Easter means a lot of different things for a lot of different people, but one tradition that has been formed during this time of year is the collection of Easter Eggs. As part of German legend, the Easter Bunny carries colored eggs in its basket, as well as candy, and sometimes toys, to the homes of children. As such, the Easter Bunny again shows similarities to Santa Claus, giving gifts to children who have been good.
In case of the Pittsburgh Steelers, I have come up with five “Easter Eggs” that the team would be ecstatic to find in their basket this season as free agency winds down and the 2022 NFL Draft approaches.
1. Notre Dame S Kyle Hamilton Falls To #20
Many Steelers fans are clamoring for FA S Tyrann Mathieu to sign with Pittsburgh as a free agent this offseason. The Steelers have a clear need at the position as they clearly don’t have a projected starter at strong safety on the roster. It has been speculated that Pittsburgh is holding off on attempting to re-sign Terrell Edmunds to see if they can bring in Mathieu on the open market. Regardless if Mathieu is signed or if Edmunds is brought back, the need for a starting SS is evident on the roster as it stands.
After poor testing numbers at the NFL Combine as well as at his Pro Day, rumors have gotten out that S Kyle Hamilton from Notre Dame may experience a draft day slide come April 28. Despite mediocre testing results, Hamilton is regarded as the best safety in this draft class and quite possibly the best safety prospect in recent memory. Alex Kozora of Steelers Depot did the pre-draft profile on Hamilton and had this to say about the talented prospect:
Overall though, Hamilton is as impressive as they come. He should be a year-one starter and the chance to become one of football’s top safeties. He’s athletic, physical, smart, versatile, who can cover, play the run, blitz, and be a leader and building-block for any defense.
GM Kevin Colbert was in attendance for Hamilton’s Pro Day in South Bend and Pittsburgh brought in Hamilton for a pre-draft visit, likely doing their due diligence should a prospect of Hamilton’s caliber somehow slip to #20 overall. It would be the first time an All-Pro caliber safety fell in the draft as Chargers S Derwin James slipped to #17 overall in 2018 and has been one of the best players at the position when healthy. The mere thought of pairing Hamilton with Minkah Fitzpatrick on the backend is extremely tantalizing, especially if Hamilton can live up to his All-Pro potential.
This dynamic duo of Hamilton and Fitzpatrick would likely form the best safety tandem in the league, and possibly one of the best ones in recent memory to lead the Steelers defense for years to come.
2. Skyy Moore Gets His Wish And Becomes A Steeler
I will proudly say that I was on the Skyy Moore bandwagon well before others jumped on-board. The hype on Moore has gotten to all-time heights at of late, resulting in the Western Michigan product to be projected to go as early as the late first round in some draft analyst mock drafts. I am a fan of Moore and his talent, but I do expect him to slot in more somewhere on Day Two, particularly in the second round. Should Moore make it #52 overall, Pittsburgh would be wise in making Moore who is a Shady Side product a permanent resident in Pittsburgh. Having grown up in the Pittsburgh area and played with Mike Tomlin’s son Dino, Moore gave the prefect response when asked by Mike Florio and Chris Simms on if he would want to remain in Pittsburgh:
“I would go anywhere, but, yeah, I’m a diehard Steeler fan.”
Moore may lack ideal size and length, but he has the hands size, play speed, and quickness to excel in the slot as well as function as an outside receiver in Pittsburgh’s offensive system. This would potentially solve hit “two birds with one stone” for Pittsburgh as they need to find a capable slot receiver as well as a guy who can get on top of the defense with deep speed and the ability to separate in coverage. This is exactly what I said in my pre-draft profile of Moore:
In the case of Moore, you get a receiver that can play both roles in an offense that can scheme up matchups for him inside, outside, and even on jet sweeps and pop passes which he showed he can do at Western Michigan.
Moore would come in an be able to contribute right away alongside Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson in three receiver sets, and likely see his role and usage expand as he continues to grow as a receiver, having only played the position since arriving to Western Michigan. Pittsburgh has hit big on MAC WRs in the past, so they go back to the well with another product who wants to play for the Black and Gold more than anywhere else.
3. CB Marcus Jones Becomes Pittsburgh’s Solution At Nickel CB
The Pittsburgh Steelers have struggled in recent years evaluating and drafting quality talent at the CB position. They swung and missed on Artie Burns in the first round back in 2016, and guys like Senquez Golson, Doran Grant, Terry Hawthorne, and Brian Allen, and others never materialized into meaningful contributors. Currently, Pittsburgh as brought in a promising CB prospect for a visit, Houston CB Marcus Jones.
