While we still have a few months left in the 2022 season, the fact of the matter is that the Pittsburgh Steelers appear to have had their prospects about competing in the postseason dissipate after losing to the Cincinnati Bengals this past Sunday. Now sitting at 3-7, it’s difficult to expect Pittsburgh to run the table and reel over seven-straight wins or go 6-1 down the stretch and make the playoffs as a Wildcard. Stranger things have happened in the past but given the issues this team has on both sides of the football, it’s fair to say that Pittsburgh’s chances of making the playoffs are slim-to-none.
This gloomy realization makes many (including myself) to look for a glimpse of optimism elsewhere, particularly with eyes toward next season where things can improve. Given the state of this team, they are in the driver’s seat to possess the highest draft capital they have had in decades including the Chicago Bears second-round draft pick which also looks to be a valuable asset. Again, draft picks don’t necessarily solve the problems this team is currently facing, but they do give the Steelers the resources to add high-end talent at positions of need to help rebuild and strengthen this roster.
During the offseason, plenty of the draft’s top prospects will attend the Senior Bowl in mobile, Alabama where they will be interviewed by the media and various NFL teams, practice against their peers, and play in a college All-Star showcase. Steelers Depot will be sending several representatives to cover the event, of which I plan to watch some names I have been following closely who could interest the Pittsburgh Steelers.
So far, dozens of college prospects have already accepted invites to the Reese’s Senior Bowl, but there are several names that particularly stick out that I want to highlight for you to tune in to watch yet this college football season who could particularly interest Pittsburgh this spring.
Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
Witherspoon stands at 6’1, 180lb and the junior has made an impact this season with an INT and 12 PBUs. Thus far in 2022, Witherspoon has seen 34 targets in man coverage and has only allowed seven receptions and no TDs, accounting for a 27.3 passer rating when targeted according to Pro Football Focus. Already accepting a Senior bowl invite, Witherspoon is one of the prospects that has most boosted his draft stock this season.
Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
Wilson is a big, strong, and explosive edge rusher that is comfortable playing with his hand in the dirt or in a two-point stance. He represented himself well last season and picked up where he left off, notching seven sacks in back-to-back seasons. He has good movement skills for his size (6’6, 275lb), and projects to be one of the first pass rushers taken this spring as a quintessential power rusher who is just scratching the surface of what he can do.
Keeanu Benton, DL, Wisconsin
Benton has improved every season in Madison and his put himself on the map as one of the better interior defensive linemen in this draft class. He possesses impressive play strength to shed blocks and push the pocket. He is a menace in the run game and brings a pass rush to the table as well, having four sacks this season. Standing at 6’4, 315lb, Benton could make himself a lot of money if he can show scouts he can be a three-down defender in Mobile and get the best of interior OL in pass rush drills.
Siaki Ika, DL, Baylor
Ika is a mountain of a man, standing 6’4, 358lb and plays like an immovable object against the run thanks to his size and strength yet is surprisingly nimble on his feet for tipping the scales over 350lb. Built in a similar mold to Vita Vea of the Buccaneers, Ika came over from LSU when HC David Aranda took the job to become the man in the middle for the much-improved Baylor defense. Ika can be a starting NT Day 1 in the NFL with the pass rush upside to become a foundational piece on a defensive line.
Will McDonald IV, EGDE, Iowa State
McDonald comes in undersized at 6’3, 236lb, but is a fiend off the edge as a pass rusher. He has posted 29 sacks and nine forced fumbles coming into 2022 (five last season), having the fluidity and bend around the corner that strikes fear into offensive tackles having to handle his fast ball off the edge. He has five sacks thus far in 2022 and projects to be a viable rotational pass rusher who could earn a bigger role should he add more weight to his frame.
