Are you ready for perhaps the most egregious mock draft that you have seen so far this offseason? Because that may be how I feel about the latest two-round mock draft posted by Pro Football Focus’ Anthony Gayle, in which he makes some dubious positional decisions for the Pittsburgh Steelers tied to their two most valuable resources this offseason.
Simply put, he has the Steelers drafting two edge rushers over the course of the first two rounds—the team that has T.J. Watt, a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro. While they lost Bud Dupree this offseason, PFF was an outlet that was very high on 2020 third-round rookie Alex Highsmith’s season, making this all the more of a head-scratcher.
The first edge rusher heading to Pittsburgh via Gayle’s mock draft is Gregory Rousseau out of Miami, whom he describes as “far from a finished product”, which would seem to defeat the point of drafting him in the first round when you have a player who you’re already apparently labeling as a bridge starter. He writes:
The former Miami defender is a high-end athlete with ridiculous size and length for the position (6-foot-6, 260 pounds). He earned a 76.2 PFF grade playing up and down the line of scrimmage for the Hurricanes in 2019 and can immediately step in as a chess piece in Pittsburgh’s defense while he develops his pass-rushing skill set.
I understand the idea of a chess piece, but if there’s one thing that the Steelers don’t really need defensively, it’s a front-line chess piece. They already have Watt. They already have Cameron Heyward. And Stephon Tuitt. And even Tyson Alualu is back. And you don’t draft a chess piece in the first round, especially one who needs to develop his pass rush.
While second-round choice Payton Turner out of Houston is an edge defender, he profiles better as a 4-3 end at more than 6’5”, 270 pounds. That’s light for a 3-4 end, but they could get his weight down, as they have with other outside linebackers in their system. Here’s what Scott Pavelle wrote of him back in February (you can also read his take on Rousseau in this Big Board piece:
6’5⅜”, 270 lbs. with extremely long 35” arms and equally big 11” hands. An odd tweener who would have been the focus of great interest at the Combine, the loose description from a Pittsburgh POV would be a sort of odd “elephant OLB,” but he could also serve as an undersized 5-tech DE (he has played as high as 290), or a true 4-3 DE. That last of those is where he will probably end up. Supposed to be an athletic young man, but how does that translate to an NFL grading curve? Good burst, good strength, fabulous length, but not much in the way of bend.