We all know what the Steelers are going to do on Day 2 of the draft: choose the best player available, with the number of potential quality snaps as a tiebreaker. Duh. That's what they always do. And we always end up having fights about whether ABC player at a low-priority position is "enough better" than XYZ player at a higher-need position to be in a different tier where the tiebreaker won't come into play. Sound familiar?
As it happens, Days 2 and 3 of this particular NFL draft aren't likely to produce that kind of debate. The team wants (there are no "needs") are fairly obvious, well-agreed, and match up well to the available talent. Thus it is very likely that the team will get one of the Primary Wants in Round 2, two of the Next-Level Wants in Round 3, and a decent array of choices for the remaining Wants in Rounds 4-7. Here's my analysis of the most likely targets for the rest of the draft:
A defensive back. Simple. But what type? The Steelers could make equally good use of (i) a hard tackling Nickel CB/Safety hybrid, (ii) a big Safety who would push Sean Davis into the Nickel DB role while potentially serving as a Nickel LB, (iii) an all-purpose Safety in the Mitchell/Davis mold, or (iv) a press-man boundary Corner who'd be an upgrade on Ross Cockrell. Getting one of those three is the primary Want. Here are the most likely targets as I see them:
- Nickel CB/Safety Hybrids: Budda Baker and Chidobe Awuzie, followed by Justin Evans and Desmond King, followed by Fabian Moreau (little iffy on the tackling but higher upside as a Corner).
- Big Safeties: Obi Melifonwu (who might even be a Corner!), followed by Josh Jones.
- All Purpose Safeties: Marcus Maye, followed by Marcus Williams (more of a Free Safety who would push Mitchell toward the line), followed by John Johnson.
- Boundary Corners: Kevin King and Sidney Jones, followed by Quincy Wilson, Teez Tabor, Cordrea Tankersley, Cam Sutton, and Ras Douglas.
See why this position is so likely to be addressed? That's 17 names with an easy Round 2 grade! Holy options Batman. My personal favorites, in order, are the five we listed with grades of 1:25 or 2:01 on the BTSC Big Board:
- Budda Baker
- Obi Melifonwu
- Chidobe Awuzie
- Sidney Jones
- Kevin King
After them I would go with Justin Evans, Desmond King, Josh Jones, Marcus Maye, Ras Douglas, or Cam Sutton in no particular order, but that is a purely personal and untutored opinion based largely on assumption and prejudice. Truthfully, none of the list would get me upset.
A seam-busting Tight End, particularly if Ladarius Green's days are numbered. The Round 2-3 options are numerous, and imho are more or less interchangeable with preferences depending mainly on the eye of the beholder. My personal order, based once again on personal prejudice and casual impressions, would be:
- Adam Shaheen
- Jordan Leggett
- George Kittle
- Bucky Hodges
- Gerald Everett
- Jake Butt (ACL holds him back for year 1)
- Jeremy Sprinkle (the clear last)
We can confirm Steeler meetings with Shaheen, Leggett, Everett, and Sprinkle.
A Defensive Back of a different type than the one picked as a Primary Want. At least some names on the above list of Round 2 talent will probably fall to the Steeler picks in Round 3. They would obviously be the top contenders, with Cam Sutton as the guy many of us have projected. Some others to add into the mix would include:
- Akhello Witherspoon (big boundary Corner who doesn't tackle)
- Jourdan Lewis (undersized but ferocious Nickel DB)
- Damontae Kazee (undersized but ferocious Nickel DB)
- Corn Elder (undersized but ferocious Nickel DB)
- Shaq Griffin (super raw but super athletic multipurpose Corner)
- Marquez White (zone/off Corner with potential to get better)
- Howard Wilson (zone/off Corner with potential to get better)
Note that those are grouped by position, not in order of preference.
A Backup RB with a power aspect to his game. The Steelers are really fond of Knile Davis by all accounts, but he did stumble at Kansas City when given a big shot and he isn't a bell-cow, every down runner who could take over if Leveon Bell got hurt. I would prefer to address this position in Round 4 or 5, but there are a few backs who might cause some second thoughts. They include:
- Joe Mixon
- D'Onta Foreman
- Samaje Perine
There is a veritable bonanza of backs I would love to have in Round 4 or 5, such as Pitt's own James Conner, Kareem Hunt, Marlon Mack (who has more power than we thought at first), Wayne Gallman, Brian Hill, Jamaal Williams, and others. This is a list of the guys who I could see as temptations for one of the Round 3 picks.
A fast, cover-capable ILB. There is room on this roster for someone who could back up Shazier and possibly sub in for Williams and Matakevich on passing downs. The first option would be an oversized Safety like Melifonwu or Josh Jones. Other names to watch include:
- Zach Cunningham
- Raekwon McMillan (more of a Buck, but a fast one)
- Anthony Walker
- Jalen Reeves-Maybin (injury history)
- Duke Riley (tackling issues)
- Alex Anzelone (injury history)
- Matt Milano
- Jayon Brown (a long shot for Round 3, but a serious target for Round 4)
A triple dip at Defensive Back for whichever options havened been filled. Note that this is unlikely because so many of the players listed above would tend to straddle the lines and fill more than one of the needs.
A Double dip at Edge Rusher to replenish the pipeline. T.J. Watt (YIPPEE!!!!) was my perfect pick for Round 1. But with Deebo's retirement on the radar, and both Moats and Chickillo going into contract years, there is room for developmental depth. Keep an eye out for BTSC favorites Joe Mathis and Ejuan Price. They would be huge temptations in Round 4 and Round 5, respectively. LSU's Tashawn Bower and BTSC favorite Samson Ebukam would make nice pipeline picks for Rounds 6 or 7.
Developmental QB with #1 potential if all the cards fall right. There are no QB's left with even a one-in-four chance of maturing into a true, franchise player. But there are a few who have that kind of upside if things worked out just right. The Steelers have met with Deshone Kizer, Josh Dobbs, Davis Webb, and Brad Kaaya. They've also met with Nate Peterman, Cooper Rush, and C.J. Beathard, but those seem more like high-floor, low-ceiling types.
Wide Receiver. We are not going to reenter the whole debate about "What if both Bryant and Coates get broken again..." At this point our information says that isn't very likely. If the actual odds are more stacked against them, the team will know and move the position up a notch to the Next-Level Wants. That is exactly how Coates got picked fwiw. Nevertheless, Pittsburgh seems to keep this pipeline well stocked as a matter of habit and overall policy, so we ought to keep the interview list in mind:
- Chris Godwin (Round 2 talent, but if he falls...)
- Josh Reynolds (field stretcher)
- Shelton Gibson (field stretcher)
- Amba Etta-Tawo (big guy with iffy hands)
- Mack Hollins (field stretcher, blocker, and special teams demon with injury questions)
- Ryan Switzer (shifty slot guy)
That just about covers it. The Steelers have seven more picks to use up. I would expect at least four of those picks to be used on players named above, or on trades that could net ammunition for 2018. Maybe I should have added a few late-round Nose Tackle prospects with a chance to push McCullers....
Oh well. This will have to do. Merry Christmas In April to one and all. Ho ho ho 'n all dat.