As we sit here, about 3.5 weeks from the 2022 NFL Draft, it really feels like nothing is off the table for the Steelers. They can take all sorts of approaches to their seven picks in the upcoming three day selection process.
But what if they decided to focus on the defensive side of the football?
While most people would likely assume the Steelers should focus on the offense, there isn't anything stopping them from flipping that script. The Steelers can bolster their secondary and reinforce some aging units by doing so, making this scenario one which could play out.
With that being said, I can't see any draft scenario playing out without the Steelers drafting a wide receiver. One of their seven picks will be dedicated to the position.
So, what would a defense-first approach to the draft look like? Let’s take a look...
First Round: Strong Safety, Corner, Defensive Line
Lewis Cine/Jaquon Brisker/Derek Stingley/Sauce Gardner/Andrew Booth Jr./Jordan Davis
Until the Steelers address the safety position I would have to imagine they are considering taking a safety in the first round. But if they do sign a safety in free agency this position can wait until late in the draft to address some needed depth. As for the cornerbacks, yes the Steelers have Levi Wallace, Ahkello Witherspoon and Cam Sutton under contract, but the corners of this draft are an upgrade even on them. Finally, the defensive line is another year older and will slowly start to retire off of the roster, both Tyson Alualu and Stephon Tuitt’s deals expire after the 2022 season. In other words, the Steelers need an action plan here.
Second Round: Linebacker, Corner, Wide Receiver
Christian Harris/Chad Muma/Quay Walker/Roger McCreary/Christain Watson/George Pickens
The Steelers should still look for a linebacker to push Devin Bush and Myles Jack, and they should also consider finding someone who's better at stopping the run. It remains doubtful it happens early in the draft, but it is still a possibility. Cornerback again pops up here because the Steelers have to face Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, Amari Cooper, and Hollywood Brown twice a year each. The defense will have to be able to slow those dynamic wide receivers down.
I do think this is the round a receiver is the pick though. Keep an eye out for the available receivers when the Steelers make the 52nd pick.
Third Round: Corner, Wide Receiver, Edge
Coby Bryant/Marcus Jones/Skyy Moore/Justyn Ross/Nik Bonitto/Sam Williams
If they haven't taken a cornerback yet they could snag one in the third round. For the reasons above the Steelers need a strong defensive backfield and will do that within the first three rounds. If they have already landed a corner and receiver I can see them looking to bolster the edge behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, perhaps even pushing the latter name.
Fourth Round: Linebacker, Defensive line
Micah McFadden/Terrell Bernard/Jayden Peevy/Matthew Butler
The Steelers have to walk out of this draft with a defensive lineman. I anticipate they will need two new starters at the position in 2023, having players experienced with the system is ideal. Otherwise, the Steelers can continue to look for that run stuffing linebacker.
Fifth Round: N/A
No picks in the fifth round means the Steelers get a break. Please enjoy this picture of UGA sleeping, which is what Steelers fans will be doing through the fifth round unless they trade back into the round.
Sixth Round: Edge, Defensive line, Corner, Hybrid Secondary/Linebacker
Tyreke Smith/Josh/Paschal/Marquan McCall/Isaiah Pola-Mao/Delarrin Turner-Yell/Jack Sanborn
The sixth round feels like anything could happen. If there is a position the Steelers didn't pick yet, that’s exactly where they could go. Or they could even double dip at a position and attempt to shore up an entire unit with multiple rookies. Ideally, they find anyone who can win a roster spot.
Seventh Round: Safety, Edge, Defensive Line
Greg Eisworth II/Tre Williams/Tyree Johnson
The Steelers have two seventh round picks, and should use both to sure up the bottom half of their depth chart and special teams ranks. The names don’t really matter so long as they can make the team and provide anything for Danny Smith’s units.
But what do you think? How would you feel about a Steelers defensively focused draft? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.