To say that this draft is an important one for the Pittsburgh Steelers would be an understatement. The team is at a cross roads with Ben Roethlisberger aging and Antonio Brown on the way out of town. With a poor draft, the roster may not be able to hold up to get Roethlisberger to another Super Bowl. With a strong draft, the Steelers become sneaky contenders with all eyes on the Cleveland Browns.
While a mock draft is never going to hit on every single pick, this should give a realistic look into players, and positions the Steelers may look to hit on at certain positions. To get the pool of players I used TheDraftNetwork.com and their mock draft simulator.
First Round – 20th pick overall: Greedy Williams, CB LSU
While most of the talk has been on Devin White of LSU, he is likely to go top five, propping Devin Bush up to go before the Steelers have a chance to think about him. While the team may attempt to trade up for Bush, they take the teammate of White in cornerback Greedy Williams.
Williams is the cornerback who fits the team most in their scheme. He is tall, long, fast and can play zone and press man coverage. Williams did not do many drills at the combine, leaving early with an injury. He also has not had any pre-draft visits, which is a rarity amongst players. Add that to a lighter weight, and questionable aggressiveness against the run, and there are holes with Williams.
However, those are the questions that push him to 20 rather than Bush, not questions that push him out of the first round. He is an excellent cover cornerback who is a playmaker and had a better red-shirt freshman year than a sophomore campaign. His 2017 video had many considering him as a top ten lock.
Still, when it mattered most in 2018, Williams came to play. His best game of 2018 was a shutdown performance of touted wide receiver D.K. Metcalf, who was 2-7 when targeted against Williams.
When he needed to ramp up the aggressiveness, he did. Cornerback has been an issue for the Steelers for years, but most of that has come down to lack of resources invested. Going 0-1 on Artie Burns in round one does not mean they should not go back to that well. The Steelers signed Steven Nelson but that in no way answers all of their cornerback questions, and they should not go into any draft thinking that they have too many corners.
Nelson also has versatility in the slot, giving Williams a chance to get on the field right away and let his upside turn himself into a potential elite cornerback.
Second Round – 52nd pick overall: Chase Winovich, OLB, Michigan
The Thomas Jefferson graduate from the WPIAL comes home. While the Steelers have plenty of interest in Devin Bush, they did meet with Chase Winovich at the Michigan Pro Day as well and will look to add someone for depth and to push Bud Dupree.
Winovich gets a try hard label, and he meets that, excelling as a run defender who uses his hands violently to finish every play. However, on top of that, he has elite bend and dip to get around the edge and get after the quarterback. Note the pressure on third-and-11 below.
Winovich is a bit undersized in his length and is an older prospect. However, he tested above average as an athlete, and his agility testing put him in the company of some successful NFL names. The agility and speed he displayed show a player who is not just a try hard, but one who can get on an NFL field and make an impact next season.
If Winovich does not light a fire under Bud Dupree, nobody on this earth will. Winovich may bring out the most in Dupree in competition, but also by getting off of the field more as a rotational pass rusher. Dupree could be used in more high leverage situations and can be rushed from different spots on the field.
If Winovich falls to round two, the Steelers should pull bring him home.
Third Round – 66th pick overall – from Oakland Raiders (Antonio Brown trade): Darnell Savage, S, Maryland
Savage is so polarizing because he is a small safety, but is more likely to play as a robber, or in the box than he is as a free safety. Still, two players he compares favorably to in role and style of play are Bob Sanders and Antoine Bethea. Not bad company.
|Darnell Savage||Bob Sanders||Antonie Bethea||Quintin Demps|
|Height||5′ 10¾”||5′ 9″||5′ 11″||6′ 1″|
|Weight||198 lbs||204 lbs||203 lbs||206 lbs|
|40 Yard Dash||4.36s||4.35s||4.39s||4.39s|
|20 Yard Shuttle||4.14s||3.95s||4.13s||4.14s|
|Bench Press||11 reps||15 reps||19 reps||16 reps|
You can see it in the 40-yard dash and vertical jump that Darnell Savage an explosive player who closes quickly on the ball. In the box, when he is near the line of scrimmage, his quick reactionary skills come in handy, as shown in the play below.
This is an example of the excellent downhill hunger Savage has for the ball. He adjusts really well to the ball in air after taking an aggressive, great initial path. Awesome quickness to trigger and pick six the stick route. pic.twitter.com/b2chDPJJ2q
— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) March 22, 2019
The Steelers have Sean Davis and Terrell Edmunds, but we do not know what they have in either. Savage himself has said that he will play free safety, strong, dime or nickel if he has to in the NFL.
As a dime safety, Savage could be a great chess piece to mix and match in his rookie season with upside to step into a variety of roles.
Third Round – 83rd pick overall trade to 75th for 83, 175, and 192: Miles Boykin, WR, Notre Dame
With ten draft picks, the Steelers are going to trade up at some point. Maybe they trade up for Savage. However, seeing Savage fall to 66 and Boykin fall to 83 just felt too good, so to make it more realistic, we have the team moving up about eight spots by using two sixth-round picks to finally find their longterm wide receiver replacement.
We have written about Boykin before, so check out his draft profile.
He is a polarizing player who has all of the size and athletic ability but was held back by his quarterback play and development. Still, he is exactly the type of high upside receiver that the Steelers would find in the 70-80 range.
Fourth Round – 122nd pick overall: Ben Burr-Kirven, LB, Washington
The Steelers missed out on the Devins because there really are not strong options beyond the two. So, while they were able to build up depth in versatility in their defense, and add a wide receiver as well, they now finally turn to a position of need.
Ben Burr-Kirven is another player we have highlighted as a player who may fall to round four but may be the best linebacker not named Devin at the same time. Burr-Kirven is undersized and is more of a cover linebacker than a run defender. Some teams will see him as limited in usage.
However, the Steelers have run defending linebackers and have a huge hole in coverage linebackers. Burr-Kirven may be a role player, but his role is the biggest need on the roster.
Fifth Round – 141st pick overall – from Oakland Raiders (Antonio Brown trade): Foster Moreau
Foster Moreau would make the perfect compliment to Vance McDonald. Moreau is flying under the radar because he did not catch many passes at LSU. However, similar to the LSU mentality of running the football down teams throats, Moreau showed a toughness about him as a blocker.
Still, many labeled him as a pure blocker with limited upside. He flashed a bit as a pass catcher at the senior bowl, but really opened eyes when he had a strong combine.
He is raw as a pass catching talent but has the fluidity and footwork to develop into a trusted receiver. As a rookie, Moreau will add his run blocking, and potentially upgrade the team from Jesse James. As he progresses as a pass catcher, he could make the team much more multiple overall.
Sixth Round – 207th pick overall – from Arizona Cardinals (Marcus Gilbert trade): L.J. Scott, RB, Michigan State
Another running back from Michigan State? The Steelers go with a power runner, who excels in pass protection and use his vision make quick cuts. Scott has injury questions, but the team has shown interest and may get a discount on a do-everything back in round six.
Seventh Round – 219th pick overall – Cody Barton, LB, Utah
If the Steelers are going to wait until round four to hit a linebacker, they probably should try to double dip on the position. Barton is a one-year starter for Utah but showed production and athleticism to potentially add as a special teamer who can be role-specific in coverage at the next level.
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.