By: CJ Lester, @CJLester58
The Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 season ended a couple of weeks ago and all we can think about is how this team can get better in order to compete for their 7th Lombardi trophy next season. How can this team improve? Everyone wants to draft the next successor to QB Ben Roethlisberger, which I am not opposed to at all! However, if you want your next franchise quarterback, you cannot give up the house in order to get your guy! The last thing you want is a very talented QB with no way to protect him or support his growth, like the New York Jets have done with QB Sam Darnold. There are three quarterbacks in this draft that I would LOVE for the Steelers to draft this year, but that’s it! Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, and Trey Lance are your only options. We know Lawrence will be the #1 overall pick, so there is no chance there. Fields may fall, but most likely not far enough for the Steelers to trade up for him without giving up a couple of future 1st or 2nd round picks. Lance will most likely fall due to not competing this season due to the FCS cancelling the season after one game, but how far will he fall? If he falls far enough for the Steelers to jump in front of the Washington Football Team at 19, I say move up and get our guy! In this mock draft that I ran on The Draft Network, those quarterbacks were gone in the top 8 picks. Lawrence to the Jacksonville Jaguars at #1 (of course), Fields to the Atlanta Falcons at #4, and Lance went to the Carolina Panthers at #8. With the quarterbacks gone early, what was my game plan? It all starts up front. The Steelers’ offensive line is aging and needs some fresh faces after struggling this past year. Here is what I came out with.
Round 1: Pick 28
Traded down from 24 with the New Orleans Saints
Steelers receive: Pick 28 and (Rd. 3) Pick 98
Saints receive: Pick 24
The Pittsburgh Steelers select OT Alex Leatherwood (6’6” 310 lbs.) from Alabama.
Ladies and gentleman, here is your left tackle! I was able to trade down with the Saints only 4 spots and received an additional 3rd round pick. He would have been my pick at 24, so might as well collect an extra 3rd rounder and still get my guy, right? Leatherwood can completely overpower competition and has plenty of experience at left tackle. If you want to improve the run game and protect the QB, this is our guy!
Round 2: Pick 56
The Pittsburgh Steelers select IOL Creed Humphrey (6’5” 316 lbs.) from Oklahoma.
It’s no secret that C Maurkice Pouncey is contemplating retirement. Humphrey is another offensive lineman that can come in and make an immediate impact, but he can also be the Center in waiting if Pouncey decides to give it one more year.
Round 3: Pick 71
Traded up from 98 with the Detroit Lions
Steelers receive: Pick 71
Lions receive: (Rd. 3) Pick 98 via Saints and 2022 Rd. 4 Pick
The Pittsburgh Steelers select RB Javonte Williams (5’10” 220 lbs.) from North Carolina.
Williams will most likely be the 3rd running back off the board this draft season. I decided to trade up and get our starting running back for next season. At 5’10”, 220 pounds, Williams is a bruiser that also gives defenders fits in the open field. RB James Conner will most likely leave in free agency, and the Steelers need a spark at the running back position. In the trade, I gave up Pick 98 that I received in the 1st round trade with the Saints and 2022’s 4th round pick. It’s easier to give up next year’s 4th, when the team will most likely receive a couple of 3rd or 4th round compensatory picks next year due to players leaving in free agency this offseason.
Round 3: Pick 87
The Pittsburgh Steelers select IDL Levi Onwuzurike (6’3” 298 lbs.) from Washington.
NT Tyson Alualu is a free agent this offseason, and even if he is re-signed he will be 34 next season, so there will be a glaring need for young talent on the interior defensive line.
Round 4: Pick 128
The Pittsburgh Steelers select CB Keith Taylor (6’3” 195 lbs.) from Washington.
The Steelers are going to lose either CB Mike Hilton or CB Cam Sutton in free agency this offseason. Joe Haden is under contract next season, but is aging. The Steelers will need a cornerback at some point in this draft. Taylor can be used inside or outside and his biggest asset is his versatility.
Round 4: Pick 141 Compensatory Pick
The Pittsburgh Steelers select TE Tre’ McKitty (6’5” 241 lbs.) from Georgia.
Tight end instantly became a bigger need since TE Vance McDonald retired yesterday. McKitty lined up all over the place for Georgia this past season, and is very willing as a run blocker. He is very athletic and plays like a big wide receiver in the passing game.
Round 6: Pick 204
The Pittsburgh Steelers select WR Austin Watkins (6’3” 205 lbs.) from UAB.
Did you really think I was going to go this entire draft without selecting a receiver. The Steelers have a highly talented wide receiver room, but will most likely lose WR Juju Smith-Schuster in free agency. Based on the Steelers cap situation, the receiver will probably get a much larger contract elsewhere. Watkins is a big physical receiver that can win in contested catch situations. He has great hands and has the ability to be a big play threat.
Round 6: Pick 224 Compensatory Pick
The Pittsburgh Steelers select EDGE Jamar Watson (6’3” 250 lbs.) from Kentucky.
The Steelers will need some EDGE depth behind Alex Highsmith and TJ Watt. Bud Dupree will most likely leave in free agency to a very large deserving deal. Watt will get a contract extension in the near future and the Steelers just don’t have enough money to pay both Dupree and Watt. If I have to choose which edge rusher I am going pay big money too, I’m taking Watt. Watson definitely has some talent to work with. He has good burst and does well with his hands off the edge.
Round 7: Pick 242
The Pittsburgh Steelers select LB Adam Anderson (6’5” 225 lbs.) from Georgia.
The Steelers need to add depth at inside linebacker next season. Anderson is an athletic linebacker made for today’s NFL. He plays well in space and in coverage, but lacks size.
Round 7: Pick 251
The Pittsburgh Steelers select CB Chris Wilcox (6’2” 197 lbs.) from BYU.
Why not double dip at cornerback to see if we can get lucky? Wilcox shows great athleticism when he is on the field. He is a great tackler and plays the ball well to break up passes.