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2022 Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mock Offseason

Kevin Colbert’s time is finally up. The Pittsburgh Steelers are looking for his replacement, interviewing candidates far and wide, internal and external. They’re all highly qualified people. Former players, scouts, front office executives who have been in the business for years, some decades, all vying for the chance to run one of the most prestigious teams in sports.

But they don’t have the most powerful weapon of them all.

Man with keyboard and Internet connection. That’s me. Hear me roar.

And so I rule the day.

This is our eighth year (!!!) doing these mock offseasons. I’ve been preparing all my adult life to show, no, prove, to Kevin Colbert I am *the* guy for the job. My resume sent in, printouts of mock offseasons hurriedly stuffed into manila folders, with an aggressively written I can do this scribbled at the top of the pages. If that doesn’t get me in the door, I don’t know what will.

Someone remind Kevin Colbert drafted Joe Schobert back in 2016 and had a haul of Kevin King-Gerald Everett-Trey Hendrickson-Damontae Kazee in my 2017 edition. Just ignore the fact I took Derek Rivers in the first round (I’ve whited out that part on the resume; Colbert will never know).

An alert to Louis Riddick, Brandon Hunt, Ed Dodds, and all the others who have sat in front of Colbert and Art Rooney II for an interview.

This. Job. Is. Mine.

And I’m going to prove it.

Before the actual 2022 offseason kicks off, here is my attempt to run the Steelers. As we’ve always done, we’re using FanSpeak’s Ultimate GM service that allows us to control an entire offseason. Cutting, re-signing, adding free agents, and an entire draft process complete with the ability to trade. I’ll leave a link to it at the bottom of the article for you to try your hand at being the Steelers’ GM.

If you’ve followed my past editions, you know it’s not a question of if I’ll screw up but only a matter of when. And oh boy, this year’s version was…interesting. Hopefully Colbert has his mind made up before he gets to the 2022 edition on my resume.

Let’s dive on in and fix the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster.

Getting Started

Housekeeping time. These are the settings we’ll use for this mock offseason. We’ll of course use the current, official NFL Draft order (which currently estimates compensatory picks because they are not yet known), we will use the “Difficult” difficulty setting, which I’m still unclear of its meaning, along with classic speed.

We will use the DraftTek Big Board and allow the computer to choose from a different, random one, which hopefully will create more unpredictable results and not allow me to “game” the system by knowing the universal board and gameplan what players I can/can’t wait on. The guy who is #105 on my board may be #42 on the computer’s. In theory, anyway.

Before we can do anything else, we have to understand our cap situation. At least, what Fanspeak tells us our cap situation is. They aren’t always 100% accurate but they’re generally in the ballpark. And it’s what we have to work with. Before we do anything, we have a little over $26 million of current, available cap space.

$26.032 million of cap space, for those scoring at home.

New this year is the ability to trade away/for players before free agency even begins just in the way Russell Wilson, Carson Wentz, and Khalil Mack have been dealt away prior to Wednesday’s official new league year start (though deals aren’t official until then). We can trade up to five picks and two players to or from any team.

Which leads us to our first question. Do we do it? Do we make one of the biggest trades in Steelers and NFL history and do what Pittsburgh probably won’t – trading for Deshaun Watson? He’s there, he’s available, and we can afford him.

At what cost do we Thanos-snap our draft picks away?

Is this crazy? Will the mock offseason be over before its begun? No draft picks, no money for free agents, just Watson and some hope?

No. I decline submitting the trade offer. We’ll find our franchise quarterback another way.

I hope.

Next up are decisions on trimming the fat and cutting any players to clear up even more than the plentiful amount of cap space we have. We can also restructure T.J. Watt’s contract, too. Worth noting Stephon Tuitt is still under contract, and for the purposes of the exercise, I’ll assume he’s playing in 2022.

Three players become cap casualties. LB Joe Schobert, OT Zach Banner, and DL Isaiah Buggs (still appearing on this roster, a recurring quirk of Fanspeak’s never fully updated rosters). Schobert is far too expensive and I’m not interested in a pay cut, while Banner simply has not been worth the money. That clears up an additional $13 million of cap space, putting us a shade under $40 million.

Here’s a recap of the other restructures and releases around the league. Even in the virtual world, the Falcons know Matt Ryan’s deal must be reworked. Along with the Saints restructuring everyone.

