The 2017 season was filled with promise, only to see the hopes of another Lombardi go up in smoke during the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ opening game of the playoffs against Jacksonville. Coach Mike Tomlin and Company are facing the prospect of a closing window to win with their current leadership, so making this year’s draft will be paramount in making another postseason push.
Using the FanSpeak On The Clock Mock Draft Simulator, here is one realistic scenario that would make sense for the Steelers.
Round 1, pick 28: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
The injury to ILB Ryan Shazier will likely force the Steelers’ hand in this draft class. Shazier is a terrific talent who was a centerpiece of the Pittsburgh front for the past several seasons, but Shazier needs to be focused fully on his health and the Steelers will have to look elsewhere for someone to hold down the middle.
Enter Evans, who has made great strides during his brief stint as a starter at Alabama. Evans has awesome athleticism and versatility, traits that are well-known requirements to play Shazier’s role.
Round 2, pick 60: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
How would Pittsburgh take the most terrifying group of skill players in the NFL and make it even harder to defend? Taking a tight end would be an excellent start. Hayden Hurst is a mismatch receiving threat in the middle of the field who would join Antonio Brown, Juju Smith-Schuster and presumably Le’Veon Bell to create headaches all over the field. This is a luxury pick for Pittsburgh, which can certainly get more out of the TE position than what Jesse James has offered.
Round 3, pick 92: Quenton Meeks, CB, Stanford
The Steelers’ recent selection of CB Artie Burns in the first round hasn’t yielded consistency yet, but even more concerning is the depth on the boundary for Pittsburgh. Stanford’s Quenton Meeks fits the size profile Pittsburgh looked for in Burns and would be a strong candidate to take the reins from veteran Joe Haden as a starter when the time comes.
Round 5, pick 150: Jack Cichy, LB, Wisconsin
Cichy is a forgotten prospect due to an ACL injury which cost him his entire 2017 season with the Wisconsin Badgers. Cichy also had his 2016 season cut short with a torn pectoral, but the injury wasn’t enough to prevent him from playing the entire second half against Iowa with it. That toughness is a good indication of what Steeler fans could expect from Cichy, who is cerebral, fast to flow, and athletic in space. The addition of Cichy behind Evans gives Pittsburgh some extra depth at one of its core positions.
Round 5, pick 167: Chase Litton, QB, Marshall
Litton played ball right in Pittsburgh’s backyard. The Thundering Herd passer has traits as a pocket passer that will move the needle for NFL executives. Big, strong-armed and illustrating great touch, Litton is a favorable fit for Pittsburgh’s vertical passing offense and — in the fifth round — is a fair investment to make. Litton is a better passer than last year’s Day 3 selection at QB, Joshua Dobbs.
Round 7, pick 220: Jester Weah, WR, Pittsburgh
Doesn’t Pittsburgh have enough wide receivers? Maybe. But veteran Darrius Heyward-Bey is 30 and entering the final year of his contract in 2018. Add the uncertain future of Martavis Bryant and suddenly Pittsburgh’s long-term receiver depth isn’t so rosy after all. Weah fits the same mold as both Heyward-Bey and Bryant — he’s a long, lean vertical receiver with a knack for making big plays down the field.
Round 7, pick 246: Greg Gilmore, DL, Louisiana State
Much of Pittsburgh’s depth along the defensive line lies in late-round selections. Greg Gilmore isn’t a sexy pick, but he is a tough presence in the middle who could push for a roster spot and the chance to rotate in as a space eating 2-gap defender. There, Gilmore could allow the revamped Steeler linebackers to fly around cleanly and find the football.
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