The Pittsburgh Steelers are taking Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, according to the latest mock draft by The Athletic’s Dane Brugler.
Ridder is one of the most successful quarterbacks in college football history, owning the third-most wins for a quarterback in college football history.
Ridder’s most impressive seasons came during these past two years, as he threw for 2,296 yards, threw for 19 touchdowns to six interceptions and completed 66.6% of his passes in 2020. Ridder improved in the 2021 season, throwing for 3,334 yards, throwing 30 touchdowns to eight interceptions and completed 64.9% of his passes.
He also showed his prowess as a runner at Cincinnati, rushing for 2,188 yards and 29 touchdowns in his collegiate career.
Ridder’s success brought him accolades in-conference, making the First-Team All-AAC and winning the AAC Offensive Player of the Year for the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
If selected in the first round, Ridder would become just the second Cincinnati quarterback ever to be picked there, joining Greg Cook, who was drafted by Bengals fifth-overall in 1969.
“The Steelers have spent a lot of time and resources evaluating this year’s crop of quarterbacks, and they won’t be shy trading up to get “their guy” if they need to,” Brugler wrote. “But “their guy” might be Ridder, who impressed the Steelers’ key decision-makers, including ownership, during pre-draft meetings.”
Brugler predicts the Steelers take 5-foot-11 Auburn cornerback Roger McCreary in the second round at the No. 52 pick.
McCreary was one the best cornerbacks in college football last season, making the First-Team All-ACC and the First-Team All American for both ESPN and the Associated Press. He made 49 total tackles, 41 solo, two interceptions and one fumble recovery.
McCreary is great in man coverage and plays close to the ball, making his SEC-leading 14 passes defended unsurprising. He could be a good replacement for the Steelers, with veteran cornerback Joe Haden leaving this offseason.
The Steelers will look to the offensive line in the third round with 6-foot-5 Ohio State offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere at the No. 84 pick.
Petit-Frere was one of the best offensive linemen these past two seasons in the Big 10, making the Second-Team All-Big 10 in 2020 and the First-Team All-Big 10 in 2021. He also made the Second-Team All-American for CBS and the FWAA.
Featuring most at left tackle, Petit Frere is one of the most athletic offensive linemen in the draft and has the tools to become a solid player. He struggled at times against star players like Penn State’s Arnold Ebikete and Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, but good coaching and time can fix issues he has, like not picking up blitzes fast enough.
Brugler thinks that the Steelers will take 6-foot-2 Notre Dame wide receiver Kevin Austin Jr. in the fourth round at the No. 138 pick.
Austin Jr. led the Fighting Irish last season in what was a lackluster passing attack, catching 48 passes for 888 yards and seven touchdowns.
His NFL Combine results gave him a boost in mock drafts around. Against the other wide receivers, he finished ninth in the 40-yard dash at 4.43 seconds, sixth in the vertical jump at 39 inches and fifth in the broad jump at 11 feet. His explosiveness could be a benefit to the Steelers, who recently lost JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Ray-Ray McCloud to free agency.
The Steelers will take 6-foot-3 Stanford defensive lineman Thomas Booker in the sixth round at the No. 208 pick.
Booker made the Second-Team All-Pac 12 in 2020 and 2021 and was an all-honorable mention in 2019. Booker finished with 59 tackles, five tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in his finals season at Stanford. Booker also blocked three extra points in his career and earned a place on the First-Team All-Pac 12 all purpose/special teams in 2020.
One of Booker’s best assets is his intelligence, which many NFL Scouts have noted in their analysis of him. Booker made two Academic All-American teams and was a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, or the Academic Heisman.
The Steelers have two seventh round draft picks, and Brugler predicts they take 6-foot-2 LSU linebacker Damone Clark at the No. 225 pick.
Clark had a great season last season for the Tigers, making the First-Team All-SEC and the Sporting News Second-Team All-American. Brugler predicts that a recent surgery drops him to the seventh round and that he is worth a team giving him a chance at this part of the draft.
“A second-round talent, Damone Clark will fall on draft weekend after his recent spinal surgery that is expected to sideline him for his NFL rookie season”, Brugler said. “There is a lot of unknown with him, but in the seventh round, he becomes worth the risk for a team willing to throw the dart.”
The final player the Steelers draft in this mock draft is 6-foot-1 UCLA safety Quentin Lake at the No. 241 pick. Lake its the son of formers Steelers safety, Carnell Lake, which Brugler notes could be an interesting reason for the Steelers to pick him.
“This would be a cool story,” Brugler wrote. “Carnell Lake was an All-Pro safety for the Steelers in the 1990s and then the defensive backs coach for the organization for eight seasons. His son Quentin isn’t on the same level in terms of NFL projection, but it would be fun to see Pittsburgh give him that chance.”