NFL Draft

Brugler’s Seven Round Mock Has Steelers Focus On QB, CB With Top Two Picks

The Athletic’s Dane Brugler is one of the best draft guys out there, putting out a yearly comprehensive draft guide referred to as “The Beast.” So when it comes to evaluating prospects, few are better. He also deciding to try the massive undertaking of a complete, seven round mock draft, picks one through 262. Here’s how it shook out for the Steelers.

At pick #20, he has the Steelers taking Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder, an increasingly popular first-round choice in mock drafts. Brugler includes this interesting nugget about Ridder and the team in his write-up of the pick:

“The Steelers have spent a lot of time and resources evaluating this year’s crop of quarterbacks, and they won’t be shy trading up to get “their guy” if they need to. But “their guy” might be Ridder, who impressed the Steelers’ key decision-makers, including ownership, during pre-draft meetings.”

Most reporting indicates Ridder has been impressive in pre-draft visits and meetings at the Senior Bowl and Combine, so Brugler’s reporting here tracks. Ridder may be the most polarizing quarterback in this class. He is at least for the Steelers Depot team, who ranked him anywhere from their top QB to fifth-best to everything in-between. Quarterback still seems like the front-runner position in Round 1. But guessing who it’ll be is a much harder game.

In Round 2 at pick #52, he has the team taking Auburn corner Roger McCreary. Undersized with poor length, McCreary was one of college football’s best man-cover corners and put up good fights against elite receiver talent like Ja’Marr Chase in 2019 and the Alabama receivers in 2021. Here’s how we summed him up in our draft profile, putting a first-round grade on him.

“McCreary is likely to be one of my favorite corners in this years class, especially because he doesn’t wow with incredible traits. He’s a smooth, technically sound player and also, to be fair, a plus athlete. In some sense, he reminds me a bit of Cam Sutton but a better version, a little more athletic than Sutton was coming out.”

McCreary didn’t display any killer physical tools, running a 4.50 40 at 190 pounds, but he was still able to dominate the SEC.

In Round 3 at pick #84, Brugler mocked the team Ohio State OT Nicholas Petit-Frere. A two-year starter, our Tom Mead profiled him and concluded:

“His best fit is in a Zone running offense to take advantage of his quickness and agility and ability to block on the move. If he can get the issue cleaned up with inside rushers he could become a solid starter down the road.”

And placed a third round grade on him. He would become immediate tackle depth behind Dan Moore Jr. and Chukwuma Okorafor along with veteran Joe Haeg, who served as the Steelers’ swingman last year.

Round 4 sees the Steelers grab a wide receiver in Notre Dame’s Kevin Austin Jr. It took until 2021 for Austin to see the field, but he broke out, averaging 18.5 YPC for the Fighting Irish in 2021. There were off-field issues that led to him being suspended for the entire 2019 season and injury caused him to barely play in 2020 so there isn’t much tape to go off of. But he’s a height/speed Z-receiver we compared to Deon Cain. In our profile, we wrote:

“On-tape, he does his one thing well as the vertical, Z-receiver, but the limited ways he consistently wins coupled with his inexperience creates more risk than usual for a prospect.”

Jumping to Round 6, Brugler mocks the Steelers Stanford DL Thomas Booker.  A name that’s gained more buzz lately, our profile summed him up this way:

“He can disrupt playing in a one gap and has the ability to stack and shed in two gap scheme. He has a good motor and chases the balls well. As a pass rusher he can get pressures with power rush and will mix in some speed rush moves as well….I think the skills are there where he could develop more and I would like to see him quicken his game. Quicker at the snap count, quicker hand placement and quicker shed for example and he could become a quality backup behind the starters.”

Booker finished last year with just one sack for the Cardinal, but has 9.5 of them in his college career. He was also a two-time team captain, checking some of the hearts and smarts boxes the Steelers look for.

With the team’s pair of seventh-round picks, the team selects UCLA safety Quentin Lake and LSU LB Damone Clark. Lake is a popular pick, the son of former Steelers’ DB and coach Carnell Lake. Clark was a popular Day 2 name early in the draft process but underwent spinal surgery that will knock him out for his rookie season and leave long-term questions about his health. In the seventh round, he’s worth a flier, but not someone you can count on day one.

Overall, Brugler’s mock feels semi-realistic. The biggest gripe is the lack of a safety add until the seventh round. Pittsburgh’s yet to address SS, and though they still seem likely to sign a veteran over the next two weeks, unless it’s Tyrann Mathieu, the team could and should look to add through the draft with something higher than a late Day 3 addition.

Here’s a recap of his picks.

1 (20)
Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
2 (52)
Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
3 (84)
Nicholas Petit-Frere, OT, Ohio State
4 (138)
Kevin Austin Jr., WR, Notre Dame
6 (208)
Thomas Booker, DT, Stanford
7 (241)
Quentin Lake, S, UCLA
7 (225)
Damone Clark, LB, LSU


And you can check out his entire mock draft end-to-end by clicking the link here (subscription required).

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