Based on formal reports, the Steelers have been connected with over 200 prospects throughout the 2019 NFL Draft process from the collegiate All-Star Games, the NFL Combine, Pro Days, Private Workouts, and pre-draft visits. The Steelers full draft board will likely have about 150 players. Even if the Steelers do not have a major need at the position, the player will still appear on their board, because at some point they would likely become a value pick (for instance, the top quarterbacks might be ranked in the 20s on the Steelers board because at that point in the draft they would be the best prospects remaining). The only things that could take a player off the Steelers draft board would be scheme fits, injuries, or off-field issues where the team simply has too many concerns to even consider drafting the player.
In his pre-draft press conference, Kevin Colbert detailed how the Steelers go about putting their board together. They ask “If we had the #1 pick, who would we take?” Then, “If that player was gone, who would we take if we had the next pick?” and so on. In this spirit, the staff at SCB got together over the last week to do our best to put together a Steelers-specific Draft Board based on both player abilities and team needs. The Steelers have the heaviest needs at inside linebacker, cornerback, edge rusher, free safety, and wide receiver. They have also spent some time on depth tight ends, running backs and defensive linemen.
The Steelers Draft Board
1. Nick Bosa (EDGE – The Ohio State University)
Some debate over Bosa vs Allen at the top. There was unanimous agreement in the SCB War Room on a pass rusher being the top position to address and intersection of talent and need. Nick Bosa’s game has a lot of similarities to his older brother Joey, who recorded 10+ sacks in each of his first two seasons.
2. Josh Allen (EDGE – Kentucky)
Allen is a freak athlete who has developed technique over the last season. Do not fall into the common draft analyst mantra of judging a player by their school. Allen is nothing at all like Bud Dupree. He has honed his pass rushing moves and is relentless in pursuit. Allen has the strength to bull rush through linemen and the speed to blow past slower tackles.
3. Quinnen Williams (DL – Alabama)
There was some debate over the third spot on the board. Ultimately, we chose Williams because he can play anywhere on the line and could be an anchor inside in the nickel package, allowing us to slide Cam out to the edge role in nickel. Having a player with Williams’ talent on the inside would also free up the inside linebackers to make plays on the ball. Williams may be the top overall prospect in the draft and the value was too much to pass up.
4. Devin White (ILB – LSU)
White is the top inside linebacker prospect in the draft. Plays great in space. White would be the ideal fit for the Steelers as a replacement for what they have lost in Ryan Shazier. White has excellent sideline-to-sideline speed and attacks the ball.
5. Brian Burns (EDGE – Florida State)
Burns is a young and athletic pass rusher who compares athletically to the Vikings’ Danielle Hunter. The need to prepare for life after Bud Dupree is evident at the top of our draft board. Burns is a bit more raw than the other two pass rushers at the top of the board. In college, he won primarily with his athleticism. He will need to get stronger at the point of attack in the NFL but he has all the tools to be an elite pass rusher.
6. Ed Oliver (DL – Houston)
There was a lot of debate in the SCB War Room over the #6 spot on the board. Ed Oliver was the highest-graded prospect remaining. There was some discussion over where he would fit on the Steelers defense given Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt being under contract. At the end of the day, the discussion came back to reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, who has similar athletic traits to Oliver. If the Steelers had an opportunity to add a player with that type of dominant athletic skillset on the interior of the defensive line, it would be difficult to pass up.
7. Devin Bush (ILB – Michigan)
Bush might be the prospect that best fits all of the Steelers draft tendencies. He played for a power conference school that finished ranked in the Top 25, is only 21 years old, and has off-the-charts athleticism. Furthermore, Colbert, Tomlin, Butler, and Olsavsky were all present at his Pro Day. He has excellent explosion to attack the ball and can hold his own in coverage. He is the ideal fit as a 3-down inside linebacker to replace Shazier.
8. TJ Hockenson (TE – Iowa)
Iowa has two tight ends that grade out as the top prospects in the class. Hockenson has the edge because of his complete abilities as both a blocker and a receiver. It is rare to see a collegiate tight end as well-rounded and complete in both the route-running, receiving, and blocking games as Hockenson.