Next up is the chance to re-sign our pending free agents. One name who doesn’t appear here is CB Ahkello Witherspoon, who doesn’t show up anywhere on the Steelers’ roster. Pretend he blocked Kevin Colbert’s phone number and decided to go elsewhere. So we’re already down one pending free agent option out of the gate.

Here’s the list with – for some reason – L.J. Fort still hanging on. His ghost haunting the Steelers for starting Arthur Moats and Sean Spence over him, I can only assume.

I make offers to three people: WR Ray-Ray McCloud, WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, and SS Terrell Edmunds. The three guys I most want to keep.

McCloud gets the smallest offer of them all, a two-year deal worth $4.2 million total with an $840k signing bonus.

I hit the green “submit” button to check his response and hope for the best. He says….

Accepted! First one on the board.

Next up, Smith-Schuster. A much larger contract but one in-line with what he got last year. His 2021 season was shortened by injury, the 2022 cap did go up, so it all washes out and I give him similar terms with an extra season. Two years, $16 million with a $5.6 million signing bonus. Submit the offer and…

Accepted! This GM stuff is easy.

Last up. Edmunds. Coming in at a solid three-year deal worth $16.5 million with just under $5 million of that guaranteed in the form of a signing bonus. His answer?

Rejected. Hey, two out of three ain’t bad. It’ll get you into Cooperstown.

The rest of the free agents hit the market. OT Chukwuma Okorafor, OG Trai Turner, CB Joe Haden all are open for business. I’m not closing the door on any of those guys, but for now, they’ll dip their toe into free agency waters.

Here’s a look at who else re-upped with their teams.

 

QB Tyrod Taylor will stay in Houston on a three-year deal, OG Mark Glowinski (a potential FA target) re-upped with the Colts, while TE Rob Gronkowski will make $18 million the next two years in Tampa Bay…and still star in those bizarre USAA commercials.

Before moving into free agency, here is our current 90-man roster. 64 total players on it.

QB: Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins
RB: Najee Harris, Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland, Trey Edmunds
FB: Derek Watt
TE: Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry, Kevin Rader, Jace Sternberger
WR: Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ray-Ray McCloud, Cody White, Anthony Miller, Rico Bussey, Steven Sims, Tyler Vaughns
OT: Dan Moore Jr., Joe Haeg, Chaz Green
OG: Kevin Dotson, John Leglue, Nate Gilliam, Malcolm Pridgeon
C: Kendrick Green, J.C. Hassenauer

DL: Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Chris Wormley, Isaiahh Loudermilk, Henry Mondeaux, Daniel Archibong
NT: Tyson Alualu, Carlos Davis, Khalil Davis
EDGE: T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Derrek Tuszka, Delontae Scott, John Simon
ILB: Devin Bush, , Robert Spillane, Marcus Allen, Buddy Johnson, Ulysees Gilbert III, Tegray Scales
CB: Cam Sutton, James Pierre, Justin Layne, Isaiah Johnson, Linden Stephens
S: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Tre Norwood, Miles Killebrew, Donovan Stiner

K: Chris Boswell, Sam Sloman
P: Pressley Harvin III, Cameron Nizialek
LS: Christian Kuntz, Rex Sunahara

Free Agency – Day One

We enter day one with $31.6 million in cap space.

I’ve identified our biggest needs at: O-line (RT, RG), cornerback, inside linebacker, quarterback, and strong safety.

The free agency offensive tackle market simply is unattractive (the expensive Terron Armstead aside) and already has me feeling a bit nervous about not re-signing Okorafor.

Cornerback is also weaker than hoped except for potential big swings at cornerback on names like Carlton Davis.

Clicking through and looking over each position, like a good GM does, there’s an old, familiar name.

Do we do it? What are you, crazy? Not a chance. But I’m not above crank calling AB as a little bit of payback.

My first big shot is at a guy I’ve praised in my free agency wishlist. Chicago Bears’ RG James Daniels. He’s young, athletic, with good size and length and isn’t “House Shown on MTV Cribs” type of expensive. A plug ‘n play right guard.

The offer? 4-years, $37.2 million with $13 million of that guaranteed. No one call me cheap in the comments section.

For free agency, I submit the offer and won’t know until the day ends whether or not he accepts.

With such a big-money offer on the table, I decide not to swing for the fences for anyone else until I know where Daniels’ stands with the team. I make one more offer on the day for a backup, #3 EDGE rusher in Whitney Mercilus. He had four sacks in limited action last season, Pittsburgh showed interest in him last year and Colbert, now in his advisory role, nudges me to submit the offer. But it’s a cheapy. One-year, $1.75 million with $700k of that guaranteed (a higher amount because his odds of making the team would be high).

Slowly wading into the free agency pool, I’m done with offers for the day. Hit the green “I’m done submitting offers for the day” and see what Daniels and Mercilus decide.

Drumroll please…

Daniels is a Steeler. A huge get out of the gate as we begin to rebuild a bad offensive line.  What a signing.

The rest of day one? Bonkers.

WR A.J. Green heading back to the North with Baltimore, DL Jadeveon Clowney going to the Chargers to team up with Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack – wow – while former Steelers find new homes. Terrell Edmunds is no longer an option, two-years, $15.2 million to go to Chicago. Too rich for me. Ahkello Witherspoon pops up on a long-term deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, completing his tour of the Keystone State. SS Jordan Whitehead inks a cheap, one-year deal with the Raiders, taking a potential Edmunds’ replacement off the board in the same day.

Uh oh.

Free Agency – Day Two

Money talks and we need to track where we’re at. With a massive Daniels contract on the books, our cap space has had a bite taken out of it.

Just over $25 million. Still plenty of space for what we need to do.

With Edmunds gone and Whitehead’s signing making me nervous, I immediately jump into the safety market. There’s a fair amount of options out there but I zero in on Texans’ Justin Reid. A guy I loved out of Stanford who has youthfulness and experience on his side along with playing both safety spots.

The offer? Same one I gave Edmunds. Three-years, $16.5 million, with $6.6 million guaranteed at signing.

Inside linebacker is a priority, especially now that Schobert is gone. One of my top names is Patriots’ LB Ja’Whaun Bentley, with the hope of the Brian Flores’ connection helps entice Bentley to come to Pittsburgh, Flores serving as his LBs coach in 2018. Bentley is a rare body type at 255 pounds who will improve this run defense in a meaningful way. Contract terms reflect it: Three years at $18.3 million with $6.4 million guaranteed.

Another day, another pursuit of an EDGE rusher. Pernell McPhee. Older, into his 30s, but this isn’t Colbert’s show anymore. And Melvin Ingram wasn’t a spring chicken. I’m offering EDGE rushers the Kozora special. Same deal as Mercilus. One-year at $1.75 million.

That’s all for day two. Let’s see the results.

One-for-three. Get a starting SS in Reid while Bentley and McPhee turn me down. But two starters in two days isn’t a bad way to kick things off.

Around the league, day two showed a fair bit of QB movement. Jacoby Brissett, who I know you all are dying to see become a Steeler, and Mitch Trubisky ink contracts. Brissett takes almost nothing to backup Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia while Trubisky accepts a one-year, prove it deal with the Carolina Panthers for a solid $8 million.

Most absurdly of all, and you may be screaming down to the comments section to tell me about it, is Cassius Marsh getting a two-year, $29.2 million deal from the Indianapolis Colts. Either Carson Wentz broke their brain or they really put a high priority on minor taunting.

Free Agency – Day Three

Cap update has us still over $20 million with two starters locked in.

Ok, now it’s time to figure out what’s happening at quarterback. There is no marquee quarterback and even Trubisky is off the board. Topping the list sits Teddy Bridgewater and Jameis Winston. But my sights are set lower – and cheaper – with Marcus Mariota. Pedigree, mobility, and cost-effective to have a true, potential camp competition with Rudolph. It’s not going to make Steelers’ fans feel great. Nor is it meant to. This is the reality of the post-franchise QB world and the long-term option sits in the draft, not on the open market.

Mariota’s offer is sent to his agent, Ryan Tollner, who also represented Ben Roethlisberger, making this an easy phone-call to make. Two years, $7 million with $2.8 million of it guaranteed.

Another Kozora Special for the third veteran EDGE rusher we’ve gone after – Alex Okafor, a well-built outside linebacker who can hold up against the run. You know what it is – one year, $1.75 million.