I personally latched onto Jones early in the pre-draft process, and after watching his tape, I was sold on the talent. While undersized at 5’8, 185lb, Jones plays an aggressive style of football both in coverage as well as in run support. He picked off nine passes during his college career and also operated as a dynamic return man, having taken nine kick and punt returns to the house. The impactful play stuck out on tape as well as his competitive demeanor which left me highly impressed when I did his pre-draft profile:
“His competitiveness to challenge receivers while staying sticky in coverage and having the traits to be a ballhawk, Jones should be a sought-after commodity for all that he provides a team outside of his dynamic return ability and the little he has shown as a receiver on occasion at Houston. Pittsburgh is still looking for a suitable replacement for Mike Hilton at the nickel after signing with Cincinnati, and given Jones’s play style, ability to take the football away, and also what he could provide Danny Smith on special teams, Jones should be a player high on the Steelers’ radar come the 2022 NFL Draft as a great value selection in the middle rounds.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jones at the NFL Combine in March, and our conversation got me more fired up about the player as well as the person. Jones is currently coming off of two shoulder surgeries, so long-term durability could be a concern. However, given his mindset as a player that is willing to do whatever is asked of him to help the team win as well as his mental makeup for the game and how to play the position, taking a chance on Jones in the middle rounds of the draft would give Pittsburgh their possible solution at nickel CB that they are searching for as well as a dynamic return option that can be a threat to house one any time he touches the football.
4. Stephon Tuitt Breaks The Silence To Say He Is Returning In 2022
This isn’t a draft-related Easter Egg, but the possibility of DL Stephon Tuitt coming back to form to play in 2022 would make a monumental difference for the Steelers defense. The loss of Tuitt, along with DL Tyson Alualu was felt heavily last season as Pittsburgh struggled mightily at stopping the run surrendering the most rushing yards and the highest yards-per-carry of any team in the league. According to Pro Football Reference, Pittsburgh ranked 11th in the league in rushing yards allowed with Tuitt and Alualu in the lineup, suggesting their return to the field would go a long ways in Pittsburgh’s defense returning to form in 2022.
On top of his run defense contributions, Tuitt also has become quite the pass rusher along the defensive line, recording 11 sacks and 25 QB hits in his most recent season on the field. Having Tuitt return to the lineup would take the pressure off Cam Heyward on the inside as well as allow Chris Wormley and others to rotate in rather than play starters snaps. LBs Devin Bush and Myles Jack would likely be able to play more clean and be able to run unimpeded to the football more at the second level, and the pass rush would flourish with defenses having to account for Tuitt, Heyward, Alex Highsmith, and T.J. Watt.
5. Pittsburgh Takes A Flier On LB Damone Clark
May here at Steelers Depot quickly developed a slight love affair with LSU LB Damone Clark early on in the pre-draft process. The 6’2 4/8, 239lb linebacker is a freak athlete that plays like a heat-seeking missile on the field, showing great pursuit of the football as a run-and-chase defender as well as a capable blitzer of the QB. He had a strong showing at the NFL Combine and also did great in the interview process, impressing NFL teams with his character and his ability to overcome adversity. Alex Kozora of Steelers Depot specifically interviewed Clark at the Senior Bowl and came away high on Clark the player as well as the person:
The NFL journey isn’t easy. It’s a summation of Clark’s life. You heard the man – life doesn’t always go your way and the league for sure promises little. But it offers him a chance. A chance is all he needs. If Damone Clark keeps playing the way he has over the last six months, he’ll be one of the draft’s biggest hits. He’s doing it for his daughter, his Tigers, for Baton Rouge, and all he’s overcome.
I wanted to follow up Kozora’s interview of Clark at the NFL Combine, but Clark was late to interviews due to a prolonged medical check. According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, doctors at the combine discovered that Clark had a herniated disk during an MRI. He underwent spinal infusion surgery on Thursday that will likely hold him out of action for the entirety of the 2022 season, though he is expected to make a full recovery.
I completed Clark’s pre-draft profile and came away from the film study giving him a second round grade. Given the fact that he will now miss all of 2022, it feels likely that Clark will slip into Day Three of the 2022 NFL Draft, and likely later on Day Three at that. It is extremely unfortunate for a guy like Clark who has been through so much already and that was really making a name for himself during the pre-draft process. However, given his mindset and how he has met and conquered every obstacle he has faced up to this point, I have no reason to think that he won’t come back the same player he was.
Should Pittsburgh have the opportunity to take a chance on a player of Clark’s skill set as well as his professional character, he could prove to be a draft bargain as a guy that can sit in 2022 behind the likes of Bush and Jack and potentially compete to take over Bush’s spot should Pittsburgh not retain him after the 2022 season.
What are your thoughts on the Easter Eggs the Pittsburgh Steelers pick up in this scenario? Do you think that this would give Pittsburgh a good chance to compete in the AFC North this season and set them up for years to come? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!