It’s time. I’m locking this in. Honestly, I’ve changed my Steelers mock about 20 times since my last mock was posted (check it out here).
1. Carl Lawson, Edge, AuburnUPDATE: Derek Rivers, Edge, Youngstown St
Just for your information, I changed this pick like 8 times while writing this; between Lawson, Derek Rivers, and Jordan Willis. The team never takes small school prospects in the 1st round, but the fact that they’ve met with Rivers on about 4 different occasions makes me wonder if they’re trying to talk themselves into it. Jordan Willis is the youngest of the 1st round edges and has crazy athleticism that they covet but the tape just isn’t inspiring.
In the end, I’m going with the underclassman from a power 5 school; because that’s what history dictates they will do.
The above paragraph is what I wrote last night when my selection here was Carl Lawson. Overnight, I’ve heard some rumblings that Lawson could take a draft day slide reminiscent of Andrew Billings’ last year, and like Billings, the reason could be some medical red flags.
For that reason, I’m updating this pick to Derek Rivers. I won’t lie, I’m really teampted to slot Jabrill Peppers here. I think the team may buy his excuse for the diluted sample and take the defensive swiss army knife. The biggest reason I’m not is it re-shuffles the whole rest of my draft. I also think a trade down is very possible. That being said, Rivers is a great pick here still. I’ve seen some say maybe he makes it to the team’s 2nd round pick but I just don’t see that happening. Rivers checks all the athletic boxes and shows good tape even if it is against inferior competition.
Other Considerations: Jabrill Peppers, Jordan Willis, Takk McKinley, Marlon Humphrey, Obi Melinfonwu, Corey Davis
2. Shaquill Griffin, CB, Central Florida
Cornerback is kinda the wildcard position in this draft for the Steelers. I think if they liked someone at 30, like Marlon Humphrey, that they wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger. I also think that they’d be happy to be patient for a guy that they feel fits what they want in their scheme. While there is a clear need at the position I think that the Steelers also have some options already on the roster, unlike other positions taken earlier.
Shaquill Griffin’s tape showed that he was an aggressive and physical player both in coverage and in supporting the defense against the run. The Steelers will like his ability to jar receivers on the line of scrimmage. The tape showed a kid that may struggle with keeping up with speedy receivers at the next level, so when he got the combine many were surprised that he ran a 4.38 forty yard dash. After his impressive combine, I wouldn’t be shocked if he was the Steelers’ pick at the end of round 2. I think Griffin would be a great fit in the Steelers’ defense as he’d be comfortable playing press-man coverage as well as cover-2.
Other Considerations: Zay Jones, Chris Godwin, Tarrell Basham, Josh Jones, Budda Baker, Tim Williams, Zach Cunningham
3. Marcus Maye, S, Florida
This pick feels like a bit optimistic on Maye being here. I’ve seen him graded higher, but I feel he belongs here and there’s a deep crop of safeties so I think one could definitely unexpectedly fall to this point. I don’t feel that safety is a huge need for the team but the Steelers have shown interest in a lot of them. It could be because they’re planning for more 3-safety looks and possible moving someone like Maye or Sean Davis down into the box on passing downs to replace Vince Williams.
Maye could be a guy that fits well as a hybrid linebacker/safety role. He excels at coming downhill and unlike man of the Steelers current defenders is a very efficient tackler. In coverage he can hold his own over the middle, but he struggles as a deep safety where he’s able to be beaten.
Other Considerations: Rasul Douglas, Cam Sutton, Adam Shaheen, Marlon Mack, Josh Dobbs, Jourdan Lewis
3. Josh Reynolds, WR, Texas A&M
Surprised? Don’t be. If Martavis Bryant isn’t reinstated by the time the draft gets going the team is going to work under the assumption they have a void to fill across from Antonio Brown. Even if he is reinstated, I think that this is a position of need. Martavis could be gone at any moment and we saw in the AFC Championship game that this team needs a threat to take the heat off of Antonio Brown.
I’ve seen a lot of analysts list Josh Reynolds as a day 3 pick, and I’m just not sure why. Reynolds is rail-thin, but I see some Chad Johnson in his game. Right away, Reynolds’ bread and butter is going to be a field stretching threat but his hands are better than former Steelers’ options there like Mike Wallace and Sammie Coates. Reynolds isn’t necessarily a burner either, he wins with a nasty attitude in going up and taking the ball in the air. Long term though, I think that Reynolds can be more than a “one trick pony” as Mike Tomlin once called Mike Wallace. He has solid footwork that could lead to him being a better route runner. If he can add some weight to his frame to help him beat more physical cornerbacks then he could really be a dangerous player across from Antonio Brown.
Other Considerations: Rasul Douglas, Cam Sutton, Adam Shaheen, Marlon Mack, Josh Dobbs, Jourdan Lewis, Nathan Peterman
4. James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh
This is a heart pick, not a head pick, but I don’t care. I think that James Conner is a guy that the Steelers would love to have in their locker room. He was the only one the Steelers brought in to visit their facility, but they did meet with several others at the combine and pro days. Of those they talked with many were power backs.
Conner fits the mold too of a guy that’s stout enough to take plenty of touches should Le’Veon Bell miss time. I believe he also has some ability as far as catching the ball and pass blocking which the Steelers value a lot. He might not be the most athletically gifted guy around but I think his will to succeed makes him a solid backup to Bell.
Other Considerations: Ejuan Price, Carroll Phillips, Corn Elder, Jalen Myrick
5. Michael Roberts, TE, Toledo
This is my one pick that’s more of a “hope it happens” situation, than necessarily thinking it does happen. I wouldn’t be shocked if Roberts went a round or maybe even 2 earlier than this, but with so many athletic freaks at the position in this draft class, a more “boring” player like Roberts could fall.
Roberts reminds me a little of the now Patriots tight end, Dwayne Allen. Roberts is a willing and experienced blocker, which is somewhat unusual for a college tight end. His technique needs a little refining but I think he could replace David Johnson’s blocking tight end role right away in his rookie season. He also scored a ridiculous 16 touchdowns his senior season. He’s not going to be a consistent threat to take over games but he’s a chain mover and red-zone specialist with huge, soft hands. I think he could be a vital backup on a championship caliber offense, and in the 5th round that’s a steal.
Other Considerations: JoJo Mathis, Montae Nicholson, Nathan Gerry, George Kittle
6. Treyvon Hester, NT, Toledo
Dan McCullers has shown flashes in his career of potentially being a run down specialist, but the wow plays are too few and far between. I could see the team bringing in compatition this year. Hester could be their backup NT in the rare 3 man fronts, and I think he also has the athleticism to be a backup at DE the way that Javon Hargrave was last season.
Other Considerations: Jerod Evans, Samson Ebukam, Jason Croom
7. Harvey Langi, LB, BYU
Harvey Langi is a athlete more than a football player that was played defensive end at BYU, and was just completely playing out of position. He’s got some solid ability to fly around and shed blocks, but hasn’t ever been able to focus on one position full time. He’d likely be a practice squad candidate unless he really impressed on special teams in preseason.
Other Considerations: Sam Tevi, Storm Norton