Two more deals on the day. Checked back in with CB Arthur Maulet for some nickel depth one a near-minimum contract of one year, $1.1 million, with 10% of it guaranteed.

And threw out a deal for the other Pats’ free agent linebacker, Dont’a Hightower. Colbert tried to, and nearly succeeded, in signing him years ago. I’ll close the deal this time. He isn’t the ideal option and his age is a concern, but he can still thump against the run. 1-year, $4 million with half of it guaranteed. Even if he were cut out of camp, a Kevan Barlow 2.0, it wouldn’t kill the team.

The results?

Three out of four. Not too shabby. Welcome to Pittsburgh Mariota, Hightower, and Okafor. Maulet decides it isn’t enough to stay in town.

A look around the league. Can’t tell who has the world’s best agent, Chaz Green or Chris Hubbard. The NFL is 2 AM at the bar desperate. The Bengals, somehow, steal Terron Armstead.

Free Agency – Day Four

Cap space has…taken a hit. Down to $12.4 million, less than half of what we started with.

Nothing feels pressing or urgent. Having another name in the QB room in Mariota makes me feel at little secure, though not comfortable, about the group. Corner and right tackle are still obvious needs, but the draft can address them. Simply isn’t worth throwing money at some of these names just for the sake of doing so, a trap so many teams have fallen prey to each offseason.

But we’re not totally closing the doors on the market. Maulet gets a slightly increased offer to see if it’ll wet his beak. One-year, $1.25 million, with 10% of it guaranteed at signing.

We switch gears and focus on two new names. WR Mack Hollins and CB/S M.J. Stewart. Hollins has always caught my eye since he came out of North Carolina. He’s got great size and downfield ability, averaging 15.4 YPC and four touchdowns on just 14 receptions last season with the Miami Dolphins. Just as importantly, he’s an asset on special teams, playing on 60% of the Dolphins’ snaps last season and racked up 11 tackles (nine solo). An underrated player. He gets a two-year, $3 million deal with 20% of it guaranteed.

Stewart was a name I brought up in the summer. A physical corner/safety cut from a similar cloth as Maulet. If both sign, great, there’s some options to play with. If only one signs, then the slot position has an additional name. If neither sign, well, let’s hope that doesn’t happen. Stewart gets a McCloud-looking deal, two-years, $4.2 million with a little under one million of that guaranteed.

Let’s see what happens…

0/3, with Maulet taking nearly triple the offer to join the Chargers. Can’t blame him one bit. There was an attempt but no signings today.

Free Agency – Day Five

Rejection. So this is what it’s like.

Determined, I offer Hollins and Stewart better deals. Two years, $3.6 million for Hollins (increase of $600,000) and two years, $4.8 million for Stewart. Both very fair offers for their production and value to the team.

I reconnect with one of the Steelers who hit free agency, NT Montravius Adams. Tyson Alualu is back but he is 35, and almost certainly in the last year of his career. Adams can be a rotational backup and potential nose tackle of the future. My (very fair) offer. Two years, $4.5 million, with $1.35 million guaranteed to come on back.

Let’s hope for better results this time.

 

Adams is back. Hollins and Stewart still turn up their noses at me. Do I risk getting into a bidding war with myself?

Free Agency – Day Six

Cap check-in.

$10.6 million is enough to do something else with, though keep in mind there is the team’s rainy day fund that needs to be available. Wouldn’t be wise to take this space down to the last penny. For my own sanity, we move on from Hollins and Stewart.

Something perhaps unexpected. What about adding a running back? Cheaply, to be sure. Najee Harris’ job isn’t of concern. The list of names out there isn’t great unless you think James Conner will want to come back (he doesn’t). I land on Tevin Coleman, who has good size, speed, and if you can average 4.2 YPC in that awful Jets offense, you’re worth taking a look at.

Toss an offer his way at one year, $1.2 million with $120,000 guaranteed. Cheap as cheap can be.

Let’s check out the results.

Coleman accepts. I like it. He’s not a star but the second-best runner on the roster behind Harris. That’s important.

Free Agency – Days Seven Through 10

Here’s where the cap sits. $9.4 million.

And frankly, I’m done. Six days in and I’ve signed all I need and really want to sign. It’s not perfect and the boat that is this roster is still leaking. But some areas are plugged – guard, inside linebacker, strong safety, with another option at corner and a couple of depth pieces mixed in.

