Back for my fourth mock draft of the pre-draft process. I’ll have just a final one after this, posting on or right before draft day. With the draft visitors mostly all known, we’re really able to refine these mocks into what I think the Pittsburgh Steelers will do based on their interest and draft history. Remember, this isn’t necessarily what I would do but what I think are the most realistic picks.
Round One (20th Overall): Devin Bush/ILB Michigan – 5’11 234
Analysis: You guys know I don’t love the chances of Bush falling to #20 but we also know how much the team loves Devin Bush. Maybe this requires a trade up but if he slips, Pittsburgh is going to be all over him. The three-down linebacker they’ve been searching for the past two years and with how much of a drop off there is after him, you can’t wait to address the position if he’s here.
Others Considered: CB Byron Murphy, OLB Clelin Ferrell, WR N’Keal Harry, DE Jerry Tillery
Round Two (52nd Overall): Darnell Savage Jr./S Maryland – 5’10/6 198
Analysis: Almost put Savage here in my last mock draft. This time, it makes too much sense. He’s a versatile, athletic chess piece, similar to Sean Davis, brought in for a pre-draft visit by the team. The Steelers’ second round picks almost always come in for a visit or having Tomlin/Colbert at their Pro Day so this checks that box. The need and fit is obvious, functioning as a dime defender in sub-packages. He can takeaway the football too; eight career interceptions, four of them coming last season.
Others Considered: S Taylor Rapp, CB Justin Layne, DE/OLB Charles Omenihu. OLB Chase Winovich
Round Three (66th Overall): Miles Boykin/WR Notre Dame – 6’3/6 220
Analysis: Sticking with Boykin for now, though it’s a close call between him and West Virginia’s David Sills. But Boykin has more upside and to me, the more dynamic player, and that’s often the type of receiver they’ve gone after over the years. The organization has done plenty of homework on him, attending his Pro Day and then bringing him in for a pre-draft visit. Could take over the “X” spot by mid-season.
Others Considered: ILB Gary Johnson, CB Sean Bunting, RB Miles Sanders
Round Three (83rd Overall): Isaiah Johnson/CB Houston – 6’2/1 208
Analysis: Pittsburgh has shown more than enough interest in cornerbacks to suggest they’re likely to take one before Day Two is over. Not going with someone who was brought in, you can’t have too many of those guys on your list, though Sean Bunting is a very interesting name. Instead, settling on Johnson. Colbert attended his Pro Day and he has the look of the new-age corner. Big and fast. Has the receiver background that attracted them to Brian Allen with four interceptions over the last two years.
Third round picks don’t need to play right away like the top two selections do so he can sit and hone his craft for a year. If, hypothetically, a long-term deal isn’t worked out with Joe Haden, or should his play slip, you have his replacement ready for 2020.
Choosing Johnson also fills the non Power 5 “requirement” for mocks. They’ve selected at least one of those in the last ten draft classes.
Others Considered: ILB David Long Jr, DE Joe Jackson, TE Foster Moreau
Round Four (122nd Overall): Trevon Wesco/TE West Virginia – 6’3/4 267
Analysis: Wesco is a relatively new name to discuss but he’s the classic big-bodied blocker with the old school toughness a team like Pittsburgh still holds in high regard. Wesco did average more than 14 yards per catch last year, too. His ceiling may be limited but I think from Day One, even for a rookie, he can function as the #2 tight end. Xavier Grimble can’t be without competition for that spot, at the very least.
Others Considered: RB Travis Homer, WR David Sills, OLB Christian Miller
Round Five (141st Overall): Benny Snell/RB Kentucky – 5’10/3 224
Analysis: Snell wasn’t one of the several backs to come in for a pre-draft visit but I feel like this dude’s got a great shot to become a Steeler for the reasons I expounded upon earlier today.
They value production and size for the position. Snell possesses both those traits. Remember, Randy Fichtner raved about Jaylen Samuels ability to find the end zone in college and virtually all the backs they’ve drafted found the end zone at least 30 times in their career (Samuels 47, Dwyer 36, Bell 34, Conner 34). Snell bests them all with 48 trips to the end zone.
He’s not fast or particularly explosive, that hasn’t stopped Pittsburgh before, but a tough runner, high character dude who turned around a bad Kentucky program. They hadn’t had a winning season the six years before Snell arrived. They did just that all three seasons he was a Wildcat, including their first ten win season last year since 1977.
Snell has football bloodlines, too. Lot of running back in this family. His dad was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens and played in NFL Europe while his great uncle was a three-time Pro Bowler for the Jets and key piece in their upset win of the Baltimore Colts in 1968.
Others Considered: TE Alize Mack, DE Renell Wren, ILB Ben Burr-Kirven
Round Six (175th Overall): Jordan Brailford/OLB Oklahoma State – 6’2/5 252
Analysis: I admit Brailford falling this far isn’t super likely though some scouting services have him around this area. He was brought in for a pre-draft visit and was the MVP of the Shrine Game. Strong 2018 with ten sacks who left early and still has room to grow. He’ll compete with Ola Adeniyi and Anthony Chickillo for playing time and likely spends this year playing special teams, something Adeniyi won’t really offer for the club.
Others Considered: RB Jordan Scarlett, CB Michael Jackson, S Mike Edwards
Round Six (192nd Overall): Matt Gay/K Utah – 6’0 232
Analysis: Sticking with a kicker and the same from my previous mock. If the Steelers are serious about adding competition here, and it sure sounds like they are, it’s worth drafting one and not waiting for the UDFA leftovers. Considering this is a GM and head coach that’s trade up for a punter and taken a long snapper in this round, choosing a kicker shouldn’t be a shock. Gay has a powerful leg with experience kicking in poor weather.
Others Considered: WR Diontae Johnson, C Lamont Gaillard, CB Mark Fields
Round Six (207th Overall): Alex Bars/OL Notre Dame – 6’5/7 312
Analysis: Selecting an offensive linemen makes a lot of sense. Plenty of candidates to choose from, pick any Wisconsin Badger or Ohio State Buckeye and you’ll have a good case, but I landed on Bars. That high upside, stash-for-a-year player. He would’ve gone much higher if not for a broken ankle early in 2018 but is reportedly ahead of schedule. While he’s a little tall to play the interior, he has extensive experience at both guard spots and tackle. Got stellar coaching from Harry Hiestand before he took a job with the Bears in 2018. Bars is the type of guy you want to draft, not try to wrangle away from 31 other teams in free agency when odds are, he’ll go to a place with less depth and talent.
Others Considered: OLB Mathieu Betts, OL Michael Deiter, DB Ugo Amadi
Round Seven (219th Overall): Armon Watts/DE Arkansas – 6’4/5 300
Analysis: Tough decision here to round out the draft. Wanted to go defensive line higher but the interest from the team hasn’t been there, nor is there a good enough fit to justify it. Watts impressed me in his one season starting for the Razorbacks with the prototypical size you look for in a Steelers’ defensive linemen. He can rush the passer and may make an impact as rotational depth in one to two years.
Others Considered: RB Kerrith Whyte Jr, DE Chris Slayton, OG Dawson Knox