NFL Draft

Steelers Go Offense-Heavy In Seven Round Mock Draft

We’ve all heard the narratives by now regarding the Steelers and their desire to select a quarterback with their first round pick this year. In fact, the mock drafts out there that don’t connect them to a QB seem to be the outlier. Will it be local fan favorite Kenny Pickett, or one of the two more mobile ones in Malik Willis and Desmond Ridder? Vinnie Iyer of The Sporting News seems to be thinking the latter, as evidenced by his latest 7-round mock, but it’s not the overwhelmingly popular choice in Willis that everyone seems to be pointing to. Much has been made of the Steelers’ apparent love affair with the Liberty QB, from the Senior Bowl, the NFL Combine and his pro day. Coach Tomlin even went to dinner with Willis, where they dined over chicken wings.

You know who else he dined with after their pro day? Ridder. His leadership appears unmatched, and he’s a clear-cut winner, sporting a sterling 44-6 record during his four years as a starter for the Bearcats. He also led them to the College Football Playoffs, a first for a Group of Five team. The 6-foot-3, 211-pounder wowed scouts at the NFL Combine, showing off his deep ball while also leading all QB’s with a 4.52 40-yard dash. Being a four-year starter offers up plenty of game tape, and in an interview with Doug Kyed of PFF.com, that’s exactly what Ridder said sets him apart from the other QB’s in this class-experience and preparation.

“My preparation is heads above heels I think than my other peers, and I think that will transition really well into the offseason and then going up right before those preseason games,” he told Kyed.

After snagging their future signal caller in 1, Iyer has the team shifting to the defensive side of the ball with their selection of Wyoming linebacker Chad Muma. At 6-foot-3, 239 pounds, Muma is quite the athlete, as evidenced his combine numbers with a 4.63 in the 40, 27 bench press reps and a 40-inch vertical. Perhaps the thinking with this pick is that this will indeed be Devin Bush’s last season in the black and gold, while also supplying great depth along incumbent Robert Spillane. Muma averaged over 11 tackles-per-game and also is known for his coverage skills, which include 2 pick-sixes last season. He sometimes can get washed away by larger blockers so while improving in that regard and providing depth, he’d likely be a special teams demon for ST Coordinator Danny Smith. It’s worth noting though that nobody from the team’s front office was in attendance for Wyoming’s pro day.

In Rounds 3 and 4, this mock has the team double dipping along the offensive line, despite making several free agency signings in James Daniels and Mason Cole. In round 3, the pick is UCLA tackle Sean Rhyan, a 3-year starter for the Bruins at left tackle, whose best move at the next level might be a kick inside to guard. At 6-foot-5 and 321 pounds with massive 11 1/8-inch hands, Rhyan shows off good short area explosiveness and nice footwork when asked to pull. His swing-versatility though will make him an alluring prospect for a team such as Pittsburgh, who has to decide how they’ll assemble next season’s starting five, including what to make of 2021 third rounder Kendrick Green, who showed a mixed bag of results in his rookie season.

In round 4, Penn State’s massive tackle Rasheed Walker is the pick, with 32 starts at left tackle under his belt, including 3 different offensive systems. Standing 6-foot-6 and weighing 313 pounds, Walker is a guy that would be many coaches selections to be the first one off the bus, as he offers tremendous length and measurables. His anchor is as strong as they come but his base in pass protection can be exploited, where his length becomes detrimental, often causing overextension. He projects as a right tackle at the next level, and albeit a little raw, his techniques can be fine tuned at the next level. His combination of size and intangibles provide a great piece of clay for an NFL offensive line coach to work with.

With no pick in round 5, the attention now shifts to round 6, where Iyer has the team focusing their attention to the backend of their defense with Texas A&M safety Leon O’Neal. O’Neal definitely gives off some Kam Chancellor or former Steeler Ryan Clark vibes to his game, due to his head-hunting mentality in looking to wipe ball carriers off the map. This often led to him missing some tackles, so that will need to be cleaned up, and he also shows some tightness in his hips which could become very problematic. At this stage of the draft, O’Neal would merely be a depth add, and one that the team couldn’t really do any worse at, considering the fact that they still need a starting strong safety next to All Pro Minkah Fitzpatrick.

To round out his mock, Iyer has the team using both their seventh rounders to select two offensive pieces that are both need areas, in Ole Miss running back Jerion Ealy and wide receiver Reggie Roberson, Jr. of SMU. Ealy is an interesting add, as he’s a former 5-star recruit and MLB draftee in 2019 by the Arizona Diamondbacks, but he never signed. A favorite saying of Mike Tomlin is the “ability to wear multiple hats” and Ealy is the poster child of that. An All-SEC honoree as an all-purpose player in all three of his seasons, Ealy isn’t the biggest back at only 5-foot-8 and 189 pounds, but he runs much larger than that. This past season he led the Rebels with 768 yards rushing, he added 218 as a receiver and boasted a 23.5 yard average returning kicks. He displays very sticky hands and is able to contort his body to make the tough catches. As I wrote yesterday, this draft is crucial in finding a back to play second fiddle to Najee Harris and Ealy would provide tremendous value at this juncture in the draft.

The last pick of Roberson is an interesting one, as he tore his ACL during the 2020 season and didn’t display his same trademark speed this past season. Pre-injury, the long ball was his calling card, as evidenced by his 18.7 and 21.7 YPC averages in the 2019 and 2020 seasons, respectively. However, that torn ACL ended a promising 2020 season, but after being over a year removed from the injury, Roberson should be back to his pre-injury form, hopefully along with linebacker Devin Bush. According to NFL.com’s Chad Reuter, an AFC scout had the following general thinking in regards to Roberson:

“What he can do deep is what defines his game and he should get back to that once he’s all the way back from the knee. I think he’s going to be fine next year.”

What do you think of Iyer’s selections? Any reaches or positions that were neglected(defensive line)? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. And check out profiles on some of the players in this mock below as well.

2022 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder

2022 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Wyoming LB Chad Muma

2022 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Penn State OT Rasheed Walker

2022 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Texas A&M FS Leon O’Neal Jr.

 

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