Here we go….
My annual predictions on who the Steelers will select in the NFL Draft/my annual adding to the record that either I don’t know anything about football or the Steelers draft whoever they want no matter their needs.
Yes. I started my writing career as a football writer. No. I am no longer a football writer.
Take that in consideration when you make your comments.
So even though it likely won’t mean anything to those in the Steelers war room, let’s take a look at the Steelers main needs and how they compare to the draft class’ strengths.
Primary need: Cornerback/Safety
Secondary need: Defensive Tackle
It is so obvious that the Steelers need a cornerback that it is unlikely they will draft one. Hell, be honest, would you be shocked if they took yet another linebacker?
This year could be the year for a cornerback though. (The Steelers last CB taken in the first round was Chad Scott in 1997) Things seem to align. The Steelers have the 25th selection of the first round, putting them in prime position to get the 3rd or 4th best corner on the board. Jalen Ramsey is a top 5 pick and Vernon Hargreaves will be gone soon after.
This leaves Mackensie Alexander of Clemson, Eli Apple of Ohio State, William Jackson of Houston, Kendall Fuller of Virginia Tech, and Artie Burns of Miami.
Of this group the two that interest me the most are Apple of Ohio State and Burns of Miami.
Apple is a winner. The Steelers have a penchant for selecting Buckeyes. He fills a serious need.
Of the cornerbacks my selection would be Apple.
But the Steelers could also go the Defensive Tackle route, and to be honest this may be their best bet. This is the strongest defensive tackle draft class in some time and with the loss of Steve McLendon, who wasn’t very good anyway, they have a giant hole right in the center of their defense.
The three most likely targets for the steelers will be Andrew Billings of Baylor, Vernon Butler of Louisiana Tech, and A’Shawn Robinson of Alabama.
Of these three I see Billings as the most likely choice. All three are 3-4 nose tackles. All three will likely be solid. Butler may be a bit of a stretch at a position where there is no reason to reach and Robinson has been trending downward in recent mocks.
Billings slots into the void at Nose Tackle left by Steve McLendon’s departure in Free Agency. The Steelers would like a NT who can play some as a one-gap DT in sub-packages to spell Heyward and Tuitt. Billings shows on tape as an explosive penetrator, almost unblockable one-on-one, but he’s of the stature and powerful build to play a 2-gap NT in the base defense. The Steelers did not bring him in for a visit but sent everybody but the groundskeeper to his Pro Day and took him out to dinner to see what he’s about. The Steelers take lots of fliers on late-round defensive linemen like LT Walton, Nick Williams, and Dan McCullers who are Size/Weight/Agility prospects with decidedly mixed results. Here in the first, they can pick up a player with good tape from a power-5 conference who has similarly-unworldly agility for his weight (4.94- 40, 32″ vertical at his Pro Day) without the long odds.