NFL Draft

Carney: Steelers Pre-Free Agency Mock Draft (Version 2.0)

Though the Pittsburgh Steelers — to an extent — have addressed a glaring hole along the offensive line with the signing of BJ Finney, there still remains plenty of holes on the roster ahead of the start of free agency on Wednesday, March 17, in which the Steelers are expected to lose a ton of players on the open market.

With very little cap space available, the Steelers will undoubtedly have to turn to the 2021 NFL Draft to try and find some starters and key role players.

Knowing that, I took a shot on my second version of a mock draft for the Steelers ahead of the start of free agency.

There will be some surprise picks, ones that many readers likely won’t agree with. Take a look at the mock below and leave your thoughts.

Round One (24th Overall): Jackson Carman, OL, Clemson, 6’5”, 335 Lbs

Analysis: For what it’s worth, I’m just trying to project here. This isn’t what I’d do; this is what I think the Steelers will do.

With Mike Tomlin, Kevin Colbert and Matt Canada at Clemson’s Pro Day recently, there’s a great chance the Steelers’ first rounder is a Tiger. For my version, I’m going with Jackson Carman.

Carman is a massive human that is just 21 years old and is an underclassman, which is what the Steelers love. Though this is a bit higher than I have him graded, I think the Steelers see the power, athleticism and overall pedigree as a clear building block along the offensive line next to Kevin Dotson.

Carman should be able to come into the NFL and start right away. He has all the physical tools you could possibly want.

Previous mock selection: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

Others considered: Tevin Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State; Travis Etienne, RB Clemson; Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

Round Two (56th Overall): Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina, 5’10”, 220 Lbs

Analysis: The Steelers desperately need to fix their running game and want to get back to a power rushing attack.

They should look no further than North Carolina’s Javonte Williams, a guy I compared favorably to Cleveland’s Nick Chubb. He’s an absolute bowling ball that forces a ton of missed tackles.

I like Williams quite a bit in this loaded running backs class. He has relatively light wear and tear, forces misses at a high rate, is a willing pass blocker and runs angry. He can run out of single back from under center or out of the gun, and could see more of a workload as a pass catcher at the next level.

I have him in the discussion for RB1 in this class, so getting him at 55 overall would be quite the bargain for Colbert and the Steelers.

Previous mock selection: Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame

Others considered: Creed Humphrey, iOL, Oklahoma; Landon Dickerson, iOL, Alabama; Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State

Round Three (87th Overall): Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State, 5’11”, 193 Lbs

Analysis: The Steelers sure do love their Oklahoma State connection. Could they go down the same road again and snag Wallace?

Wallace is such a smooth operator on the outside who has a knack for hitting the big play. He’s not overly physical and doesn’t have home run speed, but he has great burst with the football in his hands and plays so well through contact, similar to one James Washington.

The selection of Wallace would give the Steelers significant depth at receiver with the likely loss of JuJu Smith-Schuster, and could allow Chase Claypool to kick inside to the slot where he thrived in college.

Wallace does have a significant knee injury on his resume, but he bounced back in 2020 showing no ill effects of the injury. Overall, Wallace has great body control, strong hands and showcases great route nuance that should allow him to play as a slot receiver in certain situations. He feels like a Steeler.

Previous mock selection: Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis

Others considered: Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State; Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford; Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami

Round Four (119th Overall): Ambry Thomas, CB, Michigan, 6’0”, 183 Lbs

Analysis: It’s worth noting that Thomas sat out the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, and that Colbert said it would be hard to gauge where a prospect stands in the 2021 NFL Draft having not played last season.

That said, Tomlin and the Steelers have great insight into the Michigan program and would love to grab another Michigan man in Thomas.

Thomas is a sure tackler and thrives in man coverage. He also possesses a ton of speed, which ticks that box for the Steelers. That said, he’s a bit on the smaller side, and it hurts him that he sat out the 2020 season.

I think there’s enough talent and overall experience there for the Steelers to be intrigued by Thomas.

