The pre-draft cycle in the NFL continues to chug right along into late March as teams begin to make the rounds at Pro Days and have dinners with prospects they have their eyes on, especially the Pittsburgh Steelers.
With the free agency cycle having died down some, teams are now more focused on watching draft prospects, which has caused the mock draft cycle to ramp right back up as we head into the final weekend in March.
That mock draft cycle continued Thursday morning with NFL.com’s Maurice Jones-Drew, a former nine-year NFL running back who now appears on various shows on NFL Network as an analyst. Jones-Drew dropped his first mock draft of the season, and it was quite interesting overall, as he has Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett at No. 6 to the Carolina Panthers and Malik Willis at No. 9 to the Seattle Seahawks.
From there, things were status quo until the Steelers’ pick at No. 20 overall, as Jones-Drew has the Steelers grabbing Northern Iowa offensive tackle Trevor Penning.
“Pittsburgh snags one of the toughest and most physical players in this year’s draft class to bolster the front line,” Jones-Drew writes. “His grit fits in perfectly with Mike Tomlin’s bunch.”
Penning is a fine prospect overall, one that would bring a much-needed sense of nastiness to a young offensive line overall. He certainly has the size and athleticism the Steelers would covet. However, as many of you readers already know, the Steelers did not send General Manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin to Northern Iowa’s Pro Day, ruling out Penning as a first-round guy for the Steelers.
Of course, we can’t expect a guy like Jones-Drew — or any national media member — to understand exactly how the Steelers operate in the pre-draft process and what that means for who they will/won’t draft each year.
Aside from that though, it’s a bit puzzling to see Jones-Drew place an offensive tackle to the Steelers, considering they re-signed Chukwuma Okorafor early in free agency, and added guys like James Daniels and Mason Cole along the interior, at least shoring up the offensive line on paper.
Instead of going with Penning, Jones-Drew could have paired the Steelers with a receiver in the first round like Ohio State’s Chris Olave or Arkansas’s Treylon Burks, or even Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd instead of Penning.
One thing is quite clear though: the Steelers are Uber-focused on the quarterback position throughout this draft process, and that feels like the direction they will almost certainly head in at the end of April.