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Mel Kiper Mock Draft: Steelers go with a lesser known pass rusher in Round 1

The Pittsburgh Steelers have team needs, but is pass rusher atop that list heading into the 2021 NFL Draft?

NCAA Football: Southern Methodist at Tulsa Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers team needs are many entering the 2021 offseason. Many would suggest quarterback, center, offensive tackle and inside linebacker would round out the top needs of the team.

But pass rusher?

While you can certainly make a case for why the Steelers would need to add depth at the position, you might be hard pressed to find fans who believe the team should spend a first round pick on the EDGE position.

However, Mel Kiper Jr. doesn’t care what Steelers fans think, and their own personal team needs. In his first mock draft of the 2021 offseason, preparing for the 2021 NFL Draft, Kiper has the team taking Tulsa pas rusher Zaven Collins with their top pick.

See why Kiper chose Collins:

24. Pittsburgh Steelers

Zaven Collins, OLB/DE, Tulsa

Pittsburgh lost five of its last six games after starting 11-0, and holes were exposed, particularly after edge rusher Bud Dupree tore his ACL in early December. And with Dupree now a free agent, this would be a pick to grab a replacement. Collins is a do-everything linebacker who had four sacks, four interceptions (two for TDs) and two forced fumbles on the way to winning the Nagurski Award last season. At 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, he could slot into Dupree’s position and excel at getting after quarterbacks or dropping into coverage to confuse offensive coordinators. Collins is a really intriguing chess piece for a smart defense. The Steelers could also think about offensive line with this pick.

What does a player like Collins bring to the Steelers defense, if he were the team’s top pick? The Draft Network breaks down Collins’ game, and how he can fit into an NFL defensive scheme:

After a high school career in which Zaven Collins was a four-year starter at quarterback and linebacker/safety, Tulsa was the only Division I program to offer him a scholarship. He ended his college career by claiming the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which is awarded to the nation’s best defensive player. Collins offers an exciting blend of size, length, power, football intelligence, and versatility that makes him a dynamic prospect for the NFL. Whether it’s defending the run, dropping into coverage, or rushing the passer, Collins has the requisite skill set required to execute and was arguably the most dynamic defensive playmaker in college football for the 2020 season. He demonstrated notable growth in 2020, becoming a complete defender and making high-impact, clutch plays seemingly every week. The Belichick disciples and teams that deploy that style of defense are likely salivating over Collins’ skill set and he projects as an impact defender in the NFL that can make plays in a variety of ways.

Ideal Role: Starting linebacker given opportunities to rush the passer, drop in coverage, play downhill, and in space.

Scheme Fit: Collins projects favorably to a defense that is multiple with its alignments that presents the opportunity for him to unleash the full breadth of his skill set.

What do you think of Kiper’s pick? Would you be okay with the Steelers taking a pass rusher in the first round? Also, would you be okay with Collins being their “guy”? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the start of the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.