While the free agency carousel continues to go around, we are officially one month away from the 2022 NFL Draft, which will be held in the “Sin City”. The team has been doing their due diligence on this draft’s crop of QB’s, with Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert being spotted at several of their pro days last week.
Whether newly-signed Mitch Trubisky is more than a stopgap remains to be seen, but count the folks at Pro Football Network in that camp, as evidenced by their latest 7-round mock draft, which has the Steelers taking a familiar face around their practice facility. No team across the league should have more of a microscopic assessment of a player than the team does on Pitt’s Heisman Finalist, QB Kenny Pickett, as the two teams share the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
“The future face of the Pittsburgh Steelers is Kenny Pickett, not Mitchell Trubisky. Similar to Washington with Wentz, the Steelers and Trubisky seem to be aligning themselves with the bridge quarterback idea. Pickett could be the future sooner than later, similar to his former ACC rival Howell. He’s got every bit of an NFL arm despite his smaller hands, and Pickett showcased that in 2021 and all throughout the offseason workout circuit.”
That NFL arm they’re referring to was on full display the past few years at Heinz Field, with Pickett displaying arguably the best deep ball in college football. Playing in the elements is also something that whoever drafts Pickett will have zero concerns about, having done it at a high level in the elements of the Steel City. In the second and third rounds, they have the team identifying two other need areas in the form of Western Michigan wide receiver Skyy Moore and Kentucky offensive tackle Darian Kinnard, respectively.
Moore, a Pittsburgh native that attended Shady Side Academy alongside Tomlin’s son, Dino, is a burner who put that on full display in the Broncos’ 44-41 upset of Pitt at Heinz Field in September. He had 11 grabs for 124 yards and a touchdown, showing off his 4.41 speed. Interestingly enough, ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper recently had some very high praise for Moore, according to Michigan Live.
“I love Skyy Moore from Western Michigan. I think he’s the most underrated player in this draft at any position, so I think he’s the kind of guy – you get him in the second round, and he turns out better than some of the wide receivers that go in the first round.”
A need position, a familiarity to both the city of Pittsburgh and to Mike Tomlin and the team’s affinity to drafting MAC receivers, the Moore selection seems to check off multiple boxes. The selection of Kinnard seems to be another great fit. Anyone who’s watched Kentucky football the past few seasons know that their bread and butter has been smash-mouth football. Kinnard is no different, as his physicality and nasty demeanor would fit in great along Pittsburgh’s offensive line. The 6-foot-5, 322 pound Kinnard was a fixture along the Wildcats’ offensive line the past few seasons, where he started at right tackle. A move inside to guard seems to be his fit at the next level, where he could use his nasty temperament to maul defenders.
In the fourth round in their mock, they have Pittsburgh selecting Marcus Jones of Houston. Although undersized at 5-foot-8 and 174 pounds, Jones is an absolute ballhawk who projects as a slot corner at the next level. Jones had five picks for the Cougars last season but what sets him apart is his electric return talent, as he led the FBS in punt return yardage in 2020, garnering several All-American accolades in the process. He seems to fit the mold of that Mike Hilton-type of undersized but yet scrappy player the team likes in their clot corners.
With no pick in the fifth round, the team’s last two selections in this mock lie in the sixth and seventh, where they have the team selecting NC State wide receiver Emeka Emezie and safety Scott Nelson of Wisconsin, respectively. Our own Josh Carney just yesterday profiled Emezie, who owns the all-time receptions record for the Wolfpack. Although not a burner by any means, Emezie uses his large 6-foot-3, 212 pound frame and catch radius to routinely change the odds on 50/50 balls in his favor. He would be another quality depth add, keeping in mind the amount of receivers the team has lost in free agency.
Nelson rounds out their latest mock here, and he has a bit of sleeper appeal. Being a combine snub, Nelson showed off his athleticism at the Badgers’ recent Pro Day, posting a 40 time of 4.38 and a vertical jump of 39.5”, which are impressive considering his size at 6-foot-2, 203 pounds. Usually, prospects at the end of team’s drafts are depth adds, or practice squad material. However, Nelson could be a potential special teams ace, with room to grow in to more, perhaps in different subpackages. Let me know your thoughts on this mock in the comments below.