A good draft class can save a franchise. Not just for the future, but for the upcoming season as well. Look at the Pittsburgh Steelers 2016 NFL Draft class, and how they helped keep the team afloat in times of need.
It was Artie Burns who helped solidify the outside cornerback position, allowing William Gay to move to the slot. It was Sean Davis who ultimately stepped up in a big way as a safety alongside Mike Mitchell, rather than playing nickel cornerback. And it was Javon Hargrave who helped keep the defensive line together in the absence of Cameron Heyward.
Those three rookies were crucial to the Steelers’ 2016 success. Plain and simple, the Steelers lack of free agent movement puts even more pressure on the incoming draft class to not just be brimming with potential, but rather to get on the field and make a difference, like the previous draft class did.
With that said, we took at look at Charlie Campbell’s, of Walterfootball.com, latest 4-round mock draft to see who he had slated to go to the Steelers. Take a look at each selection, and let the debate begin.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers: Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU
The Steelers could use a cornerback to pair with Artie Burns.
White produced some huge plays early in 2016 on his way to totaling 35 tackles with 14 passes broken up and two interceptions on the year. The 5-foot-11, 191-pounder is fast with the ability to prevent separation, but he can struggle with big receivers. Some team sources have said they graded White in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
White totaled 44 tackles with seven passes broken up and a punt returned for a touchdown in 2015. He had some struggles with big receivers in Mississippi State's De'Runnya Wilson and Ole Miss' Laquon Treadwell that season. White played well in 2013 and 2014 with two picks in each year and solid run support. He had 55 tackles as a freshman and 33 stops as a sophomore. White showed steady ball skills over his career, batting away seven passes in 2013 and six as a sophomore.
While some will be itching to see the Steelers take a pass rusher in the first round, if there is a more game ready cornerback on the board, the pass rushing class in the upcoming draft should be deep enough to grab a play maker in the 2nd round.
62. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ryan Anderson, 3-4OLB, Alabama
The Steelers grab an edge rusher to replace Jarvis Jones.
Anderson (6-2, 258) was a clutch performer for Alabama in 2016. He supplied a lot of pass rush off the edge and also did well at setting the edge in run defense. Anderson totaled 61 tackles with 18 for a loss, nine sacks, three passes broken up, one interception and four forced fumbles on the season. In 2015, he put together a strong finish to the season, recording 37 tackles with 11.5 for a loss, six sacks and two forced fumbles on the year.
Anderson has versatile size and upside to develop. He would fit best as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL.
This would be the perfect example of what I was speaking of after the mock selection of a cornerback in Round 1. Anderson is a linebacker who should be able to step in and be a part-time player with James Harrison on the right side of the defense.
94. Pittsburgh Steelers: Adam Shaheen, TE, Ashland
The Steelers could use a receiving tight end for their offense.
Sources say that Shaheen (6-6, 278) is a freak athlete whose draft stock could explode in the months to come. He is expected to be a workout warrior, but team sources say that his tape showed serious receiving ability for the next level. Even though Shaheen is tall and thick, he has freaky speed and athleticism for such a big tight end. Teams think that Shaheen could be a versatile tight end to create mismatches in the passing game.
Shaheen caught 57 passes for 867 yards with 16 touchdowns in 2016. The previous season, he had 70 receptions for 803 yards and 10 touchdowns. Some team sources even compared Shaheen to Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski.
This is where the Steelers start their two third round picks, and the first being an athletic tight end is certainly an option for an offense which hasn’t had an athletic tight end since Eric Green roamed the field in the 90s.
105. Pittsburgh Steelers: Marlon Mack, RB, South Florida
The Steelers could use a backup running back.
Mack (5-11, 213) ran well for the Bulls in 2016. He averaged 7.1 yards per carry for 1,187 yards with 15 touchdowns, plus snatched 28 receptions for 227 yards. 2016 was Mack's third straight 1,000-yard season. He had 1,381 yards as a sophomore and 1,041 yards as a freshman. The junior is a sleeper back who could be a nice role player in the NFL.
With the ongoing debate being based around pass rusher or cornerback, fans can’t forget about the team’s lack of depth at running back. After Le’Veon Bell there really is no one...and I mean no one. Adding a young running back to their stable of backs would be a good business move.
135. Pittsburgh Steelers: Isaiah Ford, WR, Virginia Tech
The Steelers could use some receiving depth.
Ford totaled 79 receptions for 1,094 yards and seven touchdowns in 2016. The 6-foot-1, 194-pounder had a breakout sophomore season with 75 receptions for 1,156 yards with 11 touchdowns. He also contributed as a freshman with 56 catches for 709 yards and six scores. If Ford can show the speed to separate and stretch the field vertically, that would help the junior's draft stock.
So, to recap, according to this mock draft, the Steelers addressed the following needs:
Round 1: CB
Round 2: OLB
Round 3: TE
Round 3: RB
Round 4: WR
There is no doubt if the draft were to fall in this direction for the Steelers, they would be able to utilize players during the 2017 season. Would they have as big of an impact as the 2016 rookies did? Only time will tell, but the pressure is on the Steelers to hit a few home runs in the upcoming NFL Draft.