A recap of all my free agent signings, six in total plus the three re-signings of Smith-Schuster, McCloud, and Adams.

If you’re wondering, QB Teddy Bridgewater signed a two-year deal worth $8.6 million total to be Derek Carr’s backup in Vegas. And these were still some of the notable free agents still on the street by the time the ten days were up.

 

Heading into the draft, this is what our 90-man roster consists of.

QB: Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins, Marcus Mariota
RB: Najee Harris, Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland, Trey Edmunds, Tevin Coleman
FB: Derek Watt
TE: Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry, Kevin Rader, Jace Sternberger
WR: Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ray-Ray McCloud, Cody White, Anthony Miller, Rico Bussey, Steven Sims, Tyler Vaughns
OT: Dan Moore Jr., Joe Haeg, Chaz Green
OG: Kevin Dotson, John Leglue, Nate Gilliam, Malcolm Pridgeon, James Daniels
C: Kendrick Green, J.C. Hassenauer

DL: Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Chris Wormley, Isaiahh Loudermilk, Henry Mondeaux, Daniel Archibong, Montravius Adams
NT: Tyson Alualu, Carlos Davis, Khalil Davis
EDGE: T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Derrek Tuszka, Delontae Scott, John Simon, Alex Okafor
ILB: Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, Marcus Allen, Buddy Johnson, Ulysees Gilbert III, Tegray Scales, Dont’a Hightower
CB: Cam Sutton, James Pierre, Justin Layne, Isaiah Johnson, Linden Stephens
S: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Tre Norwood, Miles Killebrew, Donovan Stiner, Justin Reid

K: Chris Boswell, Sam Sloman
P: Pressley Harvin III, Cameron Nizialek
LS: Christian Kuntz, Rex Sunahara

71 total players on the books.

Let’s head to the draft.

2022 NFL Draft 

Heading into the three-day event, a look at our picks. Reminder comp picks are estimated because they’ve yet to be officially released, an unusual delay by the NFL to wait this long to announce them. The projections give us a fourth-round pick for Bud Dupree.

Not a ton of picks for a team who still has some serious holes. Corner, right tackle, and oh yeah, the long-term future at quarterback. Not going to lie, isn’t an ideal spot to be in.

Round 1

Immediately, I get presented with two trade offers. One from the Jets, the other via the Vikings. New York wants to go up, Minnesota wants to go down. But without even the first pick in, it’s too early to determine which way I’d want to move. Trading up is an option. So is trading down. But I decline both offers and wait to see how the draft unfolds.

Snapshot of how the initial big board looks.

Let’s get started. Michigan DE Aidan Hutchinson is the #1 pick of the draft going to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Here’s a look at the top five, a largely conventional collection of names.

Trading up is a serious thought. Liberty QB Malik Willis is my target. My goal is to wait until at least pick ten to start making phone calls. As long as no one draf-

Willis. Gone. Panthers get their guy at #6. Willis will sit for a year behind Mitch Trubisky, a shrewd move by Carolina. Trading into the top five would’ve just been tough to do. Six picks in, I’ve lost out on my top choice. Trading up is no longer a consideration. Now, we play the waiting game to #20.

We’re on the clock. Here’s how #7 through #19 look. A run on QBs with Sam Howell and Matt Corral off the board two picks ahead of us. Other options like Mississippi State OT Charles Cross are also gone.

Quarterback is still top of my list but other positions could – and need to be – addressed as well. Draft capital is light, too. So I make a phone call. A couple of them. The goal is to move down a few spots while staying ahead of the next quarterback-needy team (conducted pre-Brady retirement news), eyeing Tampa Bay sitting at #27, a team sans Tom Brady. I call up the Buffalo Bills at #25. At first I ask for a third-round pick but settle on this offer.

Pittsburgh sends #20 and our 2022 sixth-round pick for Buffalo’s #25, a fourth-round pick, and their sixth-round pick. So we pick up a fourth-round pick and move down about ten spots in the sixth round, while the Bills go up five spots.

Steelers Send: #20, #190
Bills Send: #25, #129, #202

 

They accept. Moving down in the first round. Colbert truly isn’t running this team anymore. Buffalo uses that move-up to take Clemson CB Andrew Booth. And I sit back and watch the rest of the board trickle to me.

