With most of their priority free agents off of the market, and Vince Williams and Josh Dobbs having recently signed with the team, it feels as if the Steelers pre-draft wave of free agency may finally be winding down. And with the draft less than two weeks away, it feels like a good time to release my second (and final) mock draft of the year.
Like my last mock draft, I won’t use a simulator to make the picks, but will do my best to ensure the players are picked at reasonable draft slots (Creed Humphrey will likely not be available in Round 2, for instance). And while I’ll try to make picks that I think the Steelers would consider, this is an equal mix of my preference and what I think the Steelers’ front office is.
Let’s get to the picks:
Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
1st round, pick #24
Najee Harris is my top running back in the draft class, but there’s a good chance he doesn’t make it to the Steelers pick at #24 due to the Dolphins and Jets both needing a running back as well. A cornerback or offensive tackle could be in play here too, but I’ll stick with running back, selecting Travis Etienne out of Clemson. He’d easily be the best running back on the Steelers roster, bringing Anthony McFarland-esque speed with a far more complete game. He’d be a receiving threat as well.
Here’s what I wrote about Etienne on the BTSC Big Board:
Etienne made the right choice returning to school for 2020, but ended up having a down year statistically, failing to crack a thousand rushing yards for the first time since his freshman season in 2017. He did improve as a pass-catcher, totaling a career high in receiving yards and better hands overall. As a runner, Etienne is a speedster, one of the fastest in this class. His smaller frame is a concern, but he hasn’t had any major injury issues and always plays bigger than he is, finishing runs with some power and giving his all every play. He doesn’t have the greatest vision, and will sometimes try to push runs too far outside. Etienne isn’t the most agile, either, even though his speed certainly gives him an advantage in avoiding defenders. Etienne isn’t a complete running back just yet, but he has a solid foundation of tools and his impressive speed gives him lots of upside as an NFL back.
Jabril Cox, LB, LSU
2nd round, pick #55
With Vince Williams returning to the fold, inside linebacker isn’t as big of a need as it was. However, there still is a very good chance the Steelers address the position in the upcoming draft. Williams and Robert Spillane will likely split time as the “buck” linebacker in 2021, but Devin Bush is the only true “mack” the team has besides the injury-plagued Ulysees Gilbert III. Cox would give the Steelers a competent backup to Bush who could see some starting time against pass-happy offenses. He would have immediate value on special teams as well.
Here’s what I wrote about Cox on the BTSC Big Board:
Cox is quickly becoming one of my favorite linebackers in this draft. He’s built nearly the same as Jamin Davis, and similarly is an excellent athlete who is rock solid in coverage. He has the same big play gene as the Kentucky linebacker as well. But where Davis struggles in navigating traffic, Cox is a heat-seeking missile. He flies across the field and through contact to make tackles, and while he’s still developing as a run defender, he shows all of the required tools and effort. He’ll be excellent value in the second or third round.
Shaun Wade, CB/S, Ohio State
3rd round, pick #87
If Cam Sutton does indeed move to the outside in 2021, the Steelers will be in need of a starting slot corner, and Wade could turn into the biggest steal of the class. He had a down year in 2020 which hurt his draft stock, but had looked like a first round talent in earlier seasons. He would be a starter in the slot on the Steelers defense, who could provide some safety depth behind Minkah Fitzpatrick as well.
Here’s what I wrote about Wade on the BTSC Big Board:
Wade is a very interesting prospect at corner. He was considered a surefire first round pick entering the 2020 season as a slot corner, but he moved outside in his final season and struggled greatly, tanking his draft stock. And that’s the important thing with Wade, play to his strengths and you get a fantastic corner, put him in bad situations and he may not rise to the occasion. In the slot, Wade played physically and aggressively, showing off his good ball skills and athletic ability. On the outside, that aggressiveness was gone and replaced with a corner who sat back and bailed far too often, giving up a lot of plays. I’ve seen some draft analysts say Wade should move to the safety position, where he can watch the game play out in front of him and use his ball skills, athleticism, and aggressiveness to be a playmaking backstop for a defense. It isn’t a bad idea, but Wade has better value as a starting slot corner for an NFL defense. He had a rough 2020, but definitely isn’t a player to give up on just yet.
Trey Hill, C, Georgia
4th round, pick #128
It may seem wrong to wait this long for an offensive lineman, but in a deep class of both tackles and interior linemen, the Steelers shouldn’t be too pressed to take one early. Hill is no Maurkice Pouncey, or even Creed Humphrey, but he’s a big, physical run blocker who should be able to start early on in his NFL career.
