After one season, the Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 draft class looks like a success. First round pick T.J. Watt was in the running for Defensive Rookie of the Year, while second round pick JuJu Smith-Schuster took over as the team’s number two wide receiver and appears to be a star in the making. With a disappointing exit from the playoffs after losing to the Jaguars in the AFC divisional round, the Steelers will need another strong draft class if they want to contend for Super Bowl 53.
To make this mock more realistic, I used the Fanspeak mock draft feature and did five different drafts. Taking my favorite selection for each pick and combining it into one mock draft.
Round 1, 28th Overall: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
Obviously the Steelers hope Ryan Shazier can make a full recovery and return to the football field. But the team shouldn’t expect anything at this point. Whether Shazier’s playing career is over or not, the Steelers need to address the inside linebacker spot. While I don’t expect Rashaan Evans to last this long on draft night, if he does the Steelers should run to the podium and announce the pick themselves. Evans ability to blitz combined with his desire to create contact remind some of C.J. Mosley. For a Steelers defense that loves to blitz their linebackers, Evans is an ideal fit.
Round 2, 60th Overall: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Now before all of Twitter screams at me on how stupid this pick is, let me remind everyone that we have seen crazy things happen on draft night. Personally, I think Lamar Jackson is a top 40 pick at quarterback and should go in the first round on draft night. However, in this mock draft he falls to the bottom of the second round. While Ben Roethlisberger wants to play at least three more years, he only has two more years on his current contract and will turn 36 in a few weeks. On top of his age, Roethlisberger played in every game this season for only the fifth time in his 14 year career; his injury history can’t be ignored. Jackson would give the Steelers their heir apparent at quarterback while having at least two years to develop before having to start.
This is a high level NFL throw. Right in the face of pressure. Throwing the WR open. Perfect mechanics. Lamar Jackson pic.twitter.com/iEnKXcrnGJ
— Billy Marshall (@BillyM_91) February 4, 2018
Round 3, 92nd Overall: DeShon Elliott, SAF, Texas
Despite the recent report by ESPN’s Field Yates that the Steelers have created a little over $13 million in cap by reworking a couple of players deals, they are now expected to have just $7.6 million dollars in cap space. However, if they release J.J. Wilcox they can save an additional $3.2 million. With Mike Mitchell turning 31 in June and entering the last year of his deal, the Steelers could release him and save another $5 million. As a junior at Texas, DeShone Elliot broke out and finished tied for fourth in the country with six interceptions, thanks to his strong mix of range, instincts, and ball skills. Elliott could be a cheap replacement for Mitchell either this year or next.
Round 5, 150th Overall (from 49ers): Quenton Meeks, CB, Stanford
The cornerback play for the Steelers was good to start out the 2017 season. However, as the season went on, the cornerback play dipped dramatically. Joe Haden missed time with an injury while Artie Burns had his ups and down. While Haden did play well for the team last season, he has a long history of injuries and the team can save $10 million against the cap by releasing him with a post-June first designation. Starting nickel back Williams Gay is in the last year of his deal and is 33 years old. Adding some youth and size to the cornerback group would be a good idea, and former Stanford CB Quenton Meeks is a great option to do just that.
Round 5, 167th Overall: Ian Thomas, TE, Indiana
Ever since Health Miller retired, the Steelers haven’t had a difference maker at tight end. While the combination Jesse James and Vance McDonald is nice, James is in the last year of his rookie deal and the Steelers can save $4.3 million against the cap by releasing McDonald. I would be shocked to see McDonald back with the Steelers next season at that $4.3 million dollar price. Ian Thomas is more of a wide receiver playing in a tight ends body, but he would bring a new wrinkle to the Steelers high-powered offense.
— Mike Fanelli (@MikeSports22) February 11, 2018
Round 7, 220th Overall (from Giants): Jake Wieneke, WR, South Dakota State
The Steelers are arguably the best team in the league at drafting and developing wide receivers. Antonio Brown was drafted in the sixth round, Martavis Bryant in the fourth and Eli Rodgers was an undrafted free agent. However, only Brown and Smith-Schuster are currently under contract for the 2019 season. Jake Wieneke is a little-known prospect but can offer the Steelers something they lack at wide receiver; size. Bryant is the only Steelers receiver taller than 6’1” while Wieneke measured in at the East-West Shrine game at 6’4”. When you get down to this portion of the draft, you just have to find players who do whatever it takes to win.
South Dakota State WR Jake Wieneke just wanted it more. pic.twitter.com/hltbaXMrwH
— Shawn Spencer (@Spencer_NFL) January 20, 2018
Round 7, 246th Overall: Nyheim Hines, RB, N.C. State
Just because it is the seventh round it doesn’t mean you can sleep on these guys. Nyheim Hines is an extremely quick and shifty running back who can also be used as a slot receiver and has experience returning kicks. Hines is a dangerous open field play maker who will give the Steelers an excellent chess piece weapon on offense, who can also help a special teams unit that ranked 29th in the league on average yards per kick return.