It seems like every year during the draft, the Steelers are one of those teams that grabs a guy that tumbles down the board, and people like Mel Kiper and all of the other “draftniks” love their choices and slap a meaningless “A” on their draft grade article next to the Steelers.
This year though, it felt a lot different.
Steelers fans and local writers yelled “who?!” when the name Artie Burns came from commissioner Roger Goodell’s lips late Thursday night. I’ll admit, at the time, I was not in a great mood either but that more due to the fact that William Jackson was snatched off the board just one pick before the Steelers were on the clock.
When Denver moved up to Seattle’s pick just one pick after the Burns selection, I thought why didn’t the Steelers make that deal that they were surely offered. Had they made that deal, we could throw in someone like cornerback Tavon Young or wide receiver Pharoh Cooper to our existing draft class!
All of that being said, once I went back and looked at the options at each pick, I can’t say that I’m strictly against anything that was done when you look at the board at the time…
1. Artie Burns, CB, Miami
It was pretty unfortunate the way the selections went for the Steelers this year. There was no obvious stud at a position of need that took a tumble like Bud Dupree or David DeCastro. Karl Joseph, Keanu Neal, Eli Apple, and William Jackson were probably high on the team’s board, but were all gone at that point.
So who were the value guys still available? Andrew Billings is the guy I really wanted at the time, but in hindsight we’ve learned that Billings may have had some sort of knee injury (speculation at this point). Regardless, there is obviously something about the Baylor defensive lineman that teams didn’t like, because he dropped all the way to the 4th round. Jarran Reed is another guy that I liked, but I think the Steelers just wanted to address the secondary worse. I know that “reaching” is seen as a bad idea in the draft but nobody really knows what a reach is because nobody knows how that player will pan out. Marcus Gilbert and Le’Veon Bell were seen as reaches, and Jarvis Jones and Mike Adams were seen as great value picks.
So they want to address the secondary. Why not Mackensie Alexander, who many saw as a better value at that point? I believe this team is seeking someone with more size than Alexander, who can matchup with larger receivers like AJ Green. Keep in mind several teams behind the Steelers were cornerback needy and they passed on Alexander as well.
So why not trade down? Regardless of what you and I think, Artie Burns was the Steelers’ guy at that point, and I felt like the team could’ve traded down and still grabbed him, but I’ve changed my mind now. Had the Steelers traded down Green Bay, Kansas City, Arizona, and Carolina would have been picking before them at pick 31.
Of those teams…
- Kansas City needed a cornerback (they selected 3 in the draft) and traded down possibly because Burns and others came off the board.
- Arizona needed a cornerback, selecting Brandon Williams in the 3rd and Harlan Miller in the 6th.
- Carolina obviously needed a cornerback after losing Josh Norman, and would go on to select 3 in row in rounds 2, 3, and 5.
It’s possible that Burns would get past all 3 of those teams, but I would bet that he wouldn’t have.
2. Sean Davis, SS, Maryland
I think that the Steelers knew all along that there was no chance that they were going to finish the first 2 rounds without a safety being picked. There were too many options in that range, and the dropoff was too significant afterwards.
Davis wasn’t as well known as some other guys on the board like Darian Thompson and Vonn Bell, but I think he fits what they want at the strong safety spot the best. Vonn Bell seemed to be getting the most hype, but I see a very limited ceiling with Bell, and while he may be reliable I just don’t see a very high ceiling. He also isn’t going to be a guy to fill the box and punish running backs, which is what I think the Steelers really want. Davis fits the mold of so many Tomlin draft picks of a guy that can run and hit. While I think Davis shouldn’t play cornerback in the NFL, he was on last year, and that coverage experience will be beneficial against the Tyler Eifert and Rob Gronkowski’s of the league.
3. Javon Hargrave, DT, South Carolina State
I didn’t see many complaints about this pick. The only thing I saw mentioned is he may not be a scheme fit in a 3-4 defense. I think that the Steelers play a 3 man front so little now that his fit in that alignment isn’t all that important. Dan McCullers can play the small amount of snaps that they use that formation. Let Hargrave wreak havoc in 4 man fronts.
4. Jerald Hawkins, OT, LSU
Mike Adams is in his last year in Pittsburgh (if he even makes the team). The Steelers have a good right tackle in Gilbert, a project at left tackle in Villanueva, and a solid yet uninspiring swing tackle in Ryan Harris. Mike Munchak needs a project to mold in case Villanueva doesn’t continue to improve. Boring pick here, but fits the range, no real issues with it. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com wrote on Hawkins “his ceiling might be tied directly to whether a team allows him to sit while an offensive line coach works to correct the technical flaws that limit his effectiveness.” Sounds like Pittsburgh is a perfect landing spot for him.
6. Travis Feeney, OLB, Washington
I’m not sure where they’re going to play Feeney but I like the pick. He’s undersized but blew up nearly every drill in the combine. At 230 pounds, there’s no way he’s a traditional Steelers edge rusher. However, he does look like a coverage linebacker in a 4-3 WILL spot, with some pass rushing potential there.
7. Demarcus Ayers, WR, Houston
Ayers is pretty raw and probably should have stayed in school. I think he spends this season on the practice squad but there’s upside as a slot receiver. It would be nice if he could nab the team’s last wide receiver spot because he’s an experienced kick and punt returner; which is probably what the Steelers were most interested in.
7. Tyler Matakevich, ILB, Temple
This was a fantastic 7th round pick. Matakevich doesn’t have any great physical skill, but he’s incredibly smart and instinctual. He probably won’t ever be a full time starter but could be a valueable special teams player, run down specialist, and solid backup. I was a big fan of Keyaron Fox back in the day, I think he could be a similar player.