Steelers Draft Previews

Steelers Draft Previews
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The 2019 NFL Draft is just over a week away. Teams are busily finalising their draft boards ready for the three-day football extravaganza (without any actual football being played). Ninety-Nine Yards also has their eyes on the draft and I’ll be previewing the draft needs of every AFC North team. You can find past reviews here:

Ravens

Next up, the Pittsburgh Steelers. A team that missed the Playoffs in 2018 after a strong start. What must they do to save coach Mike Tomlin’s job?

Lost

RB Le’Veon Bell (Jets)

TE Jesse James (Lions)

WR Antonio Brown (Traded to the Raiders)

ILB L.J. Fort (Eagles)

S Morgan Burnett (Released, then signed by the Browns)

Additions

Re-signed WR Eli Rogers (1 year, $720,000)

Re-signed DT Daniel McCullers (2, $2.75 million)

Re-signed OLB Anthony Chickillo (2 years, $8 million)

Signed WR Donte Moncrief (2 years, $9 million)

Signed ILB Mark Barron (2 years, $12 million)

Signed CB Steven Nelson ( 3 years, $25.5 million)

Free Agency Summary

The Steelers are traditionally quiet in free agency. As you can see, 2019 has been no different thus far. The Steelers retained key players of their own while adding a few depth players.

Losses were the big news for the Steelers. The departure of Le’Veon Bell, who sat out all of 2018, and the trade of star receiver Antonio Brown. Donte Moncrief was the only notable addition on offense. While they have key pieces in place they’ll need depth here. On defence, Mark Barron seems to be more than a stop gap at this point in his career and Steven Nelson wasn’t exactly a lockdown cornerback, especially in the playoffs.

2019 Draft Picks

The Steelers have ten picks in the 2019 NFL Draft. Additional third and fifth round picks brought in from the trade of Brown give them flexibility to move up in the draft should the apple of their eye be available. In addition to allowing movement, extra late round picks from trades should give an opportunity for Pittsburgh to add depth.

Round 1, Pick 20

Round 2, Pick 52

Round 3, Pick 66 from Oakland Raiders (Antonio Brown trade)

Round 3, Pick 83

Round 4, Pick 122

Round 5, Pick 141 from Oakland Raiders (Antonio Brown trade)

Round 6, Pick 175 from Oakland Raiders (Ryan Switzer trade)

Round 6, Pick 192

Round 6, Pick 207 from Arizona Cardinals (Marcus Gilbert trade)

Round 7, Pick – 219 from Tampa Bay (J.J. Wilcox trade)

Positions To Be Addressed in The Draft

Linebacker

The Steelers are unlikely to net a replacement for Ryan Shazier in the first round, as both Devin White of LSU and Devin Bush of Michigan will likely be off the board when Pittsburgh pick. However, there are several players that could interest the black and gold brass in rounds two and three.

Alabama’s Mack Wilson would give them a player that can roam sideline to sideline and would be an upgrade. Tre Lamar, another member of a strong Clemson draft contingent, would give the Steelers competition from the start of camp.

Cornerback

Adding another starter opposite cornerback Joe Haden in round one makes a lot of sense. Pittsburgh will likely benefit from a run on quarterbacks, defensive tackles and edge rushers by selecting one of the top corners in the draft. Both Washington’s Byron Murphy and Georgia’s Deandre Baker would contribute immediately but Murphy’s ball skills may make him a target for the Steelers.

On the other hand, the Steelers may jump up for Temple’s Rock Ya-Sin should he be available at the start of round two. He would provide instant competition at corner. His impressive Senior Bowl performance may tempt the Steelers to target him. Alternatively, Amani Oruwariye from Penn State or Washington’s Corey Ballentine could help out.

Wide Receiver

Big Ben’s favourite target in recent years, wide receiver Antonio Brown, forced his way out of Pittsburgh and was traded to Oakland. JuJu Smith-Schuster is a legitimate star and they’ll be hoping a combination of James Washington (a second round selection in 2018) and free agent addition Donte Moncrief can pick up Brown’s production.

Watching Deebo Samuel opposite Ju-Ju would be and enticing proposition although it would not fill key need. For this reason the Steelers may opt to address the position in round two. Someone like Georgia’s Riley Ridley would help instantly. Rileys run’s polished routes but lack’s ideal size. Should they desire speed here then Ohio State’s Terry McLaurin may fit.

Pass rusher

Although not an area of need, a deep defensive class will likely mean the Steelers can add an impact pass rusher in the first round to upgrade on Bud Dupree. Either Florida State’s Brian Burns or Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell would be difference makers when teamed with T.J. Watt. A move like this would also help the defensive backs by cutting the time they need to cover and likely improve their already impressive 52 sacks from 2018.

Later in the draft, pass rushers Jachai Polite from Florida, Jalen Jelks of Oregon or Jamal Davis of Akron could provide depth in situational roles to start their careers.

In Conclusion

Despite losing two star players in the off season the Steelers don’t look to be that far away from a playoff return. They have some ammunition to move up in the draft for an impact player if need. Expect their picks in the first two days to address linebacker, pass rusher and wide receiver. The Steelers may also look to add a receiving tight end to help alleviate the loss of Brown.

Photos – Rolltide.com and Goducks.com

What did you think of the targets suggested ? Feel free to leave a comment or follow more of my writing on Twitter @Cumbleton. I write about the AFC North for Ninety Nine Yards, covering the Ravens, Bengals, Browns, and Steelers.

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