NFL draft analyst’s and Steelers fans alike (myself included) have had too much time this offseason to think… and then over think what the Steelers will do in the draft. When you pick 28th, anything from shocking drops to impactful trade ups can happen. What we do know is when the Steelers are in win-now mode and will likely address there most glaring needs in its first three picks.
One of the most frequent mock draft picks is running back Darrius Guice from LSU. The problem with drafting a running back this high is how Le’Veon Bell has another year on the roster and rookie running backs need very little development time. Running back will likely top the charts of draft needs in 2019, but that’s a long time away. What the team needs is a linebacker, and unless both Rashaan Evans and Leighton Vander Esch have already been selected I’m confident they will take either with its first pick.
The Steelers could select a depth running back with one of their late round picks. That move would only be a necessity if they are worried Bell will sit out of the first few games of the season.
Another offensive position you read about the Steelers taking in the first two rounds is quarterback. The problem is Ben Roethlisberger has already said he wants to play another 2-3 more years. The Steelers would be foolish to burn a pick on a developmental quarterback in either the first two rounds (unless one of the big-name prospects inexplicably fell to them). Even if Mason Rudolph is available at 60, I think it is unlikely that they draft him over a much-needed safety.
Even with Morgan Burnett and Sean Davis on the roster, the safety core is starved for both depth and a true coverage first player. Jesse Bates from Wake Forrest is someone the Steelers front office has been excited about, and have already met with. Adding a guy like Bates to the roster would let Keith Butler run a true dime defense with different personal and could legitimately use three safeties at one time.
The Steelers also need pass rushing depth behind Watt and someone to push Dupree. If the Steelers draft a linebacker and safety in the first two rounds, an outside linebacker should be the next spot to go. If either Uchenna Nwosu or Kemoko Turay are available, The Steelers should sprint their draft card up to the podium. Either player could be a force on special teams while they learn the system, and eventually would earn playing time on defense even in their rookie season.
One last position no one is talking nearly enough about is wide receiver. Yes, currently the Steelers have one of the league’s premier receiving depth charts, but in 2019 only Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster are under contract. Martavis Bryant already has one foot out the door and the rest of the receiving core might want a change of scenery in hopes to see the ball a little more. Late round wideouts need time to develop, just ask Antonio Brown.
I think a logical 5th round pick could be Boise State wide receiver Cedrick Wilson Jr. The Steelers are not a team to shy away from sentimental picks and bringing in the son of a former wide receiver who helped the Steelers win their 5th ring is a move I could easily see them make.
With all this said this is what my logical mock draft would look like.
Round 1: 28th overall - Leighton Vander Esch - ILB - Boise State
-Likely the highest remaining ‘backer on the board
Round 2: 60th overall - Jesse Bates - S - Wake Forrest
-The Steelers get their guy in the second
Round 3: 92nd overall - Kemoko Turay - OLB - Rutgers
-Pass rush and OLB depth
Round 4: NONE
Round 5: 148th overall - Troy Apke - S - Penn State
-Safety depth decimated by cuts. Adding Apke makes J.J. Wilcox expendable
Round 5: 165th overall - Cedric Wilson - WR - Boise State
-Tall, athletic, and already has Steeler ties. A development year will do him wonders.
Round 6: NONE
Round 7: 220th overall - Justin Jackson - RB - Northwestern
-Depth RB Out of fear Bell sits the first few games.
Round 7: 246th overall - Lowell Lotulelei - DT - Utah
-The Steelers need to bring in some more D-line depth to push Hargrave and McCullers