8 Players to “Pencil-In” As Pittsburgh Steelers in the Draft

The NFL Draft is always unpredictable. Crazy picks, trades, and other movies are the only things that can really be expected. But sometimes, team fits are so perfect that you can almost pencil them into their new team. Team visits, Pro Day and Combine meetings, and additional reports can just about secure a player to their destined location.

Even just in the 2018 Draft, the Steelers had 3 players that could have been called Pittsburgh Steelers a day before the draft began. Wide Receiver James Washington not only met with the Steelers at the combine, but the Steelers also heavily scouted out the Oklahoma Pro Day. Not only were Randy Fitchner, Kevin Colbert, and Mike Tomlin present, but the Steelers had shown significant interest in larger, deep-threat wide receivers all throughout the draft process. Reports of their interest in him were prominent, and few were surprised when the Steelers took him in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Another easy one to predict was Mason Rudolph. Almost anyone could see their vested interest in Rudolph. They met with him at the combine, sent the house to his pro day, and even stayed after to talk to him. The Steelers clearly love big-bodied QBs with physical tools and there were many questions regarding Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement. The only real question was if he would be available for the Steelers. So by the time their early 3rd-round pick came up, and Rudolph was still on the board, it was not a hard call to make. The last one was also simple. Nose Tackle Joshua Frazier had a very important connection with Defensive Line Coach Karl Dunbar who had been vouching for Frazier for quite some time. Frazier was unproven, but a 7th-round pick can often be easily swayed by the opinions of coaches.

1. Chase Winovich, EDGE, 2nd-Round

This is definitely a question of availability. The Steelers clearly love Winovich. They had dinner with the EDGE rusher and even met up with him after his pro day. Remind of anyone? The Steelers also spent significant time talking to Rudolph before his pro day, but also stayed to talk to him after. Obviously this doesn’t secure a draft spot, but the local kid definitely fills in a need for the team. The Steelers need a top tier pass-rusher and EDGE defender and Winovich is a pro-ready, Day 1 starter kind of guy. He’s not a perfect scheme fit–he’s more of a 4-3 DE than a 3-4 OLB–but his general athleticism and outstanding combine performance shows that he could be capable in coverage if he ends up replacing Bud Dupree. I don’t think EDGE is big enough of a need for the Steelers to take Chase Winovich in the first round, but if he’s available in the 2nd, he should be at the top of their board.

2. Miles Boykin, WR, 3rd-Round

Boykin is an uber-athletic, big-bodied, high-upside receiver that Ben Roethlisberger would love to have on the team. His production at Notre Dame was not great at all, but the level of QB he had to deal with was far, far below average. The Steelers have brought him in for a pre-draft visit and the 3rd round seems just about right for the outside receiver the Steelers need.

3. Alex Bars, OL, 6th-Round

Kevin Colbert‘s presence and the Notre Dame pro day could also mean interest in versatile Offensive Lineman Alex Bars. Bars, who never really found a position to focus on in his college years, could be the perfect depth for the aging Ramon Foster and Maurkice Pouncey, even though the two are still playing on a high level. Current backups Matt Feiler and B.J. Finney don’t have much time left on their contracts, and it makes more sense to draft a replacement rather than re-sign them at market value. Bars definitely seems like the kind of guy the team can test out new offensive lne coach Shaun Sharret with, as they watch the high-floor, low-ceiling prospect develop.

4. Andrew Van Ginkel, LB/EDGE, 6th-Round

Even though Van Ginkel plays on the EDGE, he’s not much of a pass rusher. But he is outstanding in coverage and a perfect scheme fit for the Steelers. They have already brought him in for a pre-draft visit and taking him allows the Steelers to be less dependent on Bud Dupree’s abilities in coverage–they can focus on more of a straight up pass rusher.

5. Wes Hills, RB, 7th-Round/Undrafted

Wes Hills is a local prospect, but more importantly, he has the physical characteristics that make him a Pittsburgh Steelers running back. At 6’2″ 218 lbs, Wes Hills is a large, downhill running back who has impressed despite playing for a smaller school.

6. David Sills V, WR, 5th Round

Sills might be more of a backup plan for Boykin, but it is clear the Steelers are engrossed with the West Virginia Wide Receiver. Not only did the Steelers look for him at the WVU pro day, but there have been many reports stating that the team is enamored with Sills. He’s not an outstanding prospect, but he’s solid an he offers some upside as a later-round pick.

7. Ulysees Gilbert III, ILB, 4th Round

Gilbert is the perfect depth piece/future starter if the Steelers miss out on Devin Bush. His 4.46 40 yard dash was impressive, but even more intriguing was the fact that he never missed a game in his college career. He’s not great against the run, but he is capable in coverage and a good fit for the team.

8. Isaac Nauta, TE, 7th Round

No one really knows where Nauta is going to go. As a talented receiver and an aggressive blocking tight end, Nauta offers Late Day 2, Early Day 3 tape. But his horrendous combine performance (4.91 40 Yard Dash) could definitely hurt his stock. He’s not overly large (6’3″ 244 lbs) so he can’t really use that as an excuse for his performance either. His production in college is lacking, and these factors could definitely leave him undrafted by the 7th round. With Jesse James gone, Nauta makes a lot of sense. he can develop into a solid blocker and replace Xavier Grimble as the No. 2 TE on the team.

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