Forget about the player. Just take in the selection. For the first time in most of our lives, there’s a mock draft that has the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 1st overall selection. CBS’ latest mock goes off the inverse of Caesars Sportsbook’s Super Bowl projections, which gives the Steelers the league’s longest odds and puts them in the #1 draft slot. With their choice of any prospect in the country, author Chris Trapasso has the team taking Alabama EDGE Will Anderson.
Explaining the pick, Trapasso notes:
“This isn’t the Steelers biggest need, but Anderson and T.J. Watt together feels like classic Pittsburgh.”
To talk history before talking the pick, the Steelers haven’t held the #1 overall selection since 1970 when they took the Blonde Bomber Terry Bradshaw out of La Tech, a pick that was bumpy in the beginning but paid off handsomely. Pittsburgh’s only held the first pick two other times in franchise history, choosing DB Gary Glick with their #1 bonus pick in 1956 (still the only DB to ever be drafted 1st overall) and Bill Dudley in 1942. Bradshaw and Dudley became Hall of Famers so the Steelers’ track record at that spot is a good one.
Still, even being in the mix for the first pick in a draft is unheard of for the Steelers in the past 50 years. Since 1970, the highest first round pick they’ve had is 7th, choosing RB Tim Worley in the 1989 draft. But at 2-6 and currently slated to pick in the top five, having the #1 overall pick isn’t out of the question.
Anderson may be the most talented player in the 2022 NFL Draft, a supreme EDGE rusher who had one of the best defensive seasons in college football history last season, amassing a video game-like 31 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks. Through eight games this season, his numbers have normalized a tad with 12 TFL and six sacks while his overall play hasn’t been quite as strong as last season. Still, he’s regarded as a blue-chip prospect and the best non-QB of this class. As Trapasso writes, the Steelers don’t need a starting OLB but their depth has been too thin, Highsmith is entering the last year of his rookie deal, and Anderson’s talent might be too tempting to pass on.
There are other options. If Pittsburgh held a top-two pick, there would be some discussion about going after a quarterback again. The top two names in this year’s class are Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud. While odds are strong the team would stick with Kenny Pickett, it is a new-ish regime taking over for Kevin Colbert and at the least, draft pundits everywhere would raise the question of if the Steelers should use another first round pick on the position. It isn’t without precedent. The Arizona Cardinals took Kyler Murray 1st overall in 2019 one year after making Josh Rosen the 10th overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. It proved to be the correct decision.
Other potential choices for the Steelers include Northwestern OT Peter Skoronski, Penn State OT Olu Fashanu, or Georgia DL Jalen Carter. Pittsburgh needs to be serious about upgrading their trench play on both sides of the football with an average offensive line that hasn’t seen enough high investments and an aging defensive line with several pending free agents.