When we’re back on the clock at #25, here are the best available. We could take freakishly athletic Georgia NT Jordan Davis. Or stud Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum. Or a number of options.

But I’m taking a quarterback. It comes down to two names. Pitt’s Kenny Pickett and Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder. I consider Ridder more than you think, an impressive athlete with plus accuracy who just needs to find a better level of consistency. But at the end of the day, there’s an argument to be made Pickett is the best quarterback in this class. He’s the hometown kid, a quick study, NFL-ready, and excelled in the red zone in college, the closest picture to NFL windows as you’ll find. Kenny Pickett, welcome (back) to Pittsburgh. The city tour may be a little underwhelming.

Trading back and initially passing up on your “franchise guy” is a little funny, I know. We love you but we felt we could wait. But hey, the Ravens traded Hayden Hurst before trading up for Lamar Jackson. The NFL is full of inconsistences like that.

Here’s the rest of the first round, with Ridder climbing into the back end of the day.

Onto Round 2 we go.

Round 2

New round, new day here on Friday. Before the draft resumes, we get an offer.

Pick up a third-round selection just to move down ten spots? The draft hasn’t even started and predicting who is on the board is tough but this is way too sweet of an offer to say no.

By the way, here’s the top of the board in Day 2. Biggest name and surprise here is Linderbaum falling out of the first round.

With the trade down via the Chiefs, I have no interest in moving back up. Defeats the whole point. So I’ll patiently wait for my pick late in the second round, 62nd overall. A list of the most recent picks ahead of me as we go on the clock.

Here’s the best players available according to the big board. Not going to lie, UConn’s Travis Jones looks pretty nice.

But the reality is there is still a serious void at right tackle. Corner is a possibility, but no option looks as good as the tackle class, which had already thinned out.

One name, though, remained. Minnesota’s Daniel Faalele. 6’8″, 387 pounds, he’s a road-grader at right tackle but more athletic than his size suggests. There’s work to do, especially against inside counters, but he will improve this run game, a now critical component of the offense in this post-Roethlisberger world. He was the best tackle on the board.

The equipment guys have some work to do.

Round 3

Two picks to play with in this round thanks to the trade down with the Chiefs in the second. Cornerback is still a big need but there isn’t a player I love on the board. Dont’a Hightower was signed to just a one-year deal and obviously isn’t a long-term option. So where should we turn? Where the Steelers have always turned. Wisconsin linebackers. Leo Chenal is a great athlete with size and sideline-to-sideline range. He may not be an ideal cover guy, but he can be a downhill banger in the run game and bring some energy to this defense, a starter by 2023 at the latest. He’s the pick.

Ten picks later, and we need a cornerback. It’s been a position neglected too much and I’m tremendously regretting not adding some sort of veteran option in free agency. Here are our top draft options.

Kendrick is the conventional pick but I didn’t love his tape, there’s some off-field stuff (very relevant for this virtual exercise, I know) and I want a bigger corner. That image already clues you to who I’m targeting. Penn State’s Tariq Castro-Fields is our guy. He’s got size at 6’1″, 197 who ran in the 4.3’s. He wasn’t a playmaker, hasn’t picked off a pass since 2019, but he’s the best option. And may have to be a day one starter. Hope he’s ready.

Round 4

Get a couple trade offers to move down from Philadelphia and San Francisco but all they’re doing is offering meaningless seventh-round picks. We’re staying put and remember, we have two fourth-round picks, our original and an extra one picked up from the Bills in that first-round move down.

Coming in at #129 is a value pick back on the offensive line – Kentucky center Luke Fortner. It’s a surprise he’s even still on the board. He’s not flashy and played on a good Kentucky line, so perhaps that’s why teams have overlooked him. But he’s smooth, technical, and could be day one ready. Kendrick Green will get a second chance, but Fortner is waiting in the wings. And because he’s *just* a fourth-round pick, there’s no immediate pressure to play him. This is great depth and he’s our guy.

Nine picks later and we’re on the clock again at #138. O-line and secondary – Pickett aside, that’s been the theme of the draft. And we’re sticking to it. It’s not a Steelers’ draft without adding at least one MAC guy, and Toledo safety Tycen Anderson rocked the Combine. 4.36 40 at well over 200 pounds, he’s got great character and versatility. Free safety, strong safety, slot corner, he can wear a lot of hats and he’ll start off being a fantastic special-teamer. Another easy pick to make and I’m feeling a little bit better about the overall makeup of the roster, not to mention the trades. Trading down is almost ways better than trading up.

