PFF 2021 Mock Draft: Steelers Select Tulsa LB Zaven Collins 24th Overall

Who doesn’t love a good mock draft, am I right? Some of us even love bad ones, if we’re being honest. Earlier this week, Pro Football Focus put up its third different mock draft of the young offseason, this one coming from Michael Renner, and once again, there is a different name going to the Steelers.

Their first draft actually had Pittsburgh taking a cornerback, Asante Samuel, Jr., those this draft was specifically intended to take the best player available, and not necessarily draft for need and based on the team’s proclivities.

That was followed up by a second mock draft that addressed a more traditional need for the Steelers. With Alejandro Villanueva set to hit free agency and the book ends of the offensive line generally unsettled, they projected the big man, Teven Jenkins, to join his former Oklahoma State teammates in Pittsburgh, those being Mason Rudolph and James Washington.

This latest mock draft once again presents a familiar naming dropping into Pittsburgh, with Renner projecting linebacker Zaven Collins to be the 24th-overall pick out of Tulsa, going back to the same well two years after drafting the position with Devin Bush with the 10th pick. He writes:

Collins is made to play in any blitz-heavy defense, and few are willing to send the house as often as the Steelers. The 6-foot-4, 260-pound linebacker can also shut down passing lanes in zone coverage, as he picked off four passes in 2020.

Bush’s torn ACL in the first half of the last season obviously exposed some depth issues that the Steelers had at the position. Vince Williams is also on the wrong side of 30 and heading into the final year of his contract, while there isn’t a clear amount of quality depth that should be construed as ‘starters in waiting’.

Of course, after eight straight years of using their first-round pick on a defensive player (including trading their 2020 first-round pick in 2019 in exchange for All-Pro free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick), many are expecting the Steelers to finally go back to the offense.

It used to be that they would alternate from year to year between the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, though I’m sure that was mostly by coincidence. From Lawrence Timmons to Rashard Mendenhall to Ziggy Hood to Maurkice Pouncey to Cameron Heyward to David DeCastro, the defensive trend began in 2013 with Jarvis Jones.

Collins would be the sixth linebacker the Steelers drafted in the first round since that time, if indeed they do draft him, with Ryan Shazier taken in 2014, Bud Dupree in 2015, T.J. Watt in 2017, and Bush in 2019. Pittsburgh does love their linebackers. Except for Jarvis Jones.

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