NFL Draft

Mead: Steelers’ 2021 Mock Draft (Version 1.0)

It’s just another mock draft Monday (Woah, woah). Shout out to The Bangles. That’s a band from the 80’s for you youngsters. These mock drafts are fun to do and I hope you enjoy them too.

I’m going to do this one a little differently.  I’m going to lay down some guidelines that I’m going to use for this mock draft.  We are still over 10 weeks out from the draft and a lot is going to change so this will not be a guess at the final outcome.

First guideline is to be different.  We have lot of smart guys on our site doing mock drafts so I’m going to try and mix it up a bit.  So far we have a defensive back, running back and tackle in the first round from previous mocks. So you are forewarned the first round pick will not be from those positions.

Second guideline is as you’ll see below I will take a quick look at each position and make some hypothetical roster decisions to determine where the needs could be.

Last guideline is I am going to only look at one position group for each draft spot. This will focus on where there might be positional value by where the players are generally ranked.  I will give you my pick and two other names that could fill that position or role that could be drafted around the same time.

Positional Assumptions for This Mock

Quarterback – Ben Roethlisberger plays in 2021 eliminating a pressing need. Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins round out the group and they will add a camp arm at some point. Unless someone they really like is available in the late teens then they’ll have to go get him.

Need – None

Running Back –James Conner is likely going to sign elsewhere. Do the Steelers think Snell can be the starter? At this point he better be able, there isn’t much around him.

Need – RB2

Wide Receiver – JuJu Smith-Schuster is going to get paid by someone. I think the Steelers hope they can work it out but for this exercise, he has moved on. Ray-Ray McCloud is a restricted free agent (RFA) and we will say he comes back.

Need – Slot WR1

Tight End – They Steelers have their receiving tight end in Eric Ebron, what they need is someone who can play inline and block for the run game.

Need – TE2

Offensive line – Maurkice Pouncey is retired and J.C. Hassenauer is an exclusive rights free agent (ERFA) and will likely be brought back. The starting guards look set but there isn’t anyone behind them. Alejandro Villanueva and Matt Feiler are likely headed out as well.  Chukwuma Okorafor will be one of the tackles and Zach Banner is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) but sounds like he is coming back. Let’s say the team thinks Okorafor will be the left tackle and Banner will be the right.

Needs – OC1, OT3, OG3

Defensive line – The biggest question here is with UFA’s Tyson Alualu and Chris Wormley. Both were relatively inexpensive last year so they sign both and keep the defensive line intact.

Needs – None

Outside Linebackers – The starters are set and Ola Adeniyi is a RFA. Cassius Marsh and Jayrone Elliott are both UFA’s and could be brought back if they don’t add anyone in the draft.

Needs – OLB3

Inside Linebackers – Vince Williams and Devin Bush are under contract and Robert Spillane is a RFA. It’s a possibility Williams gets cut if they Steelers need to get under the cap and Spillane could get an offer the Steelers don’t want to match.  Let’s assume Williams is cut and they Steelers are looking to upgrade next to Bush.

Needs – LB2

Safeties – This is another position were the starters are set but the cupboards is empty. Jordan Dangerfield and Sean Davis are UFA’s. Antoine Brooks is there but has limited experience.

Needs –S3

Cornerbacks – The Steelers have two important UFA’s here in Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton. Both should get offers during free agency.  Hilton will probably draw the most attention and the bigger pay day.  For this, Hilton moves on and Sutton re-signs.

Needs – NB1

Specialists – Punter Jordan Berry is a UFA and they have Corliss Waitman is on the roster.  Will it be him or do they need to find a new punter.

Needs – P1

Overall Needs

Starters – OC1, NB1, Slot WR1

Depth – RB2, TE2, LB2, OT3, OLB3, S3, OG3, P1

As always, let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Round One (24th Overall): Nick Bolton LB Missouri  6’0” 232

The first round could see five quarterbacks, 5+ wide receivers and 5+ tackles go off the board before the Steelers pick. This could put some very good linebackers at the back of the first round.  Bolton could play the Buck linebacker for the Steelers.

He has the physicality to replace Williams and excels in Zone coverage with 12 pass break ups over the past two seasons. This quote from The Draft Network sums him up, “Teams who implement a lot of green-dog blitzes and pressure schemes up the middle will love the leverage, twitch, and hitting power that Bolton brings to the football field.” Sounds like a Steelers linebacker

Others Considered: LB Micah Parsons, Penn State; LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa

Round Two (55th Overall): Creed Humphrey OC Oklahoma  6’5” 312

The Steelers have a huge need in the middle and there are a couple players who could go early in this draft.  Per our report, Humphrey uses his hands very well and has good anchor.  He didn’t allow a sack in his last two seasons (1,200 pass plays) and has a wealth of starting experience in a pass heavy football conference.

