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A 2018 Steelers mock draft which certainly thinks “outside the box”

It's that time of year again, where I unveil my Official 2018 Steelers Mock Draft

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Ohio State vs Clemson Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Like most draft experts, I wasted little time rehashing the Steelers 45-42 season-ending loss to the Jaguars in the divisional round of the playoffs at Heinz Field on January 14.

There's no time for that when your head is filled with thoughts of how to make a team better (at least on paper).

This desire to make Pittsburgh a more superior on-field product—one capable of competing each week—is what drives me every offseason—and this offseason was/is no exception.

However, the on-field product can't be improved until the work, the research, the analysis is done off the field, by people like me, the experts—the gurus, if you will.

What am I talking about? I'm talking about dissecting and analyzing those ever-promising draft prospects.

With the 2018 NFL Draft less than a month away, how will the Steelers get better? What areas of need/concern will they look to shore up first?

Unlike other draft experts, I don't just dive in right out of the gate with a mock draft—followed by another and then another and then another.

No, what I do is spend countless hours watching tape, studying film and crunching numbers.

I examine pad level. I view technique with an ultra-critical eye.

And with that in-mind, I would like to unveil my...

Official 2018 Steelers Mock Draft.

Round 1: (32nd, overall): Billy Price, center/guard, Ohio State

I realize the Steelers are supposed to have the 28th pick in the first round, but I have them moving down four spots for reasons I will get to later.

Let's talk about the pick. Why a center? It's simple: While Maurkice Pouncey may be a decorated center with a string of Pro Bowl appearances on his resume, fact is, he's not getting any younger. Pouncey will be 29 by the time he plays his next meaningful game, and with only two years left on a five-year contract he signed in 2014, it's time the Steelers groom his eventual replacement.

And with a player like Billy Price, one that, according to Walterfootball, is "an above-average athlete," who better to groom at a position that, as BTSC's own Shannon White has said, is one steeped in excellence?

It is true that Price tore a pectoral muscle at the Combine, but he'll certainly have plenty of time to heal as well as learn behind one of the greatest centers in team history.

Pittsburgh's rich tradition at center will continue on through Billy Price.

Round 2: (33rd, overall): Ike Boettger, offensive tackle, Iowa

I realize this is the Browns pick, but in my official 2018 Steelers Mock Draft, I have Cleveland moving up from the first pick of the second round to the 28th pick of the first round. The Browns have been stockpiling draft choices recently, and they will offer some valuable compensation to Pittsburgh in-order to gain yet another first round pick (more on that later).

Anyway, with Chris Hubbard signing a lucrative free agent deal with, ironically enough, the Browns, Pittsburgh is going to need a new utility tackle, one capable of playing both positions at the professional level. And at 6'5" and 307 pounds, Boettger has the kind of size scouts rarely find—but always covet—at the position.

Round 5 (148th, overall): Linnell Bonner, wide receiver, Houston

You're probably wondering why the Steelers, who didn't have a pick in the fourth round, also lost their original second round pick (60th, overall), along with their third round pick (91st, overall). To get something, you have to be willing to give something. And with Pittsburgh seeking a trading partner back into the first round after sending the 28th pick to the Browns in exchange for an extra draft choice (more on that later), the organization was going to have to pay a little more.

Thankfully, in my official—and final—2018 Steelers mock draft, the defending champion Eagles were a more than willing dance partner. And why wouldn't they be? After all, second and third round picks don't grow on trees, neither do promising second-year receivers such as JuJu Smith-Schuster, who I have Pittsburgh also sending to Philadelphia in exchange for its first round pick.

I realize Smith-Schuster, with 58 receptions for 917 yards and seven touchdowns in his first season, may have only skimmed the surface of what he's capable of, but you know who is capable of even more? Martavis Bryant, a Randy Moss-like mega-athlete that's just dripping with talent, talent that's been evident since his rookie year of 2014.

With only one year left on his rookie contract, 2018 will probably be the season Bryant truly breaks out, and Smith-Schuster, like Bryant, a number two receiver, would just make for a crowded position.

So why Bonner, if I'm so worried about the numbers at the receiver position? Because, at 6'0, 200 lbs, Bonner has the ideal size to play the slot role. With Eli Rogers likely not coming back next year, Bonner, a top-40 receiving prospect, would have a chance to start as a rookie.

Round 5 (165th, overall): Davon Grayson, wide receiver, ECU

Why another wide receiver, if I have Pittsburgh trading away its 2017 Rookie of the Year? The Steelers will need insurance in-case Bryant faces another suspension, and at 6'2, 187 pounds, Grayson has a similar body frame to the fifth-year man out of Clemson.

Round 6 (205, overall): Nick Wilson, running back, Arizona

You might be wondering why I have the Steelers settling for the Browns second of two sixth round picks as the compensation I've been teasing. I understand your concern, but with star running back Le'Veon Bell seeking a contract that averages $17 million a season, it just doesn't seem realistic that Pittsburgh will be able to pay that kind of money, plus afford the top sixth round pick.

Round 6 (206, overall): Richard Lagow, quarterback, Indiana

Knowing that Philadelphia has both Carson Wentz and Super Bowl LII-winning quarterback Nick Foles in the fold, it isn't hard to fathom the Steelers being able to make yet another trade with the Eagles, this time as a means to move back into the sixth round in-order to find their heir apparent franchise passer. How do I see this happening? Simple: Pittsburgh has two seventh round picks I'm guessing Philadelphia would find enticing.

Hefty price? Not if Lagow, who at 6'5", 240 pounds, is ultimately groomed into the next Big Ben Roethlisberger.

There you have it, now that I've put in the work and have told you my thoughts, I'm eager to read yours below.