Round 5

No pick in Round 5. Or do we? Just like last year’s move up for DL Isaiahh Loudermilk, there is one name I’m targeting. I have a fever. And the only prescription is speed at receiver. This offense is slow. No one in it breaks a 4.4, except for Chase Claypool, who doesn’t run to that time.

WR Danny Gray can run, a 4.33 Combine dash. He’s “big-play capable,” as Mike Tomlin says in a draft roundup press conference, who averaged over 16 yards per catch last year and saw nearly 20% of his catches end up in the end zone.

And so we make our move up. A deal with Seattle, sending our 2023 fourth-rounder for their fifth-rounder.

Deal is done. Pick is in.

It’s a quiet next few hours as we wait for the sixth round and our final three selections of the draft. I’ll run through them quickly.

Round 6

#202 Overall – Jesse Luketa/LB Penn State

He will primarily play as a big-bodied EDGE rusher in our system. He lacks top-level athleticisim but shows some explosiveness out of stance, and he’s comfortable playing on his feet. The upside here isn’t tremendous, but he can turn into a quality #3 EDGE rusher who can stuff the run and push tackles back into the quarterback. Unrefined as an EDGE rusher, he may need a year on the practice squad.

Round 7

#223 Overall – Joshua Williams/CB Fayetteville State

Not too often the Steelers dip their toe into the small-school waters. But just as they did with Samford’s Nick Williams years ago (a man who is still in the league, if you can believe it), we’re doing the same with Williams. A well-built corner with loose hips, his good showing at the Senior Bowl made the coaching staff more confident in their projection. Loading up on DBs since the position was so thin heading into the draft. Seeing what sticks on the wall.

#239 Overall – Leddie Brown/RB West Virginia

Sticking with a couple of names from my original Steelers mock draft. Brown is a relatively low upside pick who will never be a starting, #1 running back in an offense. But he has size, production, and is a natural catcher out of the backfield. He’ll compete with Tevin Coleman for a spot on the roster and serve as injury insurance to everyone ahead of him.

With the Brown pick in, our draft has concluded. Quick recap of the three trades we made.

Here are our ten picks. Five offense, five defense.

With 81 on the roster, we sign ten undrafted free agents.

Jean Delance/OT Florida
A.J Arcuri/OT Michigan State
Cole Schneider/OG UCF
Trae Berry/TE Boston College
Taysir Mack/WR Pitt
Zach McCloud/EDGE Miami (FL)
Jack Jones/CB Arizona State
Quentin Lake/S UCLA
Blake Hayes/P Illinois (cutting punter Cameron Nizaliek in the process)
Ben Stille/DL Nebraska

With a 90-man roster shaped like this.

QB: Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins, Marcus Mariota, Kenny Pickett
RB: Najee Harris, Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland, Trey Edmunds, Tevin Coleman, Leddie Brown
FB: Derek Watt
TE: Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry, Kevin Rader, Jace Sternberger, Trae Berry
WR: Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ray-Ray McCloud, Cody White, Anthony Miller, Rico Bussey, Steven Sims, Tyler Vaughns, Danny Gray, Taysir Mack
OT: Dan Moore Jr., Joe Haeg, Chaz Green, Daniel Faalele, A.J. Arcuri, Jean Delance
OG: Kevin Dotson, John Leglue, Nate Gilliam, Malcolm Pridgeon, James Daniels, Cole Schneider
C: Kendrick Green, J.C. Hassenauer, Luke Fortner

DL: Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Chris Wormley, Isaiahh Loudermilk, Henry Mondeaux, Daniel Archibong, Ben Stille
NT: Tyson Alualu, Montravius Adams, Carlos Davis, Khalil Davis
EDGE: T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Derrek Tuszka, Delontae Scott, John Simon, Alex Okafor, Jesse Luketa, Zach McCloud
ILB: Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, Marcus Allen, Buddy Johnson, Ulysees Gilbert III, Tegray Scales, Dont’a Hightower, Leo Chenal
CB: Cam Sutton, James Pierre, Justin Layne, Isaiah Johnson, Linden Stephens, Tariq Castro-Fields, Joshua Williams, Jack Jones
S: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Tre Norwood, Miles Killebrew, Donovan Stiner, Justin Reid, Tycen Anderson, Quintin Lake

K: Chris Boswell, Sam Sloman
P: Pressley Harvin III, Blake Hayes
LS: Christian Kuntz, Rex Sunahara

Here’s a quick look at how the rest of the AFC North drafted.

