Welcome to the official kickoff of our nation’s fastest-growing holiday — the NFL draft. What once was a twinkle in the eyes of football fans across the country has become a full-fledged in-person event with loads of crazy fans flocking to the draft stage like Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and General Manager Omar Khan’s New Year’s resolution should be to ensure the black and gold are legitimate Super Bowl contenders while the best defensive player in the league TJ Watt is still in his prime. That means crushing free agency and drafting players who can help the team immediately.
Throughout this journey to April 27th, I’ll try my best to crush the Steelers’ Mock Draft each Monday. Please keep in mind that everything is fluid and will likely change dramatically based on the NFL combine, NFL Draft Bowls, and tape study.
Note: I did not draft a center or receiver, two positions that I think must be addressed. I’m a bit burned by Kendrick Green, and unless the Steelers draft a center in Round 1, I don’t see them taking an immediate day-one starter. That’s why I think they’ll sign one in free agency. I also think another veteran slot receiver is on the way. Maybe a return to the Burgh for Pittsburgh native Tyler Boyd?
Anyway, for now, let’s begin to pop the champagne on my first 2024 Steelers mock draft...
Here’s our latest pick-by-pick Steelers mock draft using PFF’s NFL Mock Draft Simulator.
Round 1, No. 20: Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia
Khan and the Steelers have prioritized improving the trenches over the past year. Drafting Broderick Jones last season was a home run, and he will hopefully be the future left tackle for the next decade. Jones is an absolute dog. A bulldog, to be specific. And so is Mims. Drafting players out of Georgia has worked well for Pittsburgh, and Mims is the perfect complement for Jones.
Mims can slot in immediately at right tackle and Dan Moore Jr can be the swing tackle - giving the Steelers one of the best young pairings in the league up front.
Round 2, No. 51: Javon Bullard, DB, Georgia
If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Back to the peach state, we go!
This selection follows the same logic as the Mims pick. The Steelers drafted Joey Porter Jr. to lock down wideouts on one side of the field, and now it’s time to take another young DB to help finish the back-end rebuild.
Bullard will quickly become one of your favorite players in the draft. Remember last year when fans were pining for Alabama’s hybrid DB Brian Branch? Bullard has Branch-like traits.
He can play both safety and inside at slot corner. Bullard was nearly perfect in coverage this season, allowing just 14 receptions on 26 targets. He didn’t give up a single touchdown. He’s also physical at the line of scrimmage and isn’t afraid to tackle. His versatility is something that is coveted in today’s league, and I’d love to see him in black and gold.
Javon Bullard being able to shed a block and make a tackle in run support off the edge for no gain is a really beautiful thing. pic.twitter.com/pBuKPwzQND— Jon Helmkamp (@JonHelmkamp) January 18, 2024
Round 3, No. 84: Mekhi Wingo, DT, LSU
Cam Heyward and Larry Ogunjobi are getting long in the tooth. While both still have gas left in the tank, it’s time to start heading towards the Sunoco station for a refill. And LSU DT Mekhi Wingo is premium gas that will help the Steelers defensive front in tough AFC North conditions.
Wingo is a bully of an interior lineman who can also rush the passer with a deadly combination of both power and speed. Pairing him with Keeanu Benton is a scary look for opposing offensive lines in the AFC North for many years to come.
Round 4, No. 119: Junior Colson, LB, Michigan
Last offseason, GM Omar Khan went out and signed linebackers Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts in free agency, and I’d anticipate both will be back and play a key role in 2024. However, health is a major concern at the position. Holcomb was also solid up until he suffered a torn ACL in Week 9 against the Tennessee Titans, and it’s unclear if he’ll be ready by Week 1 of the upcoming season.
Roberts was a phenomenal addition, but behind him, it appears that Mark Robinson has fallen out of favor. It’s time for reinforcements, and Colson would be a perfect fit. He led the National Champion Michigan Wolverines in tackles last season and has sideline-to-sideline speed.
Round 4, No. 120: Daequan Hardy, CB, Penn State
My first big surprise of this Steelers mock draft is the Steelers take a cornerback from Penn State who is not named Kalen King or Johnny Dixon, who would probably be long gone at this point. Hardy, a graduate from Penn Hills was a third-team All-Big Ten selection last season for the Nittany Lions. He also provides position flexibility, as he lined up both outside and at Nickel corner for Manny Diaz’s tremendous defense.
Hardy is a five-year player, so he shouldn’t take long to acclimate to the NFL game. He’s a low-ceiling, high-floor type of player, and he could likely contribute right away.
Round 6, No. 196: Joe Milton, QB, Tennessee
Who’s ready to have some fun?
At this point, my best guess is the Steelers will enter the season with Mason Rudolph and Kenny Pickett as the only two quarterbacks on the roster. Drafting a lottery ticket late is a prudent move, and Tennessee prospect Joe Milton is fascinating. He’s 6’5 and can throw the ball about 500 yards.
Those are two wildly attractive traits.
There are definitely some areas of Joe Milton’s game that he needs to work on at the NFL level, but is a 2024 draft prospect that deserves some more discussion— Marissa Myers (@Marissa_M27) January 21, 2024
-has the off-platform throwing ability
-throws through tight windows
-quick, compact release
There’s promise there pic.twitter.com/nlSwfU16wS
His decision-making is poor, and he’ll be 24 by the time he’s a rookie, which is why he’s going to be ranked low on plenty of draft boards. Do I think he will last to Round 6? Absolutely not. I predict Milton will be an NFL Combine standout. He will probably work his way up to the middle of the draft. However, he was available in this simulator.
Drafting a quarterback in Rounds 2 or 3 would probably be a wasted pick given the talent in this class in those particular areas. Taking one late certainly won’t set back this franchise.
Round 7, No. 237: Tory Taylor, P, Iowa
If you thought I wasn’t going to end my first Steelers mock draft without taking a 26-year-old Australian punter out of Iowa, you were certainly mistaken. The Ray Guy Award winner for the Nation’s best punter is arguably the most decorated at his position in college football history.
He broke an 84-year record as he combined for 4,400 punting yards this season, the most in NCAA history. He averaged 47.8 yards per punt this past season and landed a whopping 45.1% of his career punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
Pressley Harvin III simply can’t hold the job for another season.
A quarterback and a punter, you may argue, would be two wasted picks. But let me ask you this — how do you feel about the Steelers quarterback and punter?
What position do you hope the Steelers target in Round 1 of the 2024 NFL Draft? Did any other prospects catch your eye throughout bowl season? Join the Behind The Steel Curtain community and let us know in the comments!