When you think of the top teams in the AFC (other than New England), the Pittsburgh Steelers are who come to mind, for me at least. This past season they were able to put together a strong surge en route to an appearance in the AFC Conference Championship game, but we’re bested by the aforementioned Patriots in what developed into a blowout. Still, the Steelers remain on the doorstep of another Super Bowl appearance, but just need to tighten some loose bolts if they want to compete with Bill Belichick’s squad. This is why we have the NFL Draft.
With Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement looming in the next couple years, perhaps the Steelers will look to find his successor early on in the draft. Picking at 30, they’re not exactly in prime real estate to nab one of the top guys, even DeShone Kizer and Patrick Mahomes will likely be off the board by then. Whether they want to work a trade up or not remains to be seen.
Considering the way the team is currently built and with Roethlisberger’s future on an hourglass, I think the Steelers will let the board come to them, rather than shooting up it for a QB. Get an impact player who can help you now on this final run at a title, while you still have Big Ben. If they don’t get their QB of the future in the 1st, expect them to target one before the end of day 2.
Round 1 (Pick 30): Derek Rivers, EDGE, Youngstown State
If one of the top 4 QBs falls to Pittsburgh at 30, I don’t think there is any hesitation as they would pull the trigger early on to find the successor to Ben Roethlisberger. However, as the draft plays out, a big run on QB commences in the middle and the Steelers are left with no quality on the board (unless they want to take Davis Webb here). Instead, Mike Tomlin and co. bring in a prospect who has seen arguably the biggest ascend on draft boards in the past couple of months.
The Steelers have no restrictions when it comes to their pass rushers, if the guy can play, they’ll put him out on the field. Derek Rivers is a unique prospect, coming out of Youngstown State. He has an enticing combination of power and strength to match his impressive athleticism and measurables. With James Harrison almost guaranteed to retire after the season, and Arthur Moats set to hit free agency, Pittsburgh gets another young edge defender to match with Bud Dupree. Rivers would become the first FCS prospect drafted in the first round since Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie all the way back in 2008.
Round 2 (Pick 62): Rasul Douglas, CB, West Virginia
Reportedly, the Steelers are hunting for corners who can play effectively in press. Rasul Douglas is that guy. Presenting a tall, 6’2”/209 lb frame, Douglas has tons of upside as an outside corner in the NFL. You hear all the talk about Kevin king’s length, Douglas actually has longer arms by nearly a half inch. He leaves West Virginia with a productive career, picking off 8 passes this past season, tied for the FBS lead. Douglas fits exactly what the Steelers want to do. With Ross Cockrell set to hit the free agent market in 2018, Douglas and Burns should make a fine corner tandem for years to come in Steel City.
Round 3 (Pick 94): Chris Wormley, DL, Michigan
Not the most glaring need for the Steelers, but if Chris Wormley is still around as the top 100 closes, the Steelers would covet him at that stage. Wormley is the epitome of a 5-tech who could start from day one if needed. Last year Cam Heyward missed most of the season with a torn pectoral, and Stephon Tuitt is a pending free agent following the 2017 season. Not only does he add a solid piece to the rotation, but he provides a fine insurance policy as well. Wormley improved vastly as the 2016 season progressed, and he fits that tough defensive brand Pittsburgh is trying to recapture.
Round 3 (Pick 105): Jerod Evans, QB, Virginia Tech
While this may be a reach as the 3rd round compensatory picks come to an end, teams reach for QBs, that’s just how it goes. After missing out on a guy like DeShone Kizer or Pat Mahomes in the 1st round, Kevin Colbert waits until the closing picks of day two to pull the trigger on the hopeful successor to Big Ben. With Roethlisberger mulling retirement, his days are numbered – addressing a signal caller will be a huge priority for the Steelers in this draft.
I do have Evans as one of the lowest graded QBs I’ve watched to this point, although I do see why he’s enticing to some teams. Still a raw product, playing only one year as a full-time starter in the FBS, Evans has the capability for development. He brings leadership, athleticism, moxie and toughness. If there’s a guy who can get the best out of him, Todd Haley is very high on that list. A year or two behind Roethlisberger will do a lot more than the casual fan would think.
Round 4 (Pick 135): Chase Roullier, G/C, Wyoming
The Steelers are pretty set on the interior of their offensive line, but you can never have too much depth. Chase Roullier is a utility guy who can shift all over the interior, including center. David DeCastro, Maurkice Pouncey and even Ramon Foster have dealt with their fair share of injuries, Roullier can be that guy to come in and fill any vacant spot. He has seen a late surge in draft stock and presents eventual starter type upside.
Round 5 (Pick 173): Travin Dural, WR, LSU
Pittsburgh loves adding toys on offense, particularly in the WR corps as they’ve drafted one in all of the past 3 drafts. Travin Dural, like most LSU wide receivers as of late, struggled to produce during his time in Baton Rouge due to a mix of poor QB play and a more run-oriented scheme. Dural has a fluid combination of size and athleticism, but his small hands and lack of production force him into the 5th-6th round range. This is more of a projection/insurance pick. While Martavis Bryant was recently re-instated, it’s not a sure thing if he can stay on the field. Plus, he’ll be a free agent after the season.
Round 6 (Pick 213): Hardy Nickerson, LB, Illinois
The tape surely doesn’t jump out at you, but Hardy Nickerson has intriguing bloodlines, production and a football mind. At the very least he can be a reliable special teams player. Still, the Steelers could use some competition on the inside behind Ryan Shazier and Vince Williams. Nickerson should challenge for playing time at the WILB slot.
Round 7 (Pick 248): Blake Jarwin, TE, Oklahoma State
In a rich TE class, a decent prospect like Blake Jarwin slips all the way to the tail-end of the draft. Jesse James saw most starts for Pittsburgh last year, and while he has intriguing size and physical tools, he’s not a consistent chain-mover. Ladarius Green was their prized free agent signing last offseason, but no one knows what will come of his health and if he’ll have a premature retirement. Enter Blake Jarwin. Oklahoma State utilized him all over the field in their high octane passing attack. He brings size and physicality after the catch with the ability to plow over defenders and drag leg tackles.