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2024 NFL Draft

Senior Bowl Takeaways: Steelers Top OL Target, QBs Disappoint

The NFL Draft process is heating up. What could be taken away from the third day of Senior Bowl practice?



Pittsburgh Steelers draft Bo Nix

MOBILE, Ala. — The Pittsburgh Steelers and 31 other teams continued to watch NFL Draft prospects compete in Mobile at the Senior Bowl. And after three practices, interviews, and accompanying game tape, the group should know a lot about these prospects. What can be taken away from day three?

QB Thoughts

Earlier on Thursday, Alan Saunders wrote that he thought most of quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl disappointed and would not be great targets given their three days here at this event. He was not wrong; this was not a particularly great week for anyone, and that thought was common among everyone you talked to, especially Bo Nix and Michael Penix.

Now, Nix and Penix had their moments. And the tape certainly can not be discounted just because of three days here. But what I did see were guys who just seemed off for most of the week with too little flash write anything home about. Finally, late in Thursday’s practice, Penix started to get rolling when he hit receivers for three touchdowns in the red zone team period. He started flashing that anticipation and even made some tight-window throws. Then, the more Nix got going, the more comfortable he seemed at making those pre-snap adjustments. But the inaccuracy all week against little pressure was concerning.

As for the rest of the group, Michael Pratt and Spencer Rattler might be the big winners. Rattler, in particular, had some good moments. He started off the first day of practice ready to go, but ended that one with an interception and some wildly erratic throws. But throughout the rest of the week, Rattler flashed his arm talent outside the numbers, hitting guys into tight windows and on back-shoulder fades. His poise was impressive. As for Pratt, his week matched the Tulane tape. There were some inaccuracy problems due to his mechanics, but his anticipation and deep ball stood out.

Sam Hartman showcased some of that heart that made him some desirable out of Notre Dame. I came out of it thinking he could be a backup, but I was not that impressed. Joe Milton and Carter Bradley are complete projects but have intriguing tools that have to be molded. They were all over the place.

So, in other words, the performances of these quarterbacks were not up to the standard, especially for Penix and Nix. But we’ll see what they can do in the game and where they go.

New Tackle Shines

Injuries or guys always drop out during the week in Mobile. So, that allows some guys who were at the Hula Bowl to come up and join the Senior Bowl week. That happened to Georgia State tackle Travis Glover, added before Wednesday’s practice. In fact, Glover had a connecting flight get into Mobile late, and he got into the locker room and out on the field in time for practice to practice. It’s a typical ‘off the couch’ situation that the Steelers became all too familiar with throughout the last portion of the season.

Sometimes, those guys fall flat on their faces, but they can raise their stock at other points. Glover is doing just that. He’s nimble on his feet and moves extremely well in his pass sets. It’s almost shocking how good he can move for his size. He is a big guy, even for offensive tackle standards. But it’s the aggressiveness that stands out. Glover flies off the snap and plays with a contagious hostility against anyone in his path in the run game and pass protection. His hand usage still has to get better, and he is an outside hand puncher, and that won’t work all the time at the next level, but the tools are there for him to be a solid developmental tackle.

Rough LB Play

Oftentimes, a position group in Mobile can tell you what the entire class will be at a certain position, and I think that is the case for the 2024 NFL Draft’s linebacker class. The play from most of these guys in Mobile was pitiful. But there were some exceptions. Cedric Gray and Payton Wilson stood out, and Miami’s James Williams, a massive 6-foot-4 safety, played well in coverage drills.

But this group does not have a ton of upside, nor did they show out throughout the week. It was a routinely underwhelming group, and having watched most of the top underclassmen, I would say much of the same for those players. This is a group that underwhelms for the most part across the board.

Steelers Want OL — and One Candidate Makes Sense

This offensive line group in Mobile is beyond impressive. There are guys at all five spots on the offensive line and depth into this class where there could be legitimately solid players into day three. You have guys like Glover, Christian Haynes, and others who have stood out massively. And maybe even better for teams, if you want different styles of these guys, they are here, too. That’s at all three positions. There are massive run maulers or patient and technical pass protectors. That is all here. It’s the best offensive line group I have watched in my three trips to the Senior Bowl.

But for the Steelers tackle, I think Taliese Fuaga makes the most sense out of everyone I saw here. If he makes it 20, I get the pick. Fuaga is a nasty run blocker with the right mentality to play in Smith’s aggressive wide zone scheme with a hand usage philosophy that perfectly aligns with Pat Meyer. And even though pass protection is cited as his weakness, it’s not such a weakness that he will fail. Fuaga has quick feet and gets a little overaggressive in his sets, but loses slowly enough to help his quarterback out. He fits what the Steelers want at that spot perfectly, even more so than someone like Tyler Guyton or Jordan Morgan.

If you want me to tell you who would be their first-round pick out of the guys in Mobile, I would say Fuaga seems like the likeliest option and best fit.