He isn’t the most mobile center but most of those at the top of the draft aren’t either.  Arm length is below average but he has handled himself well. He’s one of those players with a wrestling background, his going back to age 4, and it doesn’t hurt that he was a center for a Heisman winner either.

Others Considered: OC Landon Dickerson, Alabama; OC Josh Meyers, Ohio State

Round Three (88th Overall): Joshuah Bledsoe S Missouri  5’11” 201

This is a “two birds with one stone” pick in a sense.  Bledsoe is listed as a safety but played a ton in the slot as the nickel back.  He can be used on the deep end aligned as a safety or while rotating back from a shallow alignment.  He can handle TE’s and big slot WR’s with ease in Man coverage and held his own against guys like Devonta Smith, Jalen Waddle, Kadarius Toney and Kyle Pitts.

He’s a physical defender who makes receivers work to get open and attacks the ball in the air. Nickel corner is a need and safety depth is a need in case one of the starters goes down.

Others Considered: S Richie Grant, Central Florida; S Hamsah Nasirildeen, Florida State

Round Four (119th Overall): Chuba Hubbard RB Oklahoma State  6’0” 207

There was a lot wrong with the run game last year but when there were holes the running backs struggled to find them.  That is a strong suit for Hubbard.  He has a very good understanding of the run game and knows where the blocks are coming from.  This allows him to use his vision and patience to let them develop and then hit them with his good acceleration.

He has plenty of speed to make long runs and is comfortable as a receiver adjusting the ball well.  Like the run game he uses his blocks well in space to maximize yardage after the catch. He’s not going to bowl defenders over but he will find the right running lanes consistently.

Others Considered: RB Jermar Jefferson, Oregon State; RB Kylin Hill, Mississippi State

Round Four (Comp Pick): Dazz Newsome WR North Carolina  5’11” 190

A wide receiver might not be the biggest need here but the Steelers have selected a WR between rounds two and four in 7 of the last 8 years.  In my report I said that Newsome gave me Antonio Brown vibes (in a good way).  He a good route runner and demonstrates a knack for switching up his release to keep defenders thinking.  He can create separation and constantly works to get open.

Another trait that aligns him with the Steelers is his willingness to block.  You’ll see him trying to wave the runner his way so he can block for them. He can help fill the void in the slot.

Others Considered: WR Whop Philyor, Indiana; WR Shi Smith North Carolina State

Round Six (189th Overall): D’Ante Smith OT East Carolina  6’5” 294

Smith opted out of the 2020 to train for the NFL draft and his work was evident immediately. The weigh in at the Senior Bowl showed he added 20 pound of bulk to his frame and still has room to add more. He aligned as the left tackle and has very good length (35.25 inch arms).

He had 25 consecutive starts in his career and shows good lateral mobility in the pass game. He plays with a wide base and low hips and slides well and stays square to the defender. He has improved his core strength and uses his length well in pass pro and reaching blocks on the second level.  He plays with a mean streak too. He still work to do but could be a swing tackle in year one and eventual starter.

Others Considered: OT Adrian Ealy, Oklahoma; OT Josh Ball, Marshall

Round Seven (210th Overall): Jonathon Cooper EDGE Ohio State  6’3” 254

Depending on where you look this may be a little late for Cooper but I’ll put him here for now. He is a pass rusher by trade with a good first step, uses his hands well and a solid pass rush plan.  He uses speed and power rushes and has improved his counter moves to the inside.

He has a good motor and chases the ball well with the strength to set the edge vs the run. He played in an even front in college but has the size and demeanor to play the OLB spot. He was not used often to drop in coverage but how he can be used there can be determined in the draft process.

Others Considered: EDGE Patrick Johnson, Tulane; EDGE Joshua Kaindoh, Florida State

Round Seven (219th Overall): Luke Farrell TE Ohio State  6’6” 258

Yes, I would like a unicorn tight end that can block well, run fast and catch everything but unfortunately I don’t think there is one in this draft. Or many drafts for that matter. So what the Steelers need right now is a blocking tight.

He embraced the blocking role and let other tight ends be in the limelight at Ohio State. He has modest receiving stats for his career with 34 receptions for 380 yards and 4 touchdowns and led tight ends in receptions as a sophomore. His value really comes as an inline blocker especially in the run game which will be vital in getting the running game going next year.

Others Considered: TE Dylan Soehner Iowa State; TE Shaun Beyer, Iowa

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