Mock Drafts are generally silly as it is nearly impossible to project which teams will trade around and where certain players will go in the draft. Team-specific mocks are even harder to determine, but just for the sake of some fun on the morning of Draft Day, I took a stab at who I think the Steelers will pick and who I would like them to pick. For the sake of this mock I did not project any trades, but we all know they are very possible. Direct all hate mail to @steeldad.
Round 1 – Pick 20
Who I Think They’ll Take: Desmond Ridder (QB – Cincinnati)
The Steelers seem to have their eyes set on taking a quarterback early in this draft. While a trade up for Malik Willis seems possible, in this mock I did not project trades. I think both Willis and Pickett will be gone within the top 12 or picks, and the Steelers would have to hope that Ridder slides through two New Orleans picks to get to them (or that the Saints package those picks into a trade up).
Who I Want Them to Take: Nakobe Dean (LB – Georgia)
If you watched Georgia play this past year, Nakobe Dean would have absolutely jumped off the film. He was the fastest player on Georgia’s defense that was full of athletic studs. A rangy inside linebacker who is instinctive and effective against the run and can fly around in pass defense. Dean would give the Steelers a succession plan behind Devin Bush and provide a boost to the league’s worst run defense.
Others In Play: Matt Corral (QB-Ole Miss), Andrew Booth (CB-Clemson), Devonte Wyatt (DT-Georgia), Dax Hill (S-Michigan), Lewis Cine (S-Georgia)
Round 2 – Pick 52
Who I Think They’ll Take: DeMarvin Leal (DT – Texas A&M)
With Stephon Tuitt’s future somewhat uncertain and Tyson Alualu’s recent run of injuries, the Steelers need to add depth on the defensive line. Defensive line coach Karl Dunbar attended just one Pro Day this year – at Texas A&M. Leal has the versatility to play inside or outside in a defensive front and would be very well-suited for the 3-4 DE role and has the quickness to rush the passer out of nickel sets. Leal recorded 8.5 sacks and 12.5 TFLs this past season.
Who I Want Them to Take: Skyy Moore (WR – Western Michigan)
The only player in WPIAL history to pass and run for 1000 yards TWICE in his career, Skyy Moore went on to play wide receiver at Western Michigan. He is an ideal slot receiver who can make plays with the ball in his hands and is a sharp route-runner. Moore tested very well athletically and is a chess piece that could be moved around the offensive formations to create mis-matches.
Others In Play: Carson Strong (QB-Nevada), Sam Howell (QB-UNC), Christian Harris (LB-Alabama), David Ojabo (EDGE-Michigan), Myjai Sanders (EDGE-Cincinnati)
Round 3 – Pick 84
Who I Think They’ll Take: Justyn Ross (WR – Clemson)
Ross’ best year of his college career came as a freshman. He has battled injuries since then but has the upside of being a field-stretching target with his size. Steelers WR coach Frisman Jackson put Ross through a workout during his Pro Day, so it would not be surprising to see the Steelers target another lanky Clemson receiver in the mid-rounds of the draft.
Who I Want Them to Take: Sam Williams (EDGE – Ole Miss)
Williams spent the first two years in JuCo before transferring to Ole Miss where he led the team in sacks each of his three seasons. This past year he recorded 12.5 sacks and 16 TFLs. At the combine, he checked nearly all of the athletic measurables for an early-impact pass rusher except for the vertical jump where he came up an inch short. He did run an incredibly impressive 3-cone drill at just a shade over 7 seconds at 7.03. He needs strong coaching and discipline, but has the upside to be an impactful pass rusher and is worth a gamble in the third round.
Others In Play: Daniel Faalele (OT-Minnesota), Leo Chenal (LB – Wisconsin), Matthew Butler (DT-Tennessee), Nik Bonitto (EDGE-Oklahoma), Darrian Beavers (LB-Cincinnati)
Round 4 – Pick 138
Who I Think They’ll Take: Damarri Mathis (CB-Pitt)
The Steelers have not been great at selecting cornerbacks in the draft during the Kevin Colbert era. Mathis is an athletic and aggressive corner that ran a blistering 4.39 40-yard dash at the combine. Mathis has good ball skills with 21 passes defended and 4 interceptions over his last two seasons. He did not play in 2020 due to a shoulder injury but played an integral part of Pitt’s secondary last season. He can be an immediate impact player of special teams and add depth to the cornerback group.
Who I Want Them to Take: John Ridgeway (DT-Arkansas)
I would have zero qualms with getting Mathis or Penn State’s Tariq Castro-Fields at this point in the draft. But the Steelers had the worst run defense in the league and I have not addressed the D-line yet in my “Who I want.” Ridgeway started his collegiate career at Illinois State and transferred to Arkansas this past season. From a production standpoint he had the best year of his career with 2 sacks and 4 TFLs. He is big and strong (6’5″ 321 pounds) and can eat up space in the middle of a defense. He will likely be limited to early downs and won’t be very effective as a pass rusher. That said, he is a capable run defender who can play a two-gapping style from the nose tackle position and consume multiple blockers to free up the linebackers to make plays.
