Devin Bush. Clelin Ferrell. One of the top corners. By now, you’ve heard all the names most commonly associated with the Pittsburgh Steelers for pick #20. But if there’s any team capable of pulling a Thursday Surprise, it’s Kevin Colbert and company. When it comes to them, throw out every big board you’ve read from media types and bloggers alike. For better or worse, they march to their own beat. Artie Burns in 2016. Terrell Edmunds last year.
What if the same happens this week? If those names mentioned above aren’t the guy, who is? In no order, here are five sleepers. They all fit the “criteria” of a Steelers’ first rounder but aren’t mentioned largely for the fact they aren’t viewed as first round talent. Of course, that hasn’t stopped this team before.
1. Darnell Savage/S Maryland – Savage might feel like a reach but he has all the qualities that led to the team selecting Edmunds last year. He should be viewed as much less of a reach and is receiving first round buzz heading into draft week. Pittsburgh loves their safeties to be SPARQY. Savage ran a 4.36 40, 39.5 inch vert, and 10’6″ broad at the Combine, turning in one of the most impressive workouts. That dime spot might be the one that could play the most of any position too, which sure doesn’t damage the argument.
2. Jerry Tillery/DE Notre Dame – This one might be the most “out there” simply for a lack of positional need but Tillery does check all the boxes commonly found with Steelers’ first round picks. Underclassmen. Power 5. Productive. Kevin Colbert at his Pro Day. A torn labrum hurt his draft stock but that’s how the team ended up with Stephon Tuitt in 2014, him a hernia injury that limited him his final year and throughout the pre-draft process.
Tillery would make a lot more sense at #52 than #20 but if the board breaks the wrong way with Bush, the corners, and Ferrell off the board, Tillery could easily have the highest grade of who they have left. It would be nice to have that high level #3 defensive end since Cam Heyward is 30 while Tuitt has struggled to play an entire season.
3/4.Justin Layne & Julian Love/CB Michigan State & Notre Dame – Lumping these two together because it’s for similar reasons. Sure, we probably don’t view Layne and Love as first round corners but that doesn’t matter. All that matters is the Steelers’ board.
There’s obvious interest in Layne. Colbert and Teryl Austin at his Pro Day and then brought in for a pre-draft visit. Great ball skills with upside, just a couple years removed from playing receiver. Love is more experienced. Neither will wow you athletically but in a cornerback class that’s all over the place, it’s possible they like those guys more than some of the other top prospects.
5. Chase Winovich/OLB Michigan – Can’t ignore Winovich being in contention for #20, even if he makes a lot more sense a round later. He’s the only player we know had a Pro Day dinner with the team. Surely there are many others but we know how big a key that is in predicting their first rounder. Local product, as strong a motor as you’re going to find, who is high character. There are a ton of similarities to T.J.Watt here. He’d be the #3 OLB in 2019 and potentially take over the ROLB spot in 2020 with Bud Dupree’s contract expiring.