The Pittsburgh Steelers are taking Boston College guard Zion Johnson in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, according to the latest mock draft from Jordan Reid of ESPN.
Standing at 6-foot-2, Johnson began his collegiate career at Davidson in the FCS, where he started 19 of 22 games over his first two seasons. In his sophomore season, Johnson lead an offensive line that had an average of 428.5 rushing yards per game, the highest in the FCS.
Johnson then transferred to Boston College, where he played three seasons and continued to see success. In his junior season, he started seven of 13 games as a guard and made the Second-Team All-ACC in 2019. He moved to left tackle in his senior season and started 11 games, making the Third-Team All-ACC in 2020.
He saw the most success in the 2021 season, as he moved back to the guard position, made the First-Team All-ACC and also earned a spot on the First-Team Walter Camp All-American.
“There hasn’t been a player who I’ve been more impressed with throughout the pre-draft process than Johnson”, Reid wrote. “With versatility at guard and tackle throughout his career, he gained experience at center during the all-star game circuit and didn’t suffer any type of drop-off. He could compete with free-agent signing Mason Cole for the top center spot.”
Reid then thinks the Steelers go for 6-foot-4 Alabama defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis in the second round at the No. 52 pick.
Mathis came into college as a five-star recruit, but did not see regular time until he was a redshirt junior in 2020. In that season, he made 31 tackles, five tackles for loss, three pass deflections, 1.5 sacks and one forced fumble in 10 games.
Mathis broke out into one of the best defensive lineman in the nation in the 2021 season, amassing 49 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, two pass deflections, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and nine sacks last season. For his efforts, Mathis earned a spot on the Second-Team All-SEC and on the AFCA Second-Team All-American.
“With his body type (6-foot-4, 310 pounds), strength at the point of attack and pass-rush improvement during his senior season, Mathis checks the boxes of the qualities the Steelers search for in defensive linemen,” Reid wrote.
Reid predicts that the Steelers will draft another offensive lineman in the third round at the 84th pick in Minnesota offensive tackle, Daniel Faalele.
Faalele comes into this draft as the largest offensive lineman from the NFL Combine, standing at 6-foot-8 and weighing 384 pounds. Despite opting out the 2020 season due to concerns with COVID-19, Faalele had his best season as a senior in 2021, as he made the First-Team All-Big Ten.
Reid believes that the Steelers need to keep rebuilding on the line and that Faalele’s size is an asset and gives him the ability to compete for the right tackle position after adjusting to NFL play.
“With Dan Moore Jr. and newly re-signed Chukwuma Okorafor manning the starting tackle spots, he could be brought along slowly as a development option,” Reid Wrote.
Reid did not write further descriptions of the drafted players in the fourth through seventh rounds.
In the fourth round, Reid had the Steelers drafting 6-foot-2 Baylor wide receiver Tyquan Thornton at the No. 138 pick. Thornton caught 143 receptions for 2,242 yards and 19 touchdowns in his collegiate career. His senior season saw the most success, making 62 receptions for 948 yards and 11 touchdowns, helping him to make the Second-Team All-Big 12.
Thornton is rated as one of the fastest players in the draft. His 4.28 40-yard dash time was the fastest of all wide receivers and third fastest at the NFL Combine.
The Steelers don’t pick until the sixth round at the No. 208 pick, where they are predicted to take 6-foot-1 Penn State linebacker Ellis Brooks. Brooks led the Nittany Lions with 100 tackles and made the Second Team All-Big Ten for his efforts.
The Steelers pick twice in the seventh round and take 6-foot-2 Notre Dame defensive lineman Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa at the No. 225 pick. Tagovalioa-Amosa made the Second-Team All-ACC team in 2020 and accumulated 25 tackles, 18 solo this past season.
The last pick in the draft for the Steelers is 6-foot North Carolina defensive back Kyler McMichael. McMichael made 18 tackles and one interception in nine games for the Tar Heels last season.