The Bengals.

The Ravens.

The Browns.

Who did the best job? My vote goes to the Ravens. Even in a simulator, they draft all the players Steelers’ fans want.

Training Camp/Preseason

Back to Pittsburgh. Fast-forwarding into the summer, here’s what the training camp depth chart looks like.

Whittled down to a Week 1, 53-man roster with a 14-man practice squad.

QB: Mason Rudolph, Marcus Mariota, Kenny Pickett
RB: Najee Harris, Benny Snell, Tevin Coleman
FB: Derek Watt
TE: Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry, Kevin Rader
WR: Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ray-Ray McCloud, Danny Gray
OT: Dan Moore Jr., Joe Haeg, Daniel Faalele, A.J. Arcuri
OG: Kevin Dotson, James Daniels
C: Kendrick Green, J.C. Hassenauer, Luke Fortner

DL: Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Chris Wormley, Isaiahh Loudermilk
NT: Tyson Alualu, Montravius Adams
EDGE: T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Derrek Tuszka, Alex Okafor
ILB: Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, Marcus Allen, Ulysees Gilbert III, Dont’a Hightower, Leo Chenal
CB: Cam Sutton, James Pierre, Justin Layne, Tariq Castro-Fields, Jack Jones
S: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Tre Norwood, Miles Killebrew, Justin Reid, Tycen Anderson

K: Chris Boswell
P: Pressley Harvin III
LS: Rex Sunahara

Practice Squad

RB: Trey Edmunds, Leddie Brown
WR: Cody White, Anthony Miller
TE: Trae Berry
OL: Chaz Green, Cole Schneider
DL: Henry Mondeaux
EDGE: Jesse Luketa
ILB: Buddy Johnson
CB: Joshua Williams, Isaiah Johnson
S: Donovan Stiner, Quintin Lake

Three draft picks, Brown, Luketa, and Williams, fail to make the 53. All end up on the practice squad.

And your Week 1 depth charts, offense and defense. Mason Rudolph edges out Marcus Mariota, who like he was with the Raiders, is used in specialty packages to utilize his mobility.


Final Thoughts

I have…some regrets. A lot of them, really. All of which I’m sure you’re letting me know about in the comments section down below. Cornerback is the clearest weakness, and I’m still kicking myself for not adding at least one veteran in free agency.

It wouldn’t have been a big name, but it’s a good outline of why Colbert signs low-level veteran guys prior to the draft, so he’s not taking as big of a risk if the draft doesn’t break perfectly for him. In my world, the team is relying on James Pierre and rookie Tariq Castro-Fields to get the job done. In theory, the team could sign a CB post-draft as they did with Melvin Ingram and Trai Turner last year. I left them enough money to make sure a move. But that won’t move the needle much either, I know. The sim not having Witherspoon on the Steelers, who I would’ve tried to re-sign, threw a monkey wrench into my plans.

Part of me wonders what the roster would’ve looked like had I not taken Pickett and a quarterback in this draft, instead going tackle and corner a the top. In the short-term, it would’ve looked perhaps a bit better – Pickett isn’t starting day one – with the idea of banking on the 2023 QB class. But it’s better to have that franchise QB in your building than only in your mind.

Beyond that, the rest of the roster looks alright. Re-signing Smith-Schuster was an important retention, and I was glad to replace Edmunds with Reid. And the O-line gets a face lift with heavy investments in free agency and via the draft. All good things.

So that was my best crack at it. Another year down. It’s a fun exercise to do, especially when I give myself just one run at it. Hopefully you enjoyed reading it. The only question I have left is:

Hey Kevin Colbert, when do I start?


If you’d like to try your hand at being the GM of the Pittsburgh Steelers, click the link here. From there, you have the option of a couple different programs. I used the Ultimate GM one to simulate free agency and the draft all within one exercise.

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