DeMarvion Overshown, LB, Texas
Overshown is a long, lengthy linebacker, standing 6’4, 224lb that looks more like a pumped-up safety than a traditional downhill thumper. The redshirt senior could have declared last year but was rough around the edges in terms of coverage and tackling, thus made the right decision to come back for another season. The decision proved to be a fruitful one as Overshown has looked like a more consistent prospect, having speed as a sideline-to-sideline defender as well as playing with better instincts.
Jaelyn Duncan, OT, Maryland
Duncan has been recognized as one of the better tackle prospects in the 2023 draft class, being ranked by some draftniks as a Round One prospect. Duncan brings the pedigree to the table being a former four-star recruit that stayed in-state to attend Maryland and has started 27 games at LT prior to 2022. Standing at 6’6, 330lb, Duncan passes the eye test as prototypical tackle build at the pro level, having long arms and a well-built lower half to hold his own against power rushers and displace defenders in the running game.
Ryan Hayes, OT, Michigan
Hayes has the height and length (6’7, 305lb) you look for at the position as well as the experience, appearing in 36 games in his career with 26 starts at left tackle. Hayes is a large man that generates a big push upfront in the running game, leading to the success of the Michigan rushing attack propelling RB Blake Corum into the Heisman conversation. A good athlete in his own right, Hayes projects to be a capable starting tackle at the next level or a high-end backup that should be able to contribute quickly.
Matthew Bergeron, OT, Syracuse
Bergeron stands 6’5, 332lb and is an underclassman that has caught the attention of NFL teams thanks to his impressive size and stellar play in the running game. He generates movement quickly at the LOS, displacing defenders with good first-step quickness paired with strength and power. He remains a projected Day Two selection and needs to show more consistency at defending the edge against high-level pass rushers.
Chris Rodriquez, RB, Kentucky
and Rodriquez embodies that vision as a physical runner between the tackles. The 5’11, 225lb runner went over 1,300 rushing yards and nine TDs on the ground last season but hasn’t been able to take the field yet in 2022 due to a four-game suspension due to a DUI charge he picked up this summer. Since returning, Rodriquez has been racking up stats, carrying the ball 151 times for 784 yards and six TDs. A player built in a similar mold to former Wildcat Benny Snell Jr., Rodriquez could be a possible replacement for Snell as a mid-round prospect come April.
Xavier Hutchinson, WR, Iowa State
Hutchinson ranks near the top of college football this season in receptions (105), receiving yards (1,160), while chipping in six TDs. He possesses the frame (6’3, 205lb) as well as the route running nuance to work all quadrants of the field, generating separation from coverage while also possessing the strong hands and body control to make difficult catches in tight coverage. Hutchinson is about as consistent and steady as the come as a receiver that may not take the top off the defense often, but can be a reliable safety blanket for the QB at the next level with enough juice to win one-on-one matchups over the middle or up the sideline.
Jonathan Mingo, WR, Ole Miss
Mingo is a pumped-up receiver prospect, standing 6’2, 225lb with good speed and explosiveness. Mingo currently has caught 41 passes for 768 yards and five TDs on the year. Mingo had never topped 400 receiving yards prior to this season but managed to break the single game receiving yardage mark in program history against Vanderbilt earlier this season as he was well-utilized all over the field as a route runner and showed off his ability to generate YAC. A likely late Day Two or Day Three selection, Mingo presents a physical receiver with potential upside as a value pick in the later stages of the draft.
Rashee Rice, WR, SMU
Rice ranks near the top of college football in receiving yards with a whopping 1,208 yards on 83 catches with nine trips to the end zone in 11 games played. The 6’2, 203lb senior excels in the SMU pistol offense, catching the ball in space with room to run and pick up big chucks of YAC. Rice will have the opportunity to face high-level competition in Mobile and show scouts his prolific production wasn’t a fluke playing lesser programs in Group of Five play.
What are your thoughts on the names that have already accepted Senior Bowl invites? Do some of these names appear to be good fits for the Pittsburgh Steelers? Please give your thoughts in the comments section below an thanks again for reading!