At this point post-2022 NFL Draft, the general consensus surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers’ draft haul in GM Kevin Colbert’s final draft is that the Steelers seemingly did a nice job landing some high-end players throughout the draft, setting the Steelers up for another long competitive window in the Steel City.
However, CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson seems to come in rather low on the Steelers’ draft haul of Kenny Pickett, George Pickens, DeMarvin Leal, Calvin Austin III, Connor Heyward, Mark Robinson, and Chris Oladokun, ranking the draft class overall near the bottom of the league in his recent top 32 rankings Wednesday morning.
Wilson had the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the league’s worst draft, based on his rankings, and then had the Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Giants, Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers and New England Patriots from No. 31-26 before placing the Steelers at No. 25 overall in his draft class rankings.
While some have called the Pickett selection the Steelers’ best pick overall, others seem to land on the selection of Pickens at No. 52 as the Steelers’ best of the draft. That’s where Wilson comes in, calling Pickens his favorite pick of the Steelers’ draft overall.
“Maturity concerns and an ACL injury in March 2021 are why George Pickens fell out of the first round, but he has first-round talent for days,” Wilson writes. “The Steelers have a history of getting the most out of players who may arrive in Pittsburgh with off-field issues, and there’s no reason to think it won’t be the case with Pickens, who helps restock a wide receiver room that lost JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington.”
There’s that “off-field issues” stuff with Pickens again. Based on everything that’s come out, the maturity issues come from on-field incidents, so calling them off-field issues is misleading. He was a first-round talent that fell because of the knee injury history, full stop. The fight on the field and the squirting of the water bottle are nothing to cause him to drop the way he did. It’s great value for the Steelers overall.
Speaking of great value, Wilson highlighted Austin III as the Steelers’ best value pick of the draft, as Pittsburgh grabbing the Memphis star one pick before the rival Baltimore Ravens were slated to grab him.
“Calvin Austin III is a shade under 5-foot-8 and weighs just 170 pounds, but he is a dynamo,” Wilson writes. “He played primarily outside at Memphis but has the versatility (and 4.32 speed) to line up anywhere. He’s humble too, but also plays with an edge because he’s been doubted his whole life because of his size. He’s another player who, if he was three inches taller, would’ve been a first-round pick.”
Austin’s tape is rather impressive, and despite his smaller stature, he’s well built and can play all over the field, making him an intriguing option within offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s system, giving the Steelers that true game-breaking speed on offense that can take a five-yard slant 70 yards to the house.
Outside of Pickens and Austin, Wilson was most caught up by the Steelers’ selection of Robinson out of Ole Miss in the seventh round. Robison made the switch from running back to linebacker for one year of play at Ole Miss and turned himself into a draftable prospect. Still, Wilson believes it was a surprising pick, and a bit of a reach.
“We had him as an undrafted free agent, but the Steelers took him at the end of the sixth round,” Wilson writes (Robinson was a seventh rounder). “There’s a good explanation too. Robinson moved from running back to linebacker last season, and it was his 4.69 speed and 33.5-inch vertical that got new linebackers coach Brian Flores’ attention. Robinson will likely begin his Steelers career on special teams.”
Flores spoke highly of the linebacker, praising him for his work ethic and ability to play downhill in the box. While he admits he’s raw and still has some developing to do, there’s definitely some projection there, which the Steelers feel rather good about. They have their board and grade their prospects their own way, and clearly they liked Robinson quite a bit.
Now the onus is on Flores and inside linebackers coach Jerry Olsavsky to develop him.
Elsewhere in the AFC North, with the Steelers (No. 25) and Bengals (No. 30) near the bottom of the league, the Cleveland Browns came in at No. 20 overall, and the Baltimore Ravens landed at No. 11 overall in Wilson’s rankings. The Carolina Panthers took the top spot for Wilson.