with Darryl Drake at Toledo Pro Day and Johnson having a pre-draft visit with the Steelers, they seem to really like the Toledo product no matter how you slice this one up.
Johnson obviously would not play that much, and he might not have to, but when you can routes as well as he does on film, there is something that is telling me that he might just get onto the field quicker than you would think. This is a late round steal that the Steelers love to pull off, just think of guys like Antonio Brown and Vince Williams, who were sixth rounders and turned into pure gems for the Steelers.
Johnson has the same effect and ability to be that for the Steelers.
Also considered: OLB Malik Reed, WR JonVea Johnson, OLB Malik Carney, IDL Michael Dogbe, WR Jazz Ferguson
Round Six (192nd overall): Ulysees Gilbert III, ILB, Akron – 6’1”, 230 lbs
Brandon Hunt talked extensively to Gilbert at his pro day in Akron and then they brought him in for a pre-draft visit after that all. Gilbert ran a 4.5 40 yard dash at his pro day, so this is probably not a shock that the Steelers are rather interested. With the ILB need not being taken care of early on, double dipping here only really seems appropriate if we are being honest.
Gilbert’s speed will be a draw not only because the unit needs the athleticism, but also because Gilbert has the immediate special teams ability the Steelers love to have in their late rounders. Sure, Gilbert can’t process a key worth his life right now, but that can at least be taught with brushing up on film and football study. This just seems bound to happen.
Also considered: CB Stephen Denmark, ILB Cameron Smith, ILB Cody Barton, ILB TJ Edwards
Round Six (207th Overall): Andrew Van Ginkel, OLB, Wisconsin – 6’4”. 236 lbs
Too. Freakin. Obvious.
Seriously, this is about as slam dunk of a pick as I believe you will get with the Steelers. Van Ginkel was brought in for a pre-draft visit as a later round type of guy. That simply means that the Steelers are incredibly enthralled with you and want you badly. And when you watch Van Ginkel, he fits the Steelers typical OLB.
He has some really nice bend in his game and moves extremely well in space, which in order to be an OLB in Pittsburgh, you better be able to do. This is essentially Anthony Chickillo’s replacement after you would think he would be released after the season. Van Ginkel has a special teams upside, and with his burst and bend combination, even dare I say it, his full potential is likely near a starter level player.
Run this to the podium.
Also considered: WR Anthony Ratliff-Williams, K Matt Gay, OLB Jamal Davis, WR Jazz Ferguson
Round Seven (219th overall): Xavier Ubosi, WR, UAB – 6’3”, 215 lbs
It might be draft day, but who ever said it was too late for you guys to be introduced to a new sleeper. Was there actually interest here? Sure there was! Mark Gorscak was there at UAB Pro Day and seemed to hover around Ubosi all day long. That was his chief target while he was out there and I do not blame him.
Ubosi was invited to the Shrine Game and is a deep speed burner with legitimate 4.4 speed and a guy who just go up and pluck the ball out of the air. Double dipping late of WR is not a bad thing, either since the Steelers actually do need size and some speed to complement that as well. Ubosi takes care of both of those things, and while he is a rawer route runner, He has upside and should make the roster with special teams upside.
Also considered: OLB Immanuel Turner, ILB Darius Harris, TE Charles Jones II
May as well give you guys some of the names I absolutely expect here folks:
Pittsburgh RB Darrin Hall
Pittsburgh ILB James Folston
Murray State ILB Quincy Williams (Quinnen’s brother)
LSU IOL Garrett Brumfield
Duquesne WR Nehari Crawford
Utah K Matt Gay
West Virginia S Dravon Askew-Henry
Wagner RB Ryan Fulse
Louisiana Tech OLB Immanuel Turner
Western Kentucky TE Mik’Quan Deane
Utah State S Jontrell Rocquemore