Fresh off of the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, the mock drafts are coming in hot and heavy this week, led by one of the top draft analysts in the business in The Athletic’s Dane Brugler.
On Tuesday, Brugler dropped the third version of his mock draft, rolling through two rounds and pairing teams with players that could fill significant holes on rosters. Of course, Brugler’s two-round mock draft saw some risers (UConn’s Travis Jones into the first round) and some fallers (Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum late in the first round), but overall it was a solid mock draft that had a number of fits that truly made sense throughout the first two rounds.
Including the Pittsburgh Steelers’ two selections at No. 20 and No. 52 overall.
In Brugler’s third version of his mock draft, he has the Steelers landing Boston College IOL Zion Johnson at No. 20 overall, giving the Steelers a potential franchise cornerstone along the offensive line once again.
“If the Steelers bypass quarterback in the first round, offensive line seems like the next most likely position the team will address,” Brugler writes. “Along with his above-average tape and résumé, Johnson has crushed every step of the draft process with a standout Senior Bowl and combine. He would be an immediate plug-and-play starter.”
Johnson has really come on strong in the draft process, building off of a terrific week in Mobile at the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl, where he expressed his childhood love for the Steelers, and then turning in an impressive Combine showing, where he also revealed he has met with the Steelers five times.
He would certainly be a plug-and-play starter at left guard or center, which could kick Kevin Dotson back to his more natural right guard, plugging two holes at once, depending on what the Steelers do in free agency at center after a rough rookie season from Kendrick Green along the interior.
Here’s what Alex Kozora had to say about Johnson in our draft profile of the Boston College standout.
“Overall, Johnson is a plus run blocker who should do well in a man-blocking scheme. But he has enough athleticism to play in zone schemes too. His pass protection isn’t ideal but it’s fixable with improvements to his technique. Important to remember the guy got a late start to his football career and his best is ahead of him. My comparison ranges between Laken Tomlinson and Trai Turner (more of the Pro Bowl type of Trai Turner as opposed to the Steelers’ 2021 version). A very good prospect the Steelers need to consider.”
All indications are that the Steelers are heavily considering Johnson in the first round.
In the second round at No. 52 overall, Brugler has the Steelers addressing the quarterback position, grabbing Ole Miss standout Matt Corral after a slight slide down the board, landing a quarterback the franchise has met with formally.
Though Brugler didn’t provide any analysis on his second-round picks, it’s quite intriguing to see an arm talent like Corral make a fall all the way to No. 52, especially after he has Pitt’s Kenny Pickett (No. 11, Commanders), Malik Willis (No. 18, Saints), Desmond Ridder (No. 32, Lions), and Sam Howell (No. 47, Colts) off the board, leaving the pickings a bit slim for the Steelers.
That said, Corral is a nice fit in Matt Canada’s RPO scheme, having run an RPO-heavy attack at Ole Miss under Lane Kiffin. It’s likely that Corral took a bit of a slide in Brugler’s mock because he didn’t work out at the Combine, which has him being forgotten about just a bit for the moment — at least until his Pro Day at Ole Miss on March 24.
Here’s what Jonathan Heitritter had to say about Corral in our scouting report on the Rebels’ star QB.
“Corral would best be served going to a spread/West Coast offense that utilizes RPOs and quick hitters where he can make quick reads and get the ball out quickly while still having the ability to attack defenses down the field. Offensive systems like San Francisco and New Orleans can maximize his strengths as a passer with their respective schemes. Matt Canada’s offense in Pittsburgh could also be a logical fit given the pre-snap motions and RPOs they want to run, but the lack of projection could be an issue for a player of Corral’s stature. All said, Corral has the arm talent, mobility, and football character as a leader to make him a potential long-term solution at QB and a likely high draft selection.”
If the Steelers were able to come away with a two-round haul like this without having to deal away future draft capital, you’d be hard-pressed to find any true pushback overall.