Draft grades are like opinions. Everyone has one. This rings true in the draft community as well, as the 2022 Draft is now in the history books. Now every draft pundit is giving out their report cards on all 32 franchises. Everyone is seemingly praising the Ravens for owning the draft, but some are ridiculing them as well for ignoring a glaring need at receiver, after trading away their #1 Marquise Brown. However, the Steelers have been receiving glowing reviews from many, including acclaimed ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr., who applauded GM Kevin Colbert and company for their efforts with a B grade.
“Quarterback or no quarterback? That was the crucial question for the Steelers in this draft,” according to Kiper via an ESPN+ Insider piece. “Ben Roethlisberger had held down the position in Pittsburgh since 2004, so coach Mike Tomlin hadn’t worried about it since he took over the job in 2007. In the end — after Tomlin had a busy spring tour of seeing many of the signal-callers’ pro days — the board fell perfectly for the Steelers to get their guy and not have to trade up. Note the italics above. I liked Malik Willis a little bit more than Kenny Pickett, but I can’t fault the Steelers for going with the local quarterback. My comp for Pickett? Some Derek Carr, some Andy Dalton. Teams can win with that. I don’t know that he’ll definitely beat out Mitch Trubisky in Year 1, and he doesn’t have the ceiling of Willis. But the important part is that the front office didn’t have to move up to get him, so this is solid value in a strange draft when Pickett was the only signal-caller selected in the first two rounds.”
Following the first round, the team addressed several other need areas over their next few selections, mainly wide receiver, which was ravaged by free agency with the selections of Georgia’s George Pickens and Memphis’ Calvin Austin III. They also added to the aging defensive line room with Texas A&M’s DeMarvin Leal, who once was viewed as a top-15 selection.
“Wide receivers George Pickens (52) and Calvin Austin III (138) are nice replacements for JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington,” Kiper added. “Pickens is more of the Washington role — he’ll catch some fades down the sideline — while the diminutive dynamo Austin will line up mostly out of the slot and rack up yards after the catch. Defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal (84) looked like a future first-rounder at times in 2020, but he struggled for consistency last season. He has some versatility along the Pittsburgh front. Connor Heyward (208) is my top-ranked fullback in the class, and he’ll join his brother, Cam, in the yellow and black.”
All in all, a very successful draft for the team, at least on paper. A nice footnote is the addition of seventh-round QB Chris Oladokun, who will compete for the third-string spot with incumbent Mason Rudolph. And if nothing else, will provide the team a great practice squad QB who will undoubtedly be utilized in practices leading up to games against Baltimore or Cleveland, to mimic their respective QB’s mobility. As Colbert’s time has expired as GM of the team, Kiper agrees that his final act has implications that it could’ve set the table for the next decade or so for the team.
“This was the final draft for general manager Kevin Colbert, and he did a nice job plugging holes. If Pickett becomes a star, Colbert might have set up the Steelers for the next 15 years with this group.”