Back at it for my third mock draft of the season. If you missed the first two, you can check them out here and here. With us much closer to the draft, past free agency, and pre-draft visits in full swing, these mocks start to really mold into what I think the Pittsburgh Steelers will do and less so what I wish they’d do. It makes it a little surprising, maybe not everyone’s favorite, but as firmly based in history and reality as possible.
As always, let me know your thoughts in the comments below. I’m sure you have many.
Round One (20th Overall): Mack Wilson/ILB Alabama- 6’1/1 240
Analysis: You might not love the pick. I might not love it either. We’re looking at it from what the Steelers might do. The list of underclassmen at positions of need that the decision-makers have attended their Pro Day is a pretty short one, as I wrote about back on Monday. Just in the way the team flipped to Artie Burns after narrowly missing out on William Jackson, they do similar here with Wilson if Devin Bush is off the board. And for this exercise, for now, I’m assuming he is.
While Wilson’s 40 time isn’t jaw-dropping like the two Devin’s, that doesn’t seem to bother the Steelers. They were going to take Rashaan Evans last year, who didn’t run a 40 in the pre-draft process and turned in a 4.63 at his junior Pro Day. Lawrence Timmons ran a 4.7 many moons ago. So Wilson running about the same time with a couple extra pounds probably isn’t going to deter them, for better or worse. His tape doesn’t wow the way the top two do but it’s certainly not bad either. Dude can make plays against the run and pass.
Kevin Colbert knows he needs to get an inside linebacker and it’s felt like his Pro Day circuit has made that a personal mission. There are options if they don’t take one in the first round but you never know how the board is going to work out.
Others Considered: OLB Clelin Ferrell, CB Greedy Williams, S Deionte Thompson
Round Two (52nd Overall): Juan Thornhill/S Virginia – 6’0/2 205
Analysis: Lot of options for the dimebacker role here. You’ve got Maryland’s Darnell Savage Jr, who I almost put here, Washington’s Taylor Rapp, and Iowa’s Amani Hooker are just some of the names to throw out. But there’s Thornhill too, who I admit could go higher, but if he falls, the Steelers should be all over him. Colbert made things very clear and it’s obvious even if he didn’t. This defense needs playmakers. Few picked off as many passes as Thornhill, 13 in his Cav career, including six as a senior. The Steelers’ secondary intercepted that many all of last year.
He then went on to blow up the Combine with ridiculous numbers across the board (4.42 40, 44 inch vert, 11’9″ broad) and could play safety, dime, or even corner. Reminds me of Sean Davis’ profile coming out. Three-year starter, tremendous athlete, productive, at a position of need. Let me turn in the card right now.
Others Considered: Dime/S Darnell Savage Jr, DE Jerry Tillery, OLB Chase Winovich
Round Three (66th Overall): Miles Boykin/WR Notre Dame – 6’3/6 220
Analysis: Maybe a little later for receiver but this is essentially a late second round pick. Boykin is that classic, Steelers’ height/weight/speed type who played the X in school and can make dynamic plays downfield. He’s another player reportedly coming in for a pre-draft visit and Colbert attended his Pro Day. Perhaps still some questions they want answered, which makes sense because he has just one year of production and surprisingly declared a year early – lot of catching up to do on him – but the interest isn’t subtle.
He may not make an immediate impact, though I see his value in 4 WR sets, but that’s why Donte Moncrief was signed as the insurance policy. By mid-season, Boykin could take over.
Others Considered: ILB Germaine Pratt, CB David Long, OLB Christian Miller
Round Three (84th Overall): Foster Moreau/TE LSU – 6’4/1 253
Analysis: I go through a ton of versions of my mock before each posting because I’m as indecisive a person as you’re going to find. You know Chidi from The Good Place? They based him on me. But two picks that remained consistent in all my scribbling were Boykin and Moreau.
After his strong Combine showing, it’s hard to see him falling out of Day Two, even in as deep a tight end class as we’ve seen in years. Mike Tomlin openly admitted the position still needs upgraded after Jesse James went west to Detroit. At worst, Moreau will open the year as the #3 tight end. His blocking ability and playing in LSU’s more pro style offense is going to help the difficult transition most tight ends face.
Others Considered: TE Jace Sternberger, , WR Emmanuel Hall, LB Gary Johnson
Round Four (123rd Overall): Justice Hill/RB Oklahoma State – 5’9/5 198
Analysis: Here’s the one semi-surprise of the relatively early rounds. Always get that one guy. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chukwuma Okorafor, a guy off the radar the team pulls the trigger on. Hill will slide in as the team’s #3 running back but I see him as a dynamic “space” guy. He didn’t catch a ton of balls in school but I think that was more product of scheme than any deficiencies in his game.
