NFL mock draft season is fully upon us — and next to Pilates, this is my favorite exercise. I unveiled my first Steelers’ mock of the offseason if you missed it last week. That version included a few studs from Georgia and an uber-talented quarterback who would likely be the most talented player in that position room.
It’s important to note that these mock drafts will change weekly — because who wants to see the same projections over and over? I’m also using a simulator, so the availability of previous picks will certainly change.
Pittsburgh trades pick 20 and Pick 120 to San Francisco for Pick 32, Pick 64, and a 2025 2nd rounder (offered to me).
Omar Khan continues to work his magic as he pulls a fast one on 49ers GM John Lynch and bumps back to acquire a second-round pick this season, and a future second. The Steelers’ brass notices that the talent at pick 20 is thinning out and they can grab a player of similar value at 32 — someone that they will have their eyes on throughout the entire draft process.
Round 1, No. 32: Sedrick Van Pran, C, Georgia
Selecting a center with the 20th overall pick is hard to justify, but I don’t necessarily feel that way about pick 32. What is arguably the biggest positional need for Pittsburgh is repaired quickly with the top player at his position in the draft in Van Pran.
Georgia center Sedrick Van Pran is a redshirt junior who has started every game at center for the Bulldogs over the last three years. This means he played on the same offensive line as the Steelers first-round pick last year, future star pass-protector Broderick Jones.
The 2022 National Champion can block inside and outside on zone run plays and shows his intelligence when picking up pressure and ensuring his offensive line is cohesive. He has the quickness and hand speed of a karate black belt. He also has a real mean streak, which should endear him to fans of the black and gold as well as his teammates rather quickly.
It’s also a major pro that he generally can snap the football accurately. If you’re someone who’s watched Mason Cole closely over the past few seasons, you will understand why I wrote that.
Round 2, No. 51: T.J. Tampa, CB, Iowa State
Last year the Steelers drafted a tall and rangy cornerback in Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr. who stands at 6’2 and has inspector gadget-like arms. How did that work out for them?
Iowa State cornerback T.J. Tampa is also 6’2 and has the physical tools to lock down the opposite side of the field for years to come.
The first-team all-Big 12 standout displayed great ball skills last season, as he had two picks and seven passes deflected. Those traits were built during his formative years in high school, when Tampa was a two-way star at both WR and CB at Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg, FL.
#IowaState DB T.J. Tampa has excellent size, physicality and his closing speed on routes is apparent on tape and allows him to undercut routes.— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) October 12, 2023
Turns and finds the football in air on vertical routes and if he’s in trail position, has awareness to play through receiver’s hands. pic.twitter.com/0c6rZAYY2p
Tampa has experience playing both man and zone at Iowa State and isn’t afraid to come up and tackle. Much like Van Pran, he’s a refined prospect who should be able to step in and make an impact immediately.
Round 2, No. 64 (from San Francisco): Ruke Ohorhoro, DT, Clemson
This is the pick the Steelers (in my scenario) acquired from the 49ers by moving down in the first round. In what feels like a bit of a luxury pick, Pittsburgh spends it on a high-upside player who can be a disruptive force in the trenches.
DT Ruke Ohorhoro didn’t start playing football until his junior year of high school, and he’s only 21 years old, but his production speaks for itself. Orhorhoro amassed 84 tackles, 24 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, and nine pass deflections over his three seasons with the Tigers and was selected as a third-team All-ACC player last year.
The most intriguing part of his game is the position versatility that he brings to the table. He can rush the passer as a disruptive 3-tech and also move inside and play 0-tech as a run stuffer.
Much like the selection of DT Keeanu Benton last season, Ohorhoro should help the DL rebuild as father time continues to catch up to Cameron Heyward and Larry Ogunjobi.
Round 3, No. 84: Devontez Walker, WR, North Carolina
Shockingly the Steelers did not select a wideout in last year’s draft, so you better believe they are taking one in this go around.
After a tumultuous battle with the NCAA to get cleared to play last season after transferring from Kent State, Devontez Walker immediately announced his name and his game to the nation. The 6’2, 200 lb. receiver hauled in 41 passes for 699 yards and seven TDs in just eight games for the Tar Heels.
Walker has above-average speed and acceleration, and is a true home-run threat, averaging 17 yards per catch last season. His ability to separate and make contested catches will have NFL GMs salivating.
North Carolina WR Devontez Walker -— Cønnør (@BernienChompz) January 23, 2024
- Catch and run expert
- Vertical threat who tracks ball tremendously
- Frame gives great catch radius
- Short area quickness gives separation
- Limited route tree
- Plays hesitant at timespic.twitter.com/FsdrwzX20G
In a league where you can never have enough weapons, combined with a struggling quarterback situation in Pittsburgh, adding another big target is mandatory.
Round 4, No. 119: Matt Goncalves, OT, Pittsburgh
Offensive tackle Matt Goncalves recently told the media that “it would mean everything” to stay in Pittsburgh and play football in Acrisure Stadium. Well, here you go, Matt.
This pick wouldn’t just be a feel-good story. Goncalves is a four-year starter with experience at every position on the line except for center. The Steelers will need an upgrade at offensive tackle following another below-average season by Dan Moore Jr., and while a fourth-round pick may not necessarily be a future Hall of Famer, I’d bet Goncalves would provide at least an immediate upgrade because of his high floor.
Round 6, No. 196: Jackson Mitchell, ILB, UConn
A five-year starter for the Huskies, inside linebacker Jackson Mitchell ranked 18th nationally in tackles this past season with 95 and had four double-digit tackle games.
Yes, UConn was not a good team, but Mitchell was a standout who frequently found himself around the ball and showed tremendous loyalty sticking it out at UConn when he could have transferred for more NIL money. Mitchell has the athleticism to play sideline to sideline and the instincts to wear the green dot.
The Steelers must address the inside linebacker position after suffering multiple injuries last season, including season-ending blows to Cole Holcomb and Kwon Alexander.
Round 7, No. 237: Tory Taylor, P, Iowa
You’re just going to have to accept this. It’s the second Steelers mock draft in a row I’ve had Pittsburgh selecting Tory Taylor at this spot. Punters matter, too.
The Ray Guy Award winner broke an 84-year record as he combined for 4,400 punting yards this season, the most in the illustrious history of college football.
He can be the weapon that the Steelers hoped Pressley Harvin III would turn into. When you have a struggling offense, the value of a great punter increases exponentially.
What position do you hope the Steelers target in Round 1 of the 2024 NFL Draft? How would you feel about the Black & Gold trading down? Join the Behind The Steel Curtain community and let us know in the comments!