The Mock Draft… Such a rite of passage for us these days. Seems like I was just doing these for 2021 and already here we are going at it in 2022. As I usually do, I offer the following disclaimer. These are selections I envision the Steelers (Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin) making rather than picks that I would make. I also believe the Steelers will use free agency to address positions you don’t see drafted.
Personally and again I stress PERSONALLY… I believe that the Steelers will not draft a quarterback in 2022. They will sign a middle of the road free agent and will roll with Mason Rudolph. If you have a first round grade on a guy then at some point don’t you have to give him a legitimate shot? That said, should one of the top four quarterbacks (Kenny Pickett, Malik Willis, Sam Howell, Matt Corral) may be available without costing the Steelers anything to get them then yes, I can see it happening. Otherwise, just too many needs elsewhere on the roster.
This current version does include potential compensatory picks. The slots in later rounds are approximate as well.
Round 1 Pick 20: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pitt
The ghost of Dan Marino haunted the Steelers throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s as the former Pitt star tore up opposing defenses for years in Miami while the Steelers struggled to find a QB. With Heisman finalist Pickett in a similar situation, the Steelers decide they can’t pass him by when he falls to them at 20. Of all of this year’s QBs, Pickett is the most NFL-ready having played under former NFL Coach Mark Whipple and having a bevy of playing experience. Are there concerns? Yep. Small hands and an arm that isn’t the strongest in this class but they can’t resist taking a guy they’ve seen grown across the hall.
Reasoning: Pickett is likely near his ceiling and has some concerns but he’s better overall option than Mason Rudolph right out of the gate if the Steelers haven’t upgraded the position via free agency.
Mock 1.0: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
Round 2 Pick 52: Chad Muma, LB, Wyoming
Much like Logan Wilson of Wyoming jumped onto the scene last year, Muma does the same as a three-down linebacker who immediately helps the Steelers at a position of extreme need. He has all of the attributes you look for in a linebacker today. He covers well, tackles well and is football-smart.
Reasoning: If you saw the Steelers’ linebackers against the run in 2021 then that’s all the reasoning you need.
Mock 1.0: Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan
Round 3 Pick 84: Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama
Tolbert has good size, good hands and good speed plus he can block and is a willing blocker to boot. While he isn’t a speed merchant, he isn’t going to go down on first contact very often. His football IQ is really good as he played several receiver spots across the South Alabama offense.
Reasoning: With James Washington and JuJu Smith-Schuster likely playing elsewhere in 2022, the need for another top-line receiver is evident.
Mock 1.0: Wan’Dale Robinson, WR, Kentucky
Round 4 (Compensatory Pick for Bud Dupree): John Ridgeway, IDL, Arkansas
The big man figures to be right over the center but could create a spot for himself in a four-man alignment down the road. He has a great motor and good knowledge of what is expected from him at the nose. His ability to take up space and keep offensive linemen from getting to the linebackers is his most important attribute. He has some technique things to work on but this is a guy who has performed well against top talent in the SEC.
Reasoning: The Steelers have to get younger and deeper on the defensive line and they need guys who can take up space and still be effective run stoppers.
Mock 1.0: Thomas Booker, DL, Stanford
Sixth Round Pick 207: Isaiah Pola-Mao, S, USC
At 6’4″ he’s got bigger than normal size for a safety but he has some athleticism that allows him to play the run and the pass. His tackling can sometimes be suspect but it actually improves when moving from sideline to sideline. Adding some weight and strength will benefit him.
Reasoning: Assuming the Steelers do’t re-sign Terrell Edmunds, they have to find a more permanent solution at the position. Minkah Fitzpatrick is more effective when he can roam and play deep. Pola-Mao may allow him to do that otherwise Pola-Mao may just become a depth player if he can’t catch on quickly enough.
Mick 1.0: Josh Ross, LB, Michigan
Round 7 Pick 231: D’Vonte Price, RB, Florida International
Price lacks some of the lower body looseness you’d like to see in a RB and can get indecisive at times too but if he hits the lane he’s got a shot to take it to the house every time. His 4.38 forty at the Combine this week proves that. He’s got a great build and uses it with authority in blitz pickup too.
Reasoning: The need for a consistent and reliable backup to Najee Harris is real. Price could be the home run threat the team needs.
Mock 1.0: Josh Thompson, CB, Texas
Round 7 Pick 237 (Avery Williamson trade): Jeremiah Gemmel, LB, North Carolina
Above average athlete who is prized for his leadership and work ethic. Capable of being decent against both the run and the pass. I have no illusions here that Gemmel would be anything more than a Special Teams player to start out but given time and coaching he could become a much needed depth player at linebacker.
Reasoning: In case you missed it, the Steelers need depth at the linebacker position and adding a second LB in this draft isn’t a terrible idea.
Mock 1.0: Connor Heyward, TE/FB, MSU