With an embarrassing 48-37 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Super Wild Card Weekend now in the rearview mirror for the Pittsburgh Steelers, all the attention turns to roster moves that could – and should – occur in the coming months.
For many though, the attention turns to the 2021 NFL Draft, scheduled for April 29-May 1.
Following the loss to the Browns Sunday night, the Steelers currently hold the No. 24 overall pick. Monday morning, Pro Football Focus’s Anthony Treash released his first mock draft.
In Treash’s mock, he has the Pittsburgh Steelers addressing a glaring hole, adding versatile offensive lineman Rashawn Slater out of Northwestern.
Slater, who opted out of the 2020 season, was PFF’s highest graded left tackle in 2019, notably shutting down likely NFL Defensive Player of the Year Chase Young in his final year at Ohio State.
Standing 6-foot-3 and weighing 314 pounds, Slater is a bit undersized for a left tackle, but he has great tape. He currently sits No. 36 overall on PFF’s Big Board and could kick inside to guard and line up at center in the NFL.
Here’s what Treash had to say about the Slater selection for the Steelers:
“Slater can play anywhere along the offensive line at the next level, including right tackle — where current Steelers tackle Chukwuma Okorafor has struggled.
The Northwestern lineman opted out of the 2020 season, but he put up an elite 90.0 PFF grade at left tackle in 2019. He allowed only five pressures on the year while posting an 89.1 run-blocking grade.”
With guys like Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler likely walking in free agency, and Maurkice Pouncey’s status up in the air in regards to retirement, the Steelers have a number of holes across the board on the offensive line heading into free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.
Slater’s projected selection to Pittsburgh makes a ton of sense. I think he could stick at left tackle and play at a high level due to his athleticism and overall strength, but if the Steelers see him as a center, I could see him thriving there too.
He’s a great athlete who is as smart as they come along the offensive line in this draft class.
An offensive line moving forward built around guys like Slater and Kevin Dotson is a good start for a rebuild up front.
It’s worth noting the Steelers haven’t addressed offensive line in the first round since 2012, when they drafted future All-Pro David DeCastro 24th overall out of Stanford.
Since 2012, the Steelers have drafted an offensive lineman in the top three rounds just once, grabbing Chukwuma Okorafor in 2018 at 92 overall.
Around the rest of the AFC North in Treash’s mock draft, he has the Cincinnati Bengals taking Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell at fifth overall, giving Joe Burrow desperately-needed protection.
In Cleveland, Treash has the Browns addressing linebacker, taking standout Notre Dame hybrid linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah at 26 overall, and gives the Baltimore Ravens Ole Miss wide receiver Elijah Moore, who is very similar to guys like Marquise Brown and Devin Duvernay already on the roster.