9. Clelin Ferrell (EDGE – Clemson)
Ferrell was part of a dominant Clemson defensive line this past season. There was some discussion on whether he would be better suited for a 4-3 defensive end role as opposed to a 3-4 outside linebacker. That said, he has a bevy of pass rushing moves and can win either around the edge or with his brute strength. Ferrell would be the type of power rusher the Steelers have not had since Lamarr Woodley’s unfortunate injury.
10. Byron Murphy (CB – Washington)
There are three corners in this class worthy of being selected in the first round. Murphy was the SCB War Room’s favorite of the bunch. He is capable in man and zone coverage. His physicality would be an instant hit with Steelers fans and he has no problem sticking his nose in to support the run defense.
11. DK Metcalf (WR – Ole Miss)
Metcalf got a lot of attention on social media due to some leaked pictures of his workouts but delivered on his athletic profile at the combine. He did not run an extensive route tree at Ole Miss but is absolutely a downfield threat with the power and physicality to win against smaller corners. He has the speed to blow past nearly everyone and is going to be difficult to bring down in the open field with the ball in his hands.
12. Greedy Williams (CB – LSU)
There was a lot of discussion at this point between Greedy and Rashan Gary. Gary was considered the higher-rated prospect while Greedy addressed a more pressing team need. He has the physical abilities and mental capacity to play on the outside as an effective, shutdown corner. Interestingly, he reportedly had no pre-draft visits with any teams this year. Greedy has good instincts and can track the ball in the air among the best in this class.
13. Rashan Gary (DE – Michigan)
Gary tested off the charts athletically, but there are some questions about where he would fit best in the Steelers defense. He might be best suited for a 4-3 but could transition to either the 3-4 OLB or DE role. When he flashes, he shows up big time by using his athleticism and power to make plays in the backfield. He can also get swallowed up and doesn’t have as refined a pass rushing skill set as some others in this class. That said, his athleticism puts him in the category to be a potential early-impact player if he can put it all together consistently.
14. Noah Fant (TE – Iowa)
Fant is the second Iowa tight end to appear on our draft board. He has elite athleticism and is a downfield threat from the tight end spot. His blocking game is not as refined as Hockenson, but he is still a quality player. There were some questions about his catch rates, but he also wasn’t playing with the greatest quarterbacks at Iowa. Has the athletic ability to go up and get jump balls over smaller defenders. The Steelers definitely need a tight end to fill the #2 role vacated by Jesse James and either of the Iowa guys would be solid fits.
15. AJ Brown (WR – Ole Miss)
The two Ole Miss wide receivers are the top two on our board. He is the cousin of Antonio Brown and has a lot of similarities in his game. AJ runs great routes in short spaces and can separate instantaneously out of a break. He primarily played in the slot at Ole Miss, but showed his abilities as an outside receiver when DK Metcalf was injured.
16. Jawaan Taylor (OT – Florida)
The Steelers have said that the right tackle position will be an open camp battle between Matt Feiler, Chuks Okorafor, Jerald Hawkins, and Zach Banner. While that is a lot of players to evaluate, there is no reason why a rookie could not be added to that mix as well. The value of the top offensive tackles in the draft is much greater than any of the remaining players at this point, we put them on the board. Taylor was deemed by the group to be a more natural right tackle and thus a better fit for the Steelers need.
17. Jonah Williams (OT – Alabama)
There was some debate over whether Taylor or Williams should be our top offensive tackle. Taylor was slotted slightly higher because of his more natural abilities as a right tackle and the thought that he could immediately compete for a starting spot. That said, Williams’ value was so high at this point he came next on the board.
18. Deandre Baker (CB – Georgia)
Baker is the third of the top tier of corners. He is slightly below-average athletically for an NFL corner but has a nose for the ball and is a solid tackler. He would be best as a press man corner, which is a scheme the Steelers have been working to implement more often, rather than playing softer zone coverage.
