The NCAA College Football season is over, and with the NFL season winding down the attention slowly turns away from the play on the field, to the characteristics and intangibles off the field.
Yes folks, it is mock draft season!
While mock drafts are nothing more than lofty projections for teams, the analysis of diagnosing team needs can be a valuable one.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have some glaring needs on their football team, and most reside on the defensive side of the football. Below is an early ranking of the Steelers’ top three needs which could, and probably should, be addressed in the upcoming draft:
2. Inside Linebacker
3. EDGE Rusher
While there certainly are other team needs, including running back, most would agree the team should have a very defensive oriented draft class while looking at their current roster. ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. agrees when he selected a pass rusher to the Steelers in his first mock draft of the year.
Check out what Kiper said about the selection:
20. Pittsburgh Steelers
Devin Bush, LB, Michigan
The Steelers tied for the NFL lead with 52 sacks this season, but the weakness on defense was at inside linebacker, as they struggled to replace Ryan Shazier. The phrase I keep repeating about Bush is “perfect for today’s NFL.” He would be a great fit as a three-down linebacker who never has to leave the field. At 5-foot-11, Bush is undersized, but he should test well at the combine.
If you are like me, and don’t follow college football closely, you aren’t familiar with many of these prospects. I utilize the mock draft process to learn more about prospects, and in this case Jaylon Ferguson.
Here is a quick synopsis of Bush as a player, thanks to The Draft Network:
Football Intelligence – Higher level IQ player, involved in numerous concepts (gap exchanges, scrapes, gap fits, etc.) in the run game. Disciplined team player who does well to execute primary responsibilities. Can be influenced by false keys and can be slow to re-adjust.
Tackling – Explosive pop in the pads, booming hits have come from either filling an interior gap or from scraping to the boundary and carrying speed into tackles. Off-tackle reps can be compromised on occasion by over-scraping and getting out of his fit on the ball.
Block Shedding – Does not possess the needed length to effectively stack blocks once having conceded a hand fit on his frame. Does offer a compact punch and pop to create a fleeting moment of separation. Will take the lazy route and work underneath of blocks if working without an angle.
Competitive Toughness – Plays with a great effort level. Has chased down plays off the back end after coming untouched off the second level. Chippy player, can be a bit of an instigator on the field (MSU 2018 incident). Physical power is present but ability to leverage and hold vs. OL is not a strength.
Lateral Mobility – Has the required range to play any position on the second level vs. the run. Short area quickness is essential to step laterally into a gap and get out of the teeth of a combo block for plays vs. power concepts. Smooth moving in all degrees.
Coverage Skills – Fairly raw, although usage down the stretch in 2018 featured more time in space (PSU 2018). Effective shooting into the flats to pick up backs in man coverage. Patient shallow defender in zone to hold water and break on throw. Turn and run coverage will be work in progress.
Gap Shooting Ability – Explosive first step, is a dynamic second level defender who is capable of disrupting behind the line of scrimmage courtesy of blitzes or when stepping to fill vs. a down block. Trusts his speed and can actually get even better and working down into gaps earlier for splash plays.
Feet/Change of Direction – One of the most dynamic linebackers in the class, has terrific ability to dart through short spaces or scrape laterally and slide a gap to slip a block. Has great speed through all angles and is smooth when planting to drive forward and work into the play.
Flexibility – Free moving defender who makes the most of a shorter than preferred frame. Tilts and carries speed as a blitzer to turn the corner and flatten quickly to diminish angles to the passer. Will show strong hip mobility when needing to hinge open and scrape laterally into the sideline.
First Step Quickness – Terrific burst off of the line. Secondary acceleration on delayed blitzes is dynamic and one of his best weapons on the field. Will close ground quickly and trusts mobility to continue to carry speed into the ball carrier/quarterback.
More from the Draft Network:
Devin Bush is a player who is set to benefit from this new era of play in the NFL. Bush’s mobility experience in numerous types of responsibilities against the run and upside as a 3rd down defender (blitz ability and potential in coverage) set him up for an impact role. Traditional reps thumping into interior gaps vs. OL takes Bush away from strengths, however. He should be utilized primarily in a gap penetration scheme with a strong DL.
It is at this point where Steelers fans can debate the prediction, but also the team needs moving forward. Let us know what you think of the selection, as well as the areas of need, in the comment section below!