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.
NFL Releases Pro Day Schedules
The 2021 NFL Combine should be kicking off this week in Indianapolis, but like so many other things in the past year, it has been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NFL has decided not to risk bringing together prospects, scouts and media from around the country and will instead be relying on the schools’ individual pro days to evaluate prospects.
With that in mind, the league has taken a greater measure of control over the process, and on Wednesday, released a preliminary schedule for each team’s pro day.
March 5: Kansas
March 9: Kansas State, Northwestern, Wisconsin-Whitewater
March 10: Arkansas, Marshall, Maryland, Wisconsin
March 11: Clemson, Nevada, Texas
March 12: Arkansas State, North Dakota State, Oklahoma
March 15: Army, Kent State, Middle Tennessee St., Vanderbilt
March 16: Georgia Tech, Temple
March 17: Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Pitt, San Jose St.
March 18: Auburn, Buffalo, Central Arkansas, Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Monroe,
Stanford, Troy, West Virginia
March 19: Memphis, Ohio, TCU
March 22: Air Force, Bowling Green, Colorado, Colorado State, Florida State, Iowa, Missouri, Toledo
March 23: Alabama, Central Michigan, Iowa State, Nebraska, Purdue
March 24: Michigan State, Mississippi State, South Carolina, USC, Virginia
March 25: Georgia Southern, UMass, Ole Miss, North Texas, Penn State, San Diego St., SMU, Tennessee, Western Michigan
March 26: Boston College, BYU, Michigan, South Dakota State, Virginia Tech
March 29: Arizona State, Duke, Louisiana-Lafayette, Miami (Fla.), Miami (Ohio), North Carolina
March 30: Alabama, East Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Louisville, NC State, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Tulane, Washington
March 31: Boise State, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Notre Dame, Wake Forest
April 1: UCF, Minnesota, Charlotte, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, USF, Western Kentucky
April 2: Oregon, Tulsa
April 7: Texas Tech
April 9: UAB, Ball State, Houston
Should Steelers Use First Round Pick on a Center?
NFL Releases Further Details of Altered Draft Process
After cancelling the in-person NFL Scouting Combine last week due to COVID-19 concerns, the league released further details of the significantly altered draft process in a memo to clubs Friday.
Teams are prohibited from timing, testing, interviewing or examining draft prospects at any location other than all-star games or the respective player’s pro day.
Clubs are also banned from hosting draft prospects for facilities visits, dinners, film sessions and private workouts. Violations of these rules would be subject to punishment in line with the NFL’s anti-tampering policy.
Further muddying the process, clubs will only be allowed to have a maximum of three individuals attend pro days. However, all times and measurements are said to be made available league-wide.
Lastly, the league also released further details and restrictions on the pre-draft interview process. While in-person interviews and visits will be prohibited, they can be conducted virtually or via telephone.
Clubs can schedule up to five video conferences or phone calls with a prospect, with each conversation limited to one hour. Virtual psychological tests will not count against the five interview limit.
Teams can begin conducting interviews with draft eligible underclassmen on Monday, Jan. 25.
Interviews with seniors can begin on Monday, Feb. 1.