The Pittsburgh Steelers are a defense in transition. Not just from the old to the young, but also in scheme. Out is the vaunted Pittsburgh 3-4 defense, the unit ran the 3-4 only about 25-percent of snaps in 2016, and in is the team’s reliance on sub packages, which were used about 75-percent of snaps last year.
To do so, the team needs linebackers who can not only rush the passer, but also chase down ball carriers and be sideline-to-sideline players for the black and gold. In ESPN’s NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay’s latest mock draft, he has the team taking a linebacker who certainly fits the bill.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers, 11-5
Takkarist McKinley, DE/OLB, UCLA
At 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds, McKinley plays harder than any pass-rusher I've watched in years. He's a lock to make my All-Tape Team this year. He has really long arms (34¾ inches) and terrific speed (4.59 40), but he hasn't quite figured out how to use his hands. If he develops in that area, he has the ability to be really dangerous off the edge.
When you are picking 30th in the first round, finding a prospect who is near perfect doesn’t exist. You will draft a player who will need to still perfect their craft and learn on the fly.
McKinley is that type of player. Check out his strengths and weaknesses listed on his NFL.com Draft Profile:
Relentless worker bee on the field. Refuses to give offensive tackles a snap to catch their breath. Not a content player and is always charging towards the ball. Plus closing burst to sideline enables contain. Makes as many effort plays as anyone in the Pac 12. Unusually adept at bouncing off of blocks and maintaining play focus. Good stop/start change of direction talent. Long strides eat up ground in space. Scouts expect a strong forty time at combine. Combines speed with long arms for increased tackle radius. Became a playmaker. Saw 36 percent of his tackles come within two yards or less of line of scrimmage while sack total spiked considerably. Spins out of wash down blocks to work back towards the play. Consistently stuffs cut attempts. Raw, but pass rush flashes some speed to power. Pass rush counters fueled by lateral agility and effort.
Hand skill and overall usage is completely uncultivated and impedes pass rush potential. Lacks slaps, swipes and a serviceable rip move to grease the edge as a rusher. Punch has very little force. Needs to get hands and feet need in unison. Long arms are irrelevant at times due to slow punch. Lacks bend around the edge. Upright pass rush allows tackles to flatten him up and over the rush arc with just an average punch. Movements are a little bit stiff. Redirected too easily. Needs to continue to add play strength. Success predicated on effort over rush talent and functional power. Needs to combine all three elements to his game.
Check out his 2016 highlight reel, and let us know if you would want him to be the Steelers’ first round pick in the comment section below: