Now that the doors have officially been closed on the 2022 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers are beginning to evaluate their roster going into minicamp. NFL fans watched the opening round on Thursday night and saw a variety of surprises transpire throughout the evening. For Steeler Nation, the anticipation built as we got closer and closer to the 20th overall selection which was ultimately used on quarterback Kenny Pickett. Naturally, the bulk of the fanfare gets drawn to the first round by the teams, fans, and the league, but there were other monumental picks made in the hours following.
For the Steelers, they’ve historically had most luck on the second day of the draft, being rounds 2 and 3. With names like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, James Conner, Cam Sutton, Diontae Johnson, Alex Highsmith, and Stephon Tuitt, the Steelers tend to hit a homerun after the first round. So how did they make out this go-around? As it turns out, multiple national media outlets graded the Steelers one of the best on Day 2.
The Steelers’ selections on Friday were:
Round 2: George Pickens, WR, Georgia (52 overall)
Round 3: DeMarvin Leal, DE, Texas A&M (84 overall)
Let’s take a look at what some different analysts thought using their own different metrics:
Overall, Pro Football Focus (PFF) graded all seven of the Steelers’ draft as a “B+”. Per PFF, the Steelers may have fallen flat on their face on Thursday night, but bounced back in a big way on Friday:
George Pickens carries some risk given his medical history and unknowns off the field, but there’s no denying he possesses true “X” receiver potential. He’s physical with a massive catch radius, elite ball skills and good acceleration. Pickens earned an incredible 88.0 receiving grade as a true freshman before injuries derailed the last couple of years.
Before his final season, DeMarvin Leal was seen as a high first-round prospect. He regressed in his final season and is a little bit stuck between positions, but there is real talent there — and at this point in the draft the risk is well worth taking. Leal had an 88.3 PFF grade in 2020 and goes to a team with the right environment to find his best play.
Compared to the rest of the league, PFF had eight other teams ahead of the Steelers, being the Seattle Seahawks (A-), Philadelphia Eagles (A), New York Jets (A-), Kansas City Chiefs, (A+), Detroit Lions (A+), Carolina Panthers (A), Baltimore Ravens (A+), and the Atlanta Falcons (A).
NFL.com draft analyst Chad Reuter was also a fan of the Steelers’ second day selections. Reuter awarded the Steelers with an “A” grade on their 2nd and 3rd picks. He explained:
In his final Day 2 as the Steelers GM, Kevin Colbert took yet another promising receiver in Pickens, who has excellent playmaking ability and quickness after the catch, but has had injury issues. Leal will be a nice fit at the five-technique if he can play with a strong base consistently and use his length effectively on the outside. The secondary and pass rush group could use more depth, so expect picks in those spots on Saturday.
Strictly looking at Reuter’s Day 2 grades, it looks like Reuter was a fan of a lot of the second day action, as he graded 12 other teams either the same (A) or higher (A+). The only team who received a perfect “A+” grade were the Chiefs according to Reuter.
The team at Touchdown Wire graded the Steelers’ entire draft a “B+” rating. After the Steelers’ first round selection on Pickett, they explained:
Then they added two other players with first-round talent, who might have slid in the draft due to other factors. Inconsistent quarterback play in 2020 and a knee injury prior to 2021 might have caused Pickens to slide out of the first round, but the receiver we saw in 2019 — and in flashes in 2021 after coming back from the injury — is a first-round player. DeMarvin Leal suffered as a “tweener,” but in Pittsburgh with T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith and Cameron Heyward around him, Leal should find some opportunities to pin his ears back and get after the passer.
Similar to the other analysts, they had the Seahawks, Panthers, Falcons, Lions, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants, New York Jets, and the Eagles all with higher grades than the Steelers after the 7th round concluded.
CBS took a different approach to their grading system and leveraged a variety of different analysts in their reviews. In doing so, they broke down the Steelers’ picks and graded them separately. Looking at the Day 2 picks, let’s take a look at where they landed in their evaluations:
Chris Trapasso graded the Pickens selection as a solid “A”:
There’s the Pittsburgh Round 2 WR. Pickens has first-round talent and first-round film. Tall, long, sudden, enormous catch radius. Nasty demeanor on the field. Torn ACL and maybe some maturity issues knocked him down the board. True WR1 capabilities.
Looking at the Steelers’ third-round pick of Leal, Trapasso graded this pick as a “B”:
His 2021 film wasn’t close to how good he was in 2020. In today’s day and age, it’s strange that he’s a legitimate tweener. But Steelers love those type and have to get younger on their DL. Solid value.
Compared to the other picks in each round, Trapasso only had the Chiefs as the “A+” pick in the second round with Skyy Moore, and he had 18 teams graded higher in the third round.
Finally, I decided to add my additional grades to the Steelers’ second day. To preface, I consider the second and third rounds as the peak of the Steelers’ draft. They addressed major concerns on both sides of the ball and came away with starting-caliber talent with each pick. But with that said, I go back to the second-round selection on Pickens with Moore still on the board. I understand why the Steelers went with the higher-rated receiver in Pickens, but I would’ve liked to see Moore line up in the slot with Johnson and Claypool on either side. Looking at Leal, I love the pick. He’ll line up well opposite of Cam Heyward on the line and can absorb double teams to open up rushing paths for Highsmith and Watt. Therefore, my grade for the Steelers’ second day is an A-.
How do you think the Steelers did on the second day? Who would you have rather seen them take? Let us know in the comments below!