Tis the season to write mock drafts. After all, the 2020 NFL Draft is only a few weeks away now, at this point, and the reality is that, for most of us, we are spending nearly all of our time indoors, at home. So we might as well be writing and reading them, right? Not a lot else to do.
The most recent mock draft for the Pittsburgh Steelers is the third version for Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who has an interesting first selection for the team that I’m sure will draw out some discussion, particularly concerning the position. Note, you can read the rest of his mock draft by clicking through the link.
With the team’s first pick, selection 49 overall in the second round, Fittipaldo has the Steelers drafting running back Jonathan Taylor out of Wisconsin. Should the team do this, it would be the fourth time in as many seasons that they have drafted a running back, and it would be the first time since 2013 when they took Le’Veon Bell that they would use a selection as high as the second round on one. He writes:
Steelers could go for a receiver or offensive tackle here, but this is a bet they are making a renewed commitment to the running game. Team president Art Rooney II issued the challenge to the coaching staff after the season. It’s also quite possible Taylor or another running back could represent the best value in this portion of the draft. Running backs have been pushed down draft boards on recent years. Good ones, starters, have been had in the second round and later. And for the Steelers, who are in position to select the best player available at any of the three aforementioned positions, grabbing a back could make the most football sense. Taylor was a productive and durable player at Wisconsin. He also ran a 4.39 at the combine. Taylor can assume the feature-back role at some point during his rookie season while Conner can become an effective third-down back, a role that would suit him and the Steelers well. Then in 2021, Taylor can become an every-down feature back, something the Steelers have been missing since the days of Le’Veon Bell.
While Taylor would certainly merit the selection based on his talent, some have wondered if it makes sense for the Steelers to draft a running back that high. Those in favor of it would surely be within the group that does not see James Conner being in Pittsburgh in 2021.
Conner is the highest-drafted running back the Steelers have had since Bell as a third-round compensatory selection in 2017. He was a Pro Bowl player at the position in 2018, despite missing three games due to injury, but injuries have proven to be a recurring theme for him.
In addition to the Pittsburgh alum, the team also has third-year Jaylen Samuels, second-year Benny Snell and Kerrith Whyte, and veteran Trey Edmunds returning from last season’s roster. They also added fullback Derek Watt in free agency. It goes without saying that at least one or more of these players would not make the team in 2020 if the Steelers do draft a running back as high as the second round.