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.”
Report: NFL to Make Significant Changes to Combine Due to COVID-19
Major changes to the 2021 NFL Scouting Combine are expected amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a report by Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, plans of hosting the combine as traditionally constructed are “dead” following a conference call between league officials Friday. It is becoming increasingly likely that the medical and performance-based portions of the event will be held separately.
A number of alternatives are being considered, including regionalized medical checks, standardized pro days and interviews conducting via Zoom.
With regards to the regional medicals, the NFL could set up shop and administer the examinations at hospital in states where a large number of players are conducting their workouts and preparation, such as Arizona, California, Florida and Texas.
The intent would be to limit travel for players, where as the team physicians conducting the examinations would likely have already received their vaccinations.
Other aspects of the medical process can be accomplished virtually, such as reviewing injury histories.
As for the pro days, NFL or individual team personnel would put players through drills at their respective schools, but standardize each workout to ensure prospects are going through the same exercises as they would in Indianapolis. Measurements and result would then be distributed league-wide as they normally would be.
League officials will continue to meet over the coming days, according to Breer, but a finalized plan is expected later this coming week.
The NFL has also weighed the option of postponing the combine until April, but still holding it in Indianapolis. While it is on the table, the move would likely requirement the 2021 NFL Draft to be postponed as well.
Steelers Clinch No. 24 Pick in 2021 NFL Draft
Following their opening round playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers now know where they will be selecting in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Pittsburgh now owns the No. 24-overall selection in April’s draft.
Updated 2021 NFL Draft order after Super Wild Card Weekend:— NFL Draft (@NFLDraft) January 11, 2021
19) Washington Football Team
23) Jets (via Seahawks)
A number of needs and questions plague the Steelers as they enter the offseason and turn their attention toward the draft process, with multiple directions they can go with their first round pick. Offensive line, running back and cornerback all appear viable options for the Steelers at No. 24.
The Steelers have not had a first round selection since trading up to draft inside linebacker Devin Bush with the tenth-overall pick in 2018. Pittsburgh did not have a first rounder in last year’s draft, sending it to the Miami Dolphins in 2019 to acquire safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
The draft is scheduled to be held from April 29 to May 1 in Cleveland, Ohio, though it’s unclear if that will come to pass or if the draft will once again be held virtually, as the 2020 NFL Draft was.
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.