While Hill is shorter and lighter than the back the Steelers typically go for, it’s time to mix things up. You don’t need three 5’10, 225 pound backs on your roster. Get a totally different type of back, a true gamebreaker with wheels, who can actually have a role in year one. This isn’t Dri Archer or Chris Rainey. Hill has 20 pounds on those guys and can run inside.
When you’re replacing a Hall of Fame talent like Antonio Brown, it can’t be done with one guy. And doesn’t have to be done with one position either. With less of a vertical threat in their offense, they can supplement it with the quick game and getting the ball to players in space, like HIll.
Others Considered: Ulysees Gilbert III, S Mike Edwards, CB Isaiah Johnson
Round Five (142nd Overall): Renell Wren/DE Arizona State – 6’4/7 318
Analysis: Had trouble finding a spot for a defensive linemen in my other mocks but Wren slides in here. Certainly looks like a future Steelers’ defensive end with his size and almost 34 inch arms. Production isn’t there and a legitimate concern, just 14.5 career tackles for loss and three sacks, but being a plugger and taking on blocks can hurt his stat sheet. We’re talking about a fifth rounder here, too. Like the way he tested, nearly running in the 4.9’s at his weight and he might be able to play some nose tackle too.
Defensive line is that sneaky “need” position that could loom bigger a year from now, the way tackle did last year. Cam Heyward is about to turn 30 while Tyson Alualu will be 32 about a week later. At some point, you’ll have to take another look at how you manage their snap counts. Especially starting next year.
Others Considered: DE Armon Watts, NT Daylon Mack, RB Mike Weber
Round Six (176th Overall): Kris Boyd/CB Texas – 5’11/4 211
Analysis: Took awhile to address corner but there are simply more pressing needs than it after the Steven Nelson signing and this class isn’t as strong as others. Boyd could be taken a round higher so I’m being a little hopeful here. The Steelers are looking for corners with size and definitely speed to hang in their now man-to-man heavy scheme. Boyd has both, running a 4.45 at the Combine. An overall athlete, he played running back, receiver, and corner in high school while also staring in track.
While he didn’t pick off many passes at Texas, he made plenty of plays on the football, basically averaging a breakup per game after cracking the starting lineup.
Steelers do like their football bloodlines too. Boyd’s cousin is longtime NFL corner Bobby Taylor and he’s related to ex-Pittsburgh cornerback Curtis Brown. High upside pick.
Others Considered: CB Xavier Crawford, ILB Tyrel Dodson, Beau Benzschawel,
Round Six (194th Overall): Matt Gay/K Utah – 6’0 232
Analysis: Had a kicker, a different one, in my last mock and I like the odds they select a kicker, especially if they were to use all ten picks (they probably won’t). Gay has one of the strongest legs in this year’s class and went 3/5 from 50+ last year, his only two misses from 54 and 56 (he made a 55 yarder versus Oregon). He made a 57 yarder in the Utes’ spring game before 2018, too.
I like that he’s kicked in some cold/bad weather games too. Important for the transition to December football in Pittsburgh. Cool backstory, too. A soccer player up until 2016 before giving football a shot, having only played one year in high school. The next year, he won the award for college football’s top kicker.
So yeah, I’d say that was a good decision.
Others Considered: C Alec Eberle, P Mitch Wishnowsky, FS Evan Worthington
Round Six (209th Overall): Mathieu Betts/OLB Laval (Canada) – 6’2/7 258
Analysis: Yup, going north of the border for the final of their three 6th round picks. Betts was snubbed by the Combine but the fact he played – and played well – at the East/West Shrine Game helps put him on the Steelers’ radar. The fact they sent a scout to his Pro Day workout, just one of five teams to do so, speaks to a least a fairly serious level of interest. Like his size and length (33 inch arms), shining with a 6.77 three cone, a critical number for pass rushers.
It’s a big projection obviously given the level of competition but it’d be nice to add an edge rusher behind Ola Adeniyi and Anthony Chickillo. Chick might not be here next year and Adeniyi is still pretty unknown.
Others Considered: NT Greg Gaines, S Donovan Wilson, TE Zach Gentry
Round Seven (221st Overall): Demetrius Knox/OG Ohio State – 6’4 312
Analysis: Not the most exciting pick to round things out but it’s prudent to always add competition along the offensive line. Isn’t because there’s a need but to keep that room as strong as possible. Push everyone, make no one feel safe. That’s partially what has made this team so good, always investing in the line.
Buckeye who started only 20 games but played well last year. Steelers met with him during his Pro Day. If he’s not really 6’4 (foot injury held him out of the process, don’t have measurements), then I’m definitely looking for him to be a center/guard swing player.
Others Considered: RB Qadree Ollison, ILB Otaro Alaka, ILB Drew Lewis