Day One of the 2022 NFL Draft is in the books and while there’s so much to talk about with the team’s selection of QB Kenny Pickett, we already have to think about Day Two of the draft.
While the draft always proves unpredictable, we can take a couple guesses as to who may be on the Steelers’ radar in Rounds Two and Three. Bunched by position but in no particular order, here are some names to keep in mind.
Skyy Moore/WR Western Michigan – One of the most commonly mocked names to the Steelers, he could be in play at #52. Moore is a local native from New Kensington, a town less than 30 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh. He’s short but not small with big, 10 1/4 inch hands, and can beat press coverage, an area where most college receivers struggle. Pittsburgh needs a slot option to replace JuJu Smith-Schuster and haven’t properly done so throughout free agency. The draft always felt like the most likely option.
George Pickens/WR Georgia – A first round talent limited last year due to a March of 2021 torn ACL, he returned for the final handful of games last year for the Bulldogs. His impact was relatively limited, though he caught a 52 yard pass in their National Championship win, but he proved he was healthy and tested well in the pre-draft process. WRs Coach Frisman Jackson personally worked Pickens out during his Pro Day. There’s questions about rawness and rumblings over maturity but the talent is hard to deny. He may not make it to #52 but it’s a plausible scenario.
Danny Gray/WR SMU – Gray has legitimate 4.33 speed and the Steelers’ offense needs an infusion of big-play ability. Those wheels played well on the field in 2021, averaging nearly 17 yards per catch and finding the end zone nearly 20% of the time (nine TDs on 49 receptions). Frisman Jackson was at the Mustangs’ Pro Day. An option in Round Three.
Daniel Faalele/OT Minnesota – We only spotted new o-line coach Pat Meyer at two Pro Days this year: Texas A&M and Minnesota. The Aggies’ top guy, OG Kenyon Green, went in the first round, leaving the Golden Gophers’ Faalele as the top o-line prospect available that Meyer had eyes on.
Faalele has Zach Banner size at 6’8, 390 pounds (frankly, that’s bigger than Banner) but is a quality athlete and mover in space. A former rugby player, he predictably gets a push in the run game and runs his feet. He’ll have to work on dealing with inside rushes and counters and likely isn’t ready to play out of the gate. But he wouldn’t have to in Pittsburgh so long as Dan Moore Jr. and Chukwuma Okorafor stay healthy. This one makes a lot of sense and could happen in either round.
Nicholas Petit-Frere/OT Ohio State – Less talked about name but he’s expected to be a Day Two pick. Ohio State’s starting left tackle in 2021 and right tackle in 2020, he offers size (6’5, 316) with good length (nearly 34 inch arms). Comes from a top program and our Tom Mead liked his balance and technique handling bull and power rushes. He did note Petit-Frere needs to work on his pad level, often playing too high. He could be a swing candidate right away, battling veteran Joe Haeg.
DeMarvin Leal/DL Texas A&M – If the Steelers want to take a bigger swing along the d-line given the unit’s age and Stephon Tuitt’s uncertainty, it could be a guy like Leal (last name pronounced Lee-al). Steelers’ Defensive line coach Karl Dunbar attended A&M’s Pro Day to watch Leal and later round teammate Jayden Peevy. Leal is long with good production, 8.5 sacks in the SEC last year (five of those sacks came in conference play). Leal lacks a standout trait and isn’t a tremendous athlete but he fits what the team looks for. Could be in play at #52, though some think he’ll fall.
Thomas Booker/DL Stanford – Underrated name for most of this process but Booker earned buzz late for his build and football IQ. Our Tom Mead praised Booker’s quickness and motor though ultimately graded him as a later day Three pick. Still, some draftniks believe he could be a Day Two player and makes sense at #84.
Brandon Smith/LB Penn State – Mentioning an off-ball linebacker here in Smith. He has size (6035, 244 lbs), athleticism (4.52 40) with good 2021 production. Devin Bush is likely entering the final year of his rookie deal while Myles Jack was inked to just a two-year deal. Several others are also slated to hit free agency in 2023: Robert Spillane, Marcus Allen, and Ulysees Gilbert III. So while the ILB room is crowded now, it could look a lot emptier in ten months. Linebacker coaches Brian Flores and Jerry Olsavsky attended Penn State’s Pro Day.
Drake Jackson/EDGE USC – Big-bodied EDGE rusher from a top program, though USC is looking to regain past glory. Still, Jackson did his part with with eight tackles for loss and five sacks last season, first and second on the team respectively. He’s 6025, 273 pounds and Pittsburgh likes to draft their EDGE rushers big. The good ones, anyway. I wouldn’t totally rule him out at #52 but #84 makes sense as well.
Marcus Jones/CB Houston – Brought in for a pre-draft visit, he’s a plucky slot corner with great ball skills, so much so the team briefly played him at WR in 2021, Jones catching ten passes and one touchdown. He’s an electric returner (though would need a Johnnie Cochran levels of persuasion to convince Mike Tomlin to work there), and impactful DB with nine career interceptions, including five last year. He’s small with a narrow chest and surgery on both his shoulders. None of it is great but if Pittsburgh is looking for something closer to Mike Hilton, he could be their guy. Round Three option.
Jaquan Brisker/S Penn State – Brisker is a box checker. DBs Coach Grady Brown attended his Pro Day and there’s a strong connection between Steelers’ Day Two picks and positional coach Pro Day attendance. Brisker is a versatile safety able to play at the LOS or as the deep, post safety. He plays downhill and can man-up against tight ends in the pass game. Tackling was an issue in 2021 but he battled a shoulder injury. Safety remains a need; Terrell Edmunds’ cheap one-year won’t preclude them from taking a longer-term guy.
Nick Cross/S Maryland – Though we don’t believe Cross came in for a visit or had Brown at his Terps’ Pro Day, he checks a ton of boxes. He’s young (not even 21 and I believe the youngest player in the entire plausibly draftable class), athletic (9.87 RAS score, highlighted by 4.34 40 and 10’10” broad), at a position of need. Oh yeah, he was roommates with Mike Tomlin’s son Dino in school, too. Can easily see Cross being the pick. Most expect him in Round Three but the Steelers have been known to take those guys a round early so #52 can’t be ruled out.