19. Cody Ford (OL – Oklahoma)
Ford is one of the most versatile linemen in the draft and has the ability to play any guard or tackle position. He could immediately step in and compete for the right tackle position. Ford is arguably the 3rd best offensive lineman in the draft and the Steelers have done well to continually restock the position.
20. Mack Wilson (ILB – Alabama)
Wilson is the third best inside linebacker prospect in the draft. He does not have the freakish athleticism that the Steelers have targeted with their first round picks. However, he checks a lot of other boxes and was a solid contributor over multiple seasons in the middle of the Crimson Tide defense. Wilson can hold his own in pass coverage and has a good set of hands for a linebacker which contributed to 6 interceptions over the last 2 seasons.
21. Christian Wilkins (DL – Clemson)
While the Steelers hold the 20th pick, Kevin Colbert said in his pre-draft press conference that the team would rank out 32 players in advance of Thursday night in order to keep a solid working list in the event a trade down scenario presented itself. At this point, Wilkins was too much of a value to pass up. While the Steelers don’t have a tremendous need on the defensive line, Wilkins absolutely jumps out on tape as a dominant interior defender. As discussed earlier, adding a talented interior defender could go a long way to freeing up the inside linebackers to make plays and help with the rotation of Heyward and Tuitt.
22. Kyler Murray (QB – Oklahoma)
Quarterback is not one of the Steelers great needs in this draft. That said, Murray is clearly the top quarterback on the board and at this point too great of a value to pass up. As discussed at the outset, this board takes into account the Steelers needs at given position as well as player caliber. Murray is the presumptive #1 pick in the draft and has drawn a number of favorable comparisons to Russell Wilson. If he was still available, there is certainly value in adding one of the best players in the draft, regardless of position.
23. Montez Sweat (EDGE – Mississippi State)
Internally, the SCB war room was split on Sweat. There was some concern about his schematic fit with the Steelers as some saw him better suited as a 4-3 DE. His pass rushing technique needs some work and he displays an inconsistent effort at times. Additionally, his heart condition was discussed as a potential concern. That said, Sweat is solidly in the second tier of pass rushers available in this draft. Given the Steelers need at the position, his value was worth having on the board for consideration. Furthermore, Sweat checks all of the athleticism boxes to be an early-impact pass rusher.
24. Blake Cashman (ILB – Minnesota)
Blake Cashman has some of the widest variances of scouting reports in this draft. Some see him as a player with great instincts and superior mental processing that can break down a play. He has sideline-to-sideline speed and will attack the ball-carrier against the run. He has well-above average athleticism for the position. Some analysts see him as part of the second tier of inside linebackers and possibly as high as the 3rd best. Others voiced concerns about a shoulder injury and see him as a Day 3 prospect. The SCB war room fell into the previous category and ranked Cashman within the Top 25 on our board for both his instincts and mental processing speed as well as his athletic traits.
25. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (DB – Florida)
CGJ is a versatile defensive back that the Gators used all over the field. He played as both a slot cornerback in sub packages, as a box safety, and as a deep “free” safety. The Steelers love players with versatility, particularly in the secondary. Our hope is that unlike Sean Davis (who the Steelers stunted his development by trying toly simultaneous force him into a nickel corner and safety role as a rookie), CGJ would be able to focus on one position.
26. Taylor Rapp (S – Washington)
The SCB War Room spent some time discussing the safeties in this draft. Like Wide Receivers, there is not a clear-cut #1 safety in the class. That said, there are 6 potential prospects that could land between the late first round and early 3rd round. Like CGJ, Rapp has the versatility to play all over the field on defense. He spent time as both an in-the-box safety and as a two-high free safety for Washington. He is a heavy hitter who isn’t afraid to attack the ball downhill but also has the range and athleticism to cover tight ends across the middle. Rapp might be the best tackling safety in the draft, and would be a huge boost to the back end of the Steelers defense which has been leaky for years.
27. Nasir Adderley (S – Delaware)
Adderley is the top FCS prospect in this draft class. While the Steelers tend to stay away from small-school prospects early in the draft, Adderley has the range and athleticism to be an impact starter in the league. He has the ability to play both safety and corner, and that versatility could get him involved in the defense early. Athletically he tested very well but he has some gaps in his game as far as play recognition so he will take some coaching to reach his full potential.
