A mock draft, in January? Yes, we know this is very soon, hence the article title. Mock drafts are a fun exercise and it gives readers a better understanding and more knowledge of players who the Pittsburgh Steelers could potentially draft. I only went three rounds because of the lack of information out on players and because it is too soon to do an extensive mock draft. I included a GIF of each player, this is something I will continue to do throughout my mock drafts and when my Draft Journals come out, you can expect them there as well.
**These picks are contingent on a few important things: Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell , Vance McDonald and Joe Haden are all on the roster come the beginning of the 2018 season.
Round 1, Pick 28
Rashaan Evans, ILB, Alabama
I get it, the Steelers haven’t drafted a player from Alabama since 1998. The 2018 NFL Draft is pretty top heavy when it comes to inside linebackers. When the board unravels, I think Evans’ skillset lines up pretty well with what the Steelers need right now with Ryan Shazier’s future availability in serious doubt. After Shazier went down, the Steelers realized how poor the depth at the inside linebacker position ultimately was. Neglecting it in the offseason, the Steelers were forced to quickly sign former Steeler linebacker Sean Spence. Credit to Spence coming off the street and filling in, but his play left much to be desired. The gaping hole left by Shazier’s absence was far too deep to fill with Spence or any linebacker on the current roster.
Evans is an athletic player who doesn’t follow suit with the mantra that players who come from Alabama have a ton of tread on them. Evans played a good bit in 2016 and started at linebacker in 2017 when Reuben Foster went into the NFL Draft. When I watch Evans, I see a player who has all the athletic tools but lacks experience, which hinders his instincts and readiness. This matches up with TJ Watt’s evaluation last year. The Alabama product also spent snaps as an edge rusher and in coverage. Getting to the quarterback and dropping into zone or being tasked with man to man are all too familiar. Evans is fast, takes good angles and is a reliable tackler. He can be overwhelmed sometimes when trying to shed blockers, but doesn’t lack effort. He reminds me of Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones.
Round 2, Pick 60
DaShon Elliot, FS, Texas
With Mike Mitchell’s $8M cap hit and disappointing play at free safety, the Steelers could opt for a younger replacement. Even if Mitchell returns, depth at safety is surely needed.
Elliot has the physical make up, instincts and coverage ability to keep the lid on the Steelers defense and prevent big plays. While Elliot does not possess elite speed or quickness, his intangibles cover up this deficiency. Too often does Elliot get fooled by play-action and get caught out of his zone, this is an issue that should be fixed by experience and watching film. The Texas product has a knack for turning the ball over, collecting six interceptions (2 returned for touchdowns) and three forced fumbles. Elliot also had nine passes defended.
I expect Elliot to play in both the center field role as well as in the box. He is a versatile guy who can do it all and just needs more experience and some coaching to develop into a safety who can play in week one.
Round 3, Pick 92
Lorenzo Carter, EDGE, Georgia
Another edge rusher from Georgia?! Do you have PTSD? I’m here to calm you down because Lorenzo Carter is not Jarvis Jones by any stretch. Carter has length and athleticism that makes him tough to block for long. Carter reportedly has an extremely fast metabolism, so it is tough for him to keep his weight on, but I can only assume that the issue is soon to dissipate as he should fill out his frame. An asset in the run and pass game is what makes him so attractive. In the run game he sets a good edge, not with strength, but with technique and length. He keeps his feet moving and reads the play. He forces a lot of runs inside to his help. While rushing the passer, Carter has good hand usage and uses his long arms to keep opponents from getting a hold of him. Carter can bend and turn a corner quick, which causes havoc for tackles that don’t have the length or quickness to match. I didn’t see Carter drop too much into coverage, but he definitely has minimal experience and the athleticism to do so.
With TJ Watt solidifying the strong side outside linebacker position and Bud Dupree showing he is not worth the fifth-year option, the Steelers may yet again need to draft Dupree’s successor. Even if the Steelers stick it out with Dupree, depth at the position is needed with James Harrison’s departure, Arthur Moats not expected back and Keion Adams as a big unknown.
I am a huge fan of Carter’s game and have been for a while. I actually think he can give quality snaps inside as well at the Mack linebacker position. For me, I am convinced Carter has a high ceiling. I was also told that Carter is of high character and always has a positive attitude.
In the first three rounds, I went all defense, addressing the needs I presented in my article a few weeks ago. When this mock goes into the further rounds, I would expect to select a few offensive players as well to supplement depth at a few positions. Inside linebacker along with the free safety position are two critical positions that need to be addressed early. Free agency will make the needs of the team much more clearer moving closer to the draft. Anticipate more mock drafts from me. If you like, dislike, demand more or less frequent mock drafts or coverage, let me know in the comments or direct message me on twitter.