This morning, acclaimed ESPN Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. released his latest two-round mock draft offering as we close in on the two-week threshold before the NFL Draft. His first-round choice of the Steelers offers up some hometown flavoring with their selection of Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett at pick #20. Pickett has been on the team’s radar for some time now, but of course it doesn’t hurt that the Panthers and Steelers both share the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, so the team arguably has had the best seat in the house when it comes to scouting Pickett.
Last season, Pickett threw for 4,319 yards and 42 touchdowns against just seven interceptions, and on the way, shattered many of the school records owned by NFL Hall Of Fame QB Dan Marino. The Steelers sent a contingent of team brass to check out Pickett at the Panthers’ Pro Day, which is no huge surprise considering the word “sent” in this case means simply taking a little walk. There’s also the vacant hole left at the position by recently-retired and future Hall Of Famer Ben Roethlisberger. Recently, Pickett was a guest on the upstart podcast “Adam Breneman Shows Up,” and he noted how amazing it would be to play for the team.
“Like I said, it would be awesome to play for the Steelers, played next door for five years of practice. Heinz Field was my home for five years, comfortable playing there. It would be awesome. Coach Canada recruited me. I’m tight with Coach Tomlin, had a lot of conversations with him.”
Let’s also not forget, Pickett’s offensive coordinator at Pitt was none other than Mark Whipple, who helped usher in Roethlisberger during his early years in the league as the Steelers’ QB coach. The dots are not very hard to connect, and from many standpoints, this pick just makes sense. He has a big arm, he’s a team leader, he obviously can play in the Heinz Field elements and he also possesses sneaky mobility, as evident by his 4.73 40 time. The famous “fake slide” clip backs up the latter, where up until that point, he was pulling away from Wake Forest defenders downfield. Kiper had the following to say of his latest first-round pick for the Steelers:
“I’d feel much more comfortable taking Pickett here than I would in the top 10. Best-case scenario is that he’s Derek Carr, and his floor is as an Andy Dalton-type, which isn’t a bad quarterback by any means. Pittsburgh can win with that. Still, those two were taken in Round 2 and didn’t have Round 1 expectations surrounding them. If Pickett falls into the Steelers’ laps here, he’d be tough to pass up. And he has a little more upside than Mitch Trubisky.”
The jury is still out on what exactly to expect from the aforementioned Trubisky as he vastly underwhelmed according to his draft stock, as he was taken #2 overall in 2017, well before Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes. If the Steelers have a chance to add what they view as a true franchise guy, and Pickett fits their bill, this pick very much could happen. In Round 2, Kiper has the team replenishing their bare wide receiver cupboard, and aiding Pickett in the process, with his selection of Alabama’s John Metchie III, of whom he had the following to say:
“Metchie tore his ACL in December, but he was having a fantastic season, with 96 catches for 1,142 yards and eight scores. He can play in the slot and make a difference in the middle of the field for the Steelers, which let JuJu Smith-Schuster walk in free agency. Metchie should be able to recover to play in Week 1-and potentially help Kenny Pickett.”
While Metchie’s 40 time isn’t going to blow anyone away, especially coming off the ACL injury, it’s his toughness that will endear him to teams. While not quite conjuring up images of Hines Ward, Metchie is renowned for his blocking prowess and ability to pick up the tough yards after the catch.
Coming from the football factory that is Alabama, Metchie obviously has experience running a pro-caliber route tree, and in 2020 after the team lost Jaylen Waddle to a broken ankle in their opener, Metchie stepped up in a big way, catching 55 passes for 916 yards with a nice 16.7 YPC average. While he might not be ready for OTA’s and perhaps even training camp, Metchie should be ready to help contribute early on during the 2022 season.
What do you think of Kiper’s latest offering? Both QB and WR are both huge needs of the team, but do you agree with the picks made here? Let me know your comments below.