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2024 NFL Draft

Bell: Five Steelers, NFL Draft Obersvations



Pittsburgh Steelers OT Taliese Fuaga
Oregon State OL Taliese Fuaga

The best weekend of the calendar year is quickly approaching. With the start of the NFL Draft less than two weeks away, there’s plenty of interesting storylines that are picking up steam as is always the case this time of year. The Pittsburgh Steelers have a big to-do list, with several key needs currently on the roster, but there’s going to be a good amount of talent available on the first two days of the draft. Here are some of my own observations just weeks away from the big event.

Arthur Smith Would Love Oregon State OL Tailese Fuaga

After hiring Arthur Smith as their new offensive coordinator, they’ve brought over a couple vets as depth pieces, signaling that they at least value his input. The Steelers want to “win with their bigs” and in order to do that, draft upgrades are necessary in the trenches with Tailese Fuaga as one of the bigger names that they’ve showed interest in. In my eyes, there’s no doubt that he’s the best zone run blocker in the class and possesses a similar profile to Falcons right tackle Kaleb McGary. Smith won’t be one of the main voices in the war room discussion but if he’s the tie breaker, this is the type of player he covets even if there are some worrisome pass pro red flags.

This Steelers Approach is … Unusual

The Steelers’ glaring draft needs at center and wide receiver certainly raise valid questions about the Steelers approach to the draft because in years past, they would have at least signed a cheap, baseline veteran starter. However, this is a new regime. There’s plenty of talent available at both positions so the outlook could be different two weeks from now. For weeks now, it has certainly felt like a potential trade has been in the works behind the scenes in hopes to solidify one of these spot before the draft. If that doesn’t happen, it just puts more pressure on leadership to nail the first several picks, acquiring talented players that are capable of contributing immediately. This approach is different and only time will tell if it’s smart.

Let’s Talk About James Daniels

If the Steelers had to play a game tomorrow, James Daniels might be the one snapping the ball, but the team has indicated they’d like to keep him at right guard after two rock-solid seasons in Pittsburgh. Once the draft cycle comes to a close, he figures to become a big talking point, with him entering the final season of his contract. At just 27-years old and with uncertainty around him on the offensive line, it only makes sense for him to be their number one extension candidate. Something to consider in all of this is that the guard market exploded this offseason, with Landon Dickerson and Robert Hunt both fetching contracts that pay out to more than $20 million per year, significantly higher than Daniels’ current contract. That’s great news for the player even if it could make negotiations a bit trickier and definitely more expensive but he’s a good player entering his prime which is worth paying for.

The Most Likely Steelers Cornerback Selection

Pittsburgh has shown a bunch of public interest in the draft’s cornerback prospects this cycle which makes sense when you look at the roster. Other needs will likely steer the attention elsewhere in round one but on day two, an investment seems likely. The player that makes the most sense to me is Rutgers CB Max Melton, who the Steelers have engaged with several times throughout the process. He possesses very good straight-line speed, has long arms and plenty of press-man reps on tape which sounds pretty similar to all of the cornerbacks they acquired last spring. Add in the fact that he blocked four punts in college and has true inside/outside versatility and this just feels like a perfect pairing.

Do We Ever Learn?

There are always a bunch of players in each draft class that I view much different than the consensus but two draft narratives that I just simply do not understand this cycle are in regard to North Carolina’s Drake Maye and Florida State’s Keon Coleman. Let’s start with the quarterback.

There’s no denying that Maye didn’t take the significant leap last season that we were anticipating and there are reasons for concern, most notably some lower body mechanical issues that have led to some inaccurate misses. With that being said, I find it wild that there’s a real chance that multiple quarterbacks not named Caleb Williams are being ranked and will potentially be taken above him. Maye’s tools are fantastic. The effortless velocity, deep ball touch and creation capacity are all traits to where you see a path for him being a quarterback that changes the trajectory of a franchise. The discourse feels eerily similar to what happened with Justin Herbert coming out.

On the other side of the pendulum is Keon Coleman, who many excellent evaluators in the draft space, have ranked and mocked inside the first round. He came in at 14th on my receiver rankings and my concerns with his game are largely around one glaring weakness: he just does not separate. If you pop on his tape last season, he was unable to generate any space for himself against ACC cornerbacks and with his lack of speed, modest lower body flexibility and lack of polish in his route running, it’s tough to see that changing in the NFL. I still see a path to him being a productive, useful player as a “power slot” at the next level but the hit rate on the contested catch archetype of receiver has been painfully low. Hopefully both players go on to lengthy, successful careers but the process for how both players are being evaluated and valued seems like off.