28. Rock Ya-Sin (CB – Temple)
Rock Ya-Sin topped our second tier of the cornerback class. After starting his collegiate career at FCS Presbyterian, he moved up to the FBS ranks as a graduate transfer. He is a bit raw from a technique standpoint but has great athleticism for the position. He is a strong corner with the physicality to stick his nose in against bigger players in both the run and pass game.
29. Deebo Samuel (WR – South Carolina)
Deebo blew up the Senior Bowl and then had an explosive combine. He might be best suited as an X receiver (JuJu’s role last year) rather than the primary downfield threat. That said, he showed exemplary abilities on underneath routes with a toughness to go over the middle. Samuel is a force with the ball in his hands who is always looking to make a play. While he is only 5’11”, the Steelers have a scheme that has enabled sub-6′ receivers like Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders to thrive so that should not be a concern.
30. Justin Layne (CB – Michigan State)
The Steelers have spent a good deal of pre-draft scouting time on Layne, with Kevin Colbert attending his Pro Day and a pre-draft visit in Pittsburgh. Layne is a bump-and-run corner with good size and length which enabled him to defend 15 passes last season, one of the top marks in the FBS. His tape shows he is not afraid to peel off coverage to come up and make a play on a check-down receiver. He is a willing hitter with the size and athleticism to be a solid NFL corner. NFL.com’s Lance Zerlien compared him to Bengals CB William Jackson, who the Steelers absolutely loved a few years ago coming out of Houston.
31. Julian Love (CB – Notre Dame)
Love is a physical cover corner who can play in both man and zone schemes. He displayed an excellent ability to get his hands on the ball, tallying 32 passes defended and 4 interceptions over his last two seasons. The only hole in his game seems to be his deep speed where he can trail behind faster receivers. Other than that, he is a solid all-around corner that can contribute to a position where every NFL team needs depth.
32. Chase Winovich (EDGE – Michigan)
Winovich has been one of the most controversial players of the pre-draft process for Steelers fans. He is 24 years old, which distinctly goes against the Steelers trend of drafting younger players. That said, the Steelers clearly have an interest in the Thomas Jefferson High School product who has a relentless motor. He may be a better value pick in the second round rather than the tail end of the first, but we also saw the dropoff in edge rusher talent after Winovich as being somewhat significant, so his value plus the Steelers need was bolstered to put Chase at the last spot on our board.
Next Best Players Available
QB – Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State), Drew Lock (Missouri), Daniel Jones (Duke), Will Grier (West Virginia)
RB – Josh Jacobs (Alabama), Miles Sanders (Penn St), David Montgomery (Iowa St)
WR – Miles Boykin (Notre Dame), N’Keal Harry (Arizona St), Hakeem Butler (Iowa St), Marquise Brown (Oklahoma), Kelvin Harmon (NC State), Parris Campbell (Ohio St)
TE – Irv Smith (Alabama), Kahale Warring (San Diego St), Jace Sternberger (Texas A&M)
OL – Andre Dillard (Washington St), Garrett Bradbury (NC State), Chris Lindstrom (Boston College), Dalton Risner (Kansas St), Erik McCoy (Texas A&M)
DL – Dexter Lawrence (Clemson), Jeffery Simmons (Mississippi State), Jerry Tillery (Notre Dame), Dre’Mont Jones (Ohio State)
EDGE – D’andre Walker (Georgia), Christian Miller (Alabama), Ben Banogu (TCU)
ILB – Te’von Coney (Notre Dame), Vosean Joseph (Florida), David Long (West Virginia)
CB – Lonnie Johnson (Kentucky), Trayvon Mullen (Clemson), David Long (Michigan), Sean Bunting (Central Michigan), Amani Oruwariye (Penn St)
S – Johnathan Abram (Mississippi State), Deionte Thompson (Alabama), Darnell Savage (Maryland), Juan Thornhill (Virginia)