Others In Play: Dominique Robinson (EDGE-Miami OH), Tariq Castro-Fields (CB-Penn State), Smoke Monday (S-Auburn), Pierre Strong (RB-South Dakota State), Danny Gray (WR-SMU)
Round 6 – Pick 208
Who I Think They’ll Take: Brandon Smith (LB-Penn State)
New defensive assistant Brian Flores went to Pro Days at Clemson, Georgia, and Penn State. Flores is also holds the title of linebackers coach. At Penn State’s Pro Day, both Flores and inside linebackers coach Jerry Olsavsky were in attendance. Smith has great speed for a player his size (6’3″ 250 pounds) and is a capable defender in short zone coverages. Smith tested as one of the most athletic inside linebackers in this draft and at just 21 years old has the combination of youth and moldable traits that the Steelers love.
Who I Want Them to Take: Quentin Lake (S-UCLA)
The Steelers need depth at safety. Even with the re-signing of Terrell Edmunds, the only backup safety on the roster is Tre Norwood. Lake has black-and-gold bloodlines, the son of former safety Carnell Lake. He is a physical safety who attacks the ball in the air. He is not afraid to stick his nose in against the run. Lake’s immediate value would be on special teams but as a developmental 6th rounder would have an opportunity to make the roster as a backup safety.
Others In Play: Isaiah Pola-Mao (S-USC), James Houston (LB-Jackson State), Sincere McCormick (RB-UTSA), Thomas Booker (DT-Stanford)
Round 7 – Pick 225
Who I Think They’ll Take: Sincere McCormick (RB-UTSA)
McCormick is the two-time Conference USA Offensive Player of the year after consecutive 1400-yard rushing seasons. Even though he has some athletic limitations (ran a 4.6 40), the Steelers have taken gambles on productive collegiate players in the 7th round. He is short and stout, built like a bowling ball. McCormick was incredibly productive in college and is an aggressive runner that hits the hole hard and hangs on to the football (no fumbles last season). He was known for his toughness and had home run hitting capacity with 4 TDs of over 65 yards this past season. McCormick can be an effective depth and rotational piece and will need to work on his receiving and pass blocking skills to be able to see the field on third downs.
Who I Want Them to Take: Spencer Burford (OT-UTSA)
Burford is a versatile lineman that the Steelers saw at the Senior Bowl and met with at the Combine. He has played both guard and tackle and was a four-year starter for the Roadrunners. He is broad with a large wingspan and has good feet. His hands could use some work and he needs to improve his base and functional strength but is worth a late-round flyer as a player with position versatility to be a swing guard/tackle reserve on the O-line.
Others In Play: Thayer Munford (OG-Ohio State), Connor Heyward (HB-Michigan State), Jeffrey Gunter (EDGE-Coastal Carolina), Max Mitchell (OT-Louisiana), Dontario Drummond (WR-Ole Miss)
It would not surprise me at all to see the Steelers spend a 7th round pick on Cam Heyward’s brother Connor. The Steelers have a thing for brothers of defensive players that play running back as their depth chart currently features Derek Watt and Trey Edmunds.
Round 7 – Pick 241
Who I Think They’ll Take: Joey Blount (S-Virginia)
While there are two safeties in this draft with black and gold ties, Joey Blount is not one of them and has no relation to Mel. Blount ran a 4.4 40-yard dash and tested well athletically. With Terrell Edmunds coming back, Blount’s in-the-box style would be a good backup to Edmunds that could potentially grow into his replacement.
Who I Want Them to Take: D’Vonte Price (RB-FIU)
While I mocked McCormick to the Steelers with the earlier of the 7th round picks, my preference is for Florida International’s D’Vonte Price. He was the lone bright spot on a team that was absolutely dreadful over the last few seasons. Price has good size and hands in the receiving game. He is a weight room warrior and played on every special teams unit for FIU, giving him some immediate value at the next level. While McCormick had the lengthy touchdown runs, he only ran a 4.6 40 while it was actually Price who ran one of the fastest times of the RB class at 4.38.
Others In Play: Luiji Vilain (EDGE-Wake Forest), Kurt Hinish (DL-Notre Dame), James Skalski (LB-Clemson)
Who I Think They’ll Take:
1.20 – Desmond Ridder (QB-Cincinnati)
2.52 – DeMarvin Leal (DT-Texas A&M)
3.84 – Justyn Ross (WR-Clemson)
4.138 – Damarri Mathis (CB-Pitt)
6.208 – Brandon Smith (LB-Penn State)
7.225 – Sincere McCormick (RB-UTSA)
7.241 – Joey Blount (S-Virginia)
Who I Want Them to Take:
1.20 – Nakobe Dean (LB-Georgia)
2.52 – Skyy Moore (WR-Western Michigan)
3.84 – Sam Williams (EDGE-Ole Miss)
4.138 – John Ridgeway (DT-Arkansas)
6.208 – Quentin Lake (S-UCLA)
7.225 – Spencer Burford (OT-UTSA)
7.241 – D’Vonte Price (RB-FIU)