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2018 NFL Mock Draft: When the Steelers buck the going trends

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Everyone assumes the Steelers will simply draft an inside linebacker and/or safety in the first round, but what if they don’t?

Alabama v Auburn Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

There are glaring holes on the Pittsburgh Steelers roster, primarily at safety and inside linebacker, and before last week most assumed the team would be heading into the 2018 NFL Draft thinking they will take the Best Player Available (BPA) at either position in the first two rounds.

Then the team went out and acquired both Jon Bostic (ILB) and Morgan Burnett (S) in free agency, and this changed everything. Now, the team doesn’t have the dire needs they had before signing those aforementioned players. Rather, now they have some flexibility in the draft to truly take the BPA.

So, what if the team bucks the trends from analysts and so-called experts in the upcoming draft? This is exactly what Ray Fittipaldo considered when he released his latest 7-round mock draft for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Check out who Fittipaldo has selected for every round of the draft process for the Steelers, and also who he considered at each spot. For further, and awesome, analysis on each selection check out the above link to Fittipaldo’s article.

Now onto the picks...

1. DL Da’Ron Payne of Alabama

Interior defensive tackles, especially those not known for their ability to rush the passer, could slide in this draft because defensive coordinators are using sub-packages with extra defensive backs so often. The Steelers have been missing a dominant run-stopper along their defensive line since Casey Hampton retired. And based on the postseason comments of general manager Kevin Colbert and Art Rooney II, who called the run defense “soft,” the Steelers are serious about improving their run defense.

Payne did not have many sacks in college and might not have big potential as a pass rusher, but he has enough athleticism that he can play in passing situations, too. The Steelers already have the full scouting report on Payne. They hired his position coach last month. New defensive line coach Karl Dunbar coached Payne for the past two seasons at Alabama. Payne has been compared to Ravens defensive tackle Brandon Williams. The Steelers know better than any team how difficult it is to run on the Ravens when Williams is on the field. The Ravens have figured out ways to play Williams more than just in their base defense. Williams played 71 percent of the defensive snaps in his one game against the Steelers last season. He played more than 50 percent of the defensive snaps in 10 of the 12 games he played in last season. The Steelers can find ways to get snaps for a dominant interior player as well. This would be a case of drafting the best available player and making him fit in your defense.

As Colbert is fond of saying: “When you have red paint, paint the barn red.”

Also considered: DL Taven Bryan of Florida

2. ILB Darius Leonard of South Carolina State

Also considered: ILB Malik Jefferson of Texas

3. RB Rashaad Penny of San Diego State

Also considered: RB Akrum Wadley of Iowa

4. No Pick

5a. (via San Francisco) WR Cedric Wilson of Boise State

Also considered: WR Jester Weah of Pitt

5b. S Troy Apke of Penn State

Also considered: S Tre Flowers of Oklahoma State

6. No pick

7a. (via New York Giants) OLB Davin Bellamy of Georgia

Also considered: ILB Mike McCray of Michigan

7b. OL David Bright of Stanford

Also considered: OL Nick Gates of Nebraska