The big need for the Pittsburgh Steelers, going back to the end of the 2017 season, has been inside linebacker, as the team has yet to be able to find someone capable of replacing the injured Ryan Shazier in the middle of their defense.
But ESPN analysts Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, who cover the NFL Draft, don’t believe a top-round insider linebacker is in the cards for the Steelers this week.
The top two inside linebackers are Devin White from LSU and Devin Bush from Michigan. Kiper believe those two will be long gone by the time the Steelers make their choice with the No. 20 overall pick.
Kiper thinks White will be taken by Tampa Bay at No. 5 overall.
“They need him,” Kiper said on a conference call with reporters on Monday. “That’s a big need area for them, linebacker. Obviously, with Kwon Alexander moving on, they took some hits there. That’s what they need. … He could be the leader, the real cornerstone of that defense.”
Bush has been projected to go lower in the draft, and some think he could potentially be available for the Steelers, but Kiper isn’t in that group, at least not anymore.
“I had thought he might get to 20 to Pittsburgh, I had it several times during the process, but everybody is so positive on Devin Bush” Kiper said. “The consistency on tape, game-to-game consistency, love of the game, today’s NFL fits him perfectly. There’s not that much separating him from Devin White. If Devin White is going to go (at) five to Tampa … they’re both very similar. I can’t see him getting past (Cincinnati at No.) 11.”
McShay agrees that both of the top inside backers will be gone by the time the Steelers choose, and added that there isn’t a realistic third choice to be taken at No. 20.
“I think they could both be off the board in the first 10 picks,” McShay said. “They’re that good. It would be nice (if they were there). Obviously, it’s a position of need. … After the Devin’s, White and Bush, there’s really not an off-the-ball linebacker that you want to draft, probably until late second, third-round range.”
So which direction will the Steelers go instead? McShay thinks the best position groups are defensive end and cornerback, with Clemson end Clelin Ferrell and Washington corner Byron Murphy standing out.
“We talked about Clelin Ferrell from Clemson,” McShay said. “I also think, the cornerback position, that’s kind of where the corners start to come off the board. I think Byron Murphy would be a really good pick coming out of Washington. He’s not the fastest guy. He’s not the best man-to-man cover corner. He’s basically 5-foot-11, 190. He ran a 4.55 at the combine. But I’d say he’s the most instinctive in terms of his ability to play zone coverage and play off the ball and do different things. I think Mike Tomlin in that defense, would appreciate what he can do and be able to utilize him properly and allow him to become a playmaker in their system.”
Mic Drop: Adam Zielonka of Washington Times on McFarland, Brooks
Instead of trading for a proven running back like Leonard Fournette, the Steelers simply drafted a rookie with their 4th round pick. That rookie is Anthony McFarland out of the University of Maryland. To fully explain what McFarland brings to the table, Mike Asti was joined by Adam Zielonka, who is a sports reporter for the Washington Times. Zielonka also touched Antoine Brooks, the other Maryland product drafted by the Steelers.
Colbert Explains Why He Wanted Three Rounds Added to 2020 Draft
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert is offering an explanation as to why he wanted three rounds added to the 2020 NFL Draft.
Speaking with NBC Sport’s Mike Florio on the PFT PM podcast Tuesday, Colbert took the opportunity to clarify his suggestion.
“The reasoning was, part of it was selfish,” Colbert said. “You wanted to have a safety net because we’re dealing with less information, and the more picks you have, maybe you’ll have a little bit of a safety net again.”
With the league’s self-implemented travel restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, clubs were unable to conduct their normal scouting activities prior to the Draft. This included Pro Days, private workouts and in-person interviews.
Less opportunities to watch and speak with prospects results in a larger margin for error.
Colbert went on to say that it also would have benefited some of the fringe prospects in the Draft that never had the chance to showcase themselves at a Pro Day or other setting.
“The other thing was it would give the marginal player that didn’t get his opportunity to go to a Pro Day and to perform. Maybe there will be more players drafted and then those players will then again have the chance they might not get.”
Now without rookie minicamps, the challenges are mounting for clubs and NFL hopefuls.
“Every year a team might stumble upon a tryout player,” Colbert said. “Maybe if we ever get on the field, we can think of a way to help those because there’s a big group of players that aren’t getting opportunities because of the situation.”
Colbert reminded Florio that the Steelers discovered Devlin “Duck” Hodges as a tryout in camp last year.
It is unclear when teams will be allowed to return to the practice field for their offseason programs, with clubs currently conducting theirs entirely from home.
Mic Drop: NFL Draft Recap Show
It was eat, sleep, draft coverage, repeat for Mike Asti and the Steelers Now crew this past week. And now that the draft is over, Mike Asti evaluates each pick and gives his thoughts on some moves he says the Steelers should have made.