Previous mock selection: Hunter Long, TE, Boston College

Others considered: Daelin Hayes, EDGE, Notre Dame; Seth Williams, WR, Auburn; Kylen Grason, TE, Southern Methodist

Round Four (140th Overall, Comp Pick): Kenny Yeboah, TE, Ole Miss, 6’3”, 247 Lbs

Analysis: While I do think Jesse James returns to Pittsburgh, plugging the hole of blocking tight end with some seam stretching ability, I couldn’t pass up the chance to add a move TE long term for the Steelers, grabbing Ole Miss’ Kenny Yeboah.

Yeboah has good size and a well-proportioned frame. He will stretch the field in a move TE role, but he’s not much of a blocker. Don’t get me wrong, he’s willing to throw his weight around as a blocker, but his technique is poor and he doesn’t create much movement at all.

He’s a weapon though, one that will spread defenses out in Matt Canada’s system.

Previous mock selection: Brady Christensen, OL, BYU

Others considered: Charles Snowden, EDGE, Virginia; Darius Stills, iDL, West Virginia; Richard LeCounte III, S, Georgia

Round Six (226th Overall): Jimmy Morrissey, iOL, Pittsburgh, 6’3”, 305 Lbs

Analysis: This feels a bit late to grab a center following the retirement of Maurkice Pouncey, but I think the Steelers like Finney and JC Hausenauer much more than we might.

With that said, the addition of Morrissey this late is an intriguing one. He turned into one of the better centers in the country after walking onto Pitt four years ago and helped solidify a strong Panthers’ OL the last few years.

The Steelers should have some excellent insight into Morrissey, considering the Panthers and Steelers share the same facility. Though he has the proper size for the position, Morrissey isn’t an overpowering center, instead relying on high football IQ, athleticism, and technique.

He feels like someone who will come in and work his tail off, carving out a decent career that could see him grab a starting role down the line.

Previous mock selection: Chase Lucas, CB, Arizona State

Others considered: Damar Hamlin, S, Pittsburgh; Tristan Hoge, iOL, BYU; Josh Ball, OT, Marshall

Round Seven (245th Overall): Jamar Watson, EDGE, Kentucky, 6’3”, 250 Lbs

Analysis: Again, I’m leaning heavily into the relationships the Steelers seem to have across the country when it comes to college programs.

Tomlin and the Steelers know Kentucky quite well, and they need edge depth. Enter Watson, an athletic pass rusher who showcased the ability to slide out and cover the slot at times in the SEC the last two years.

He has some serious twitch to his game and is a rocked-up dude on defense. That said, he struggles against powerful tackles, having been erased from the game against Mechki Becton a few years ago.

He feels like a sub-package linebacker that could give Alex Highsmith and TJ Watt needed breathers will still being able to provide pass rushing consistency and the ability to drop in Keith Butler’s scheme.

Watson is a flier worth taking a chance on.

Previous mock selection: Tony Fields II, iLB, West Virginia

Others considered: Grant Stuard, LB, Houston; Buddy Johnson, LB, Texas A&M; Paddy Fisher, LB, Northwestern

Round Seven (254th Overall): Aashari Crosswell, S, Arizona State, 6’0″, 205 Lbs

Analysis: Some Steelers fans might see a safety with ball skills this late in the draft and have PTSD from the Gerod Holliman selection a few years ago.

This isn’t that. Crosswell has great ball skills and is a versatile defender that can play deep, play in the slot, and handle some reps in the box. The Steelers — specifically Tomlin — should get great insight from Herm Edwards and Marvin Lewis, both of whom coached the standout Sun Devil safety.

Crosswell does have some overall stiffness that could hinder him in the open field, but he feels like a guy that is good depth at the position behind both Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds, could see the field in some sub-package situations and could provide some solid reps on special teams.

Previous mock selection: Josh Imatorbhebhe, WR, Illinois

Others considered: Tuf Borland, LB, Ohio State; Cole Van Lanen, OL, Wisconsin; Josh Palmer, WR, Tennessee

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