Here’s what I wrote about Hill on the BTSC Big Board:
Hill was a center for Georgia last year, but he’s played a bit at guard during his college career, a position some think he’d be a better fit at on the NFL level. He’s pretty big for a center, and as a result is a powerful lineman who’s hard to move through or around. He’s another mauler-type of prospect, but he doesn’t have the same level of athleticism as some of the other guys in this class. He’s technically sound and plays with good strength, but if you’re looking for another mobile Maurkice Pouncey-type interior lineman, Hill isn’t it. He’s had some knee issues as well during his college career, but nothing that seems like a red flag. Still, there’s a lot to like about Hill, and I think his high floor will allow him to be an instant starter in the NFL.
Shaka Toney, EDGE, Penn State
4th round, pick #140th (Comp pick)
In what probably shouldn’t be a surprise, the Steelers go with a Penn State product with one of their draft picks. Toney is a bit of a project, but he’s got a lot of athletic upside and was fairly productive in college. With some coaching he would be an excellent pass-rusher to supplement T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith.
Here’s what steelerfan11 wrote about Toney on the BTSC Big Board:
Toney was expected to be overshadowed by Yetur Gross-Matos in 2019 and Jayson Oweh in 2020, but both seasons Toney was the more consistent and more productive player. He has elite quickness off the line of scrimmage, but much like Rumph and Roche, he does not have a big frame. If he is going to become a three-down linebacker, he will have to add weight to help him set the edge better as a run defender. Nonetheless, he will be a good situational player who can excel as a speed rusher.
Tommy Doyle, OT, Miami (OH)
6th round, pick #216
Doyle’s draft stock has been all over the place, but projecting him for the sixth round seems like a safe bet right now. For the Steelers, they finally nab an offensive tackle, while also selecting their obligatory MAC player. With Zach Banner, Chuks Okorafor, and possibly Alejandro Villenueva (if he is re-signed), all vying for starting spots in 2021, the Steelers don’t have as big a need at the position as most think they do. Instead, they grab a developmental tackle here who could be a starter down the road, but will be good depth at the very least.
Here’s what I wrote about Doyle on the BTSC Big Board:
From Ben Roethlisberger’s alma mater, Doyle could be an interesting late round prospect for the Steelers. He’s another lineman with really great size, but good athleticism and strength to match. I really liked him in the run game, as his strength and size really shine and he plays with good drive and impressive pad level for someone his height. Like many other later round OT’s, Doyle is solid in pass blocking, but often struggled against more athletic rushers. The Steelers love their MAC players, and Doyle is another really solid prospect who could definitely hear his name called by Pittsburgh on day 3.
Damonte Coxie, WR, Memphis
7th round, pick #245
Another player whose draft stock has been all over the place over the past few months, Coxie’s stock may drop in a loaded class due to his lack of top-tier athleticism. Wide receiver is hardly a need for the Steelers, but Coxie’s strong hands and physicality may be valuable assets for a team that was in desperate need of those traits last year. Besides, is it even a Kevin Colbert draft without picking at least one wide receiver?
Here’s what I wrote about Coxie on the BTSC Big Board:
Coxie is a tough, physical receiver who has been consistently productive during his time at Memphis. He’s a competitive guy who gives his all every play, whether it’s a blocking assignment or running a route. He’s not a burner, lacking the ideal speed and quickness you’d want out of an NFL receiver, but Coxie shines in other ways. He has excellent hands, good ball skills, and good body control, and paired with his larger frame, I think he could be a really solid possession receiver at the next level.
Miller Forristall, TE, Alabama
7th round, pick #254
If the Steelers don’t get one of the top tight ends in the first few rounds of the draft, the best value will be found with one of their last picks in a solid blocking tight end. Forristall fits the bill, being one of college football’s premiere blockers at the position, but often flying under the radar in a flashy Alabama offense. In fact, he probably would have flown under my radar if not for steelerfan11 pointing out Forristall’s excellent play on multiple occasions. Projected by many as a UDFA, Forristall will likely be available late in the seventh, although it’s fair to say that his value may be much higher than that.
Here’s what I wrote about Forristall on the BTSC Big Board:
Trevor Lawrence’s high school tight end ended up at Alabama, where he spent five years before declaring for the NFL draft. Forristall isn’t an incredible athlete, but he has enough ability to compete at a high level, with decent speed and route-running ability as well as strong, reliable hands. He’s an excellent blocker as well, with good technique but also a bit of a nasty streak. His injury history could be a problem, but if he can stay healthy, Forristall is an excellent mid-to-late round prospect with a very high floor.
With this draft, the Steelers would gain three immediate starters at running back, slot corner, and center. They would also gain three rotational players at linebacker, EDGE, and tight end, along with two developmental pieces at offensive tackle and wide receiver.
How would you grade this draft?
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What are your thoughts on this draft? Feel free to leave your comments below, and stay tuned to Behind the Steel Curtain for more Steelers content as the draft gets closer.