2019 NFL Draft: Pittsburgh Steelers 7-round mock draft

The Pittsburgh Steelers are positioned well to begin life after Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. The reload continues with ten picks in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Pittsburgh Steelers fans are used to watching running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown dodging tackles on the field. The team now looks like it dodged a bullet off it. After Bell’s passive-aggressive rap songs and Brown’s social attacks on JuJu Smith-Schuster, it is clear why the franchise was anxious to move on from the longtime team staples.

The Steelers are in this position because they nailed the 2017 draft. First-round outside linebacker T.J. Watt has 20 sacks in two seasons. Second-round wide receiver Smith-Schuster had 111 receptions last season and 2,343 yards in his two seasons. Third-round running back James Conner had 1,470 total yards in 2018. These players have helped offset the losses of Brown, Bell and linebacker Ryan Shazier to injury two seasons ago.

In two weeks, Pittsburgh will add to their still-ample cupboard with ten picks in this year’s draft. I used The Draft Network’s draft simulator to see what targets should be available come draft day in the Steel City. Sit back, crack open a cold Iron City Beer, and enjoy.

Round 1, Pick 20: Byron Murphy, CB, Washington

This selection makes up for the mistake that was 2016’s first-round selection of cornerback Artie Burns. Murphy fits the Steelers mold. He’s scheme versatile, has good size and is a solid tackler. He’s also free of red flags, something other projected first rounders (LSU’s Greedy Williams and Georgia’s DeAndre Baker) can’t claim. Murphy would join fellow CB’s Joe Haden and newly-signed Steven Nelson and last year’s first-round selection, safety Terrell Edmunds, to create a formidable rebuilt secondary.

Round 2, Pick 52: Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson

It may be a “passing league” but the AFC North is as close to old school football as it gets these days. With Mark Ingram in Baltimore, Joe Mixon in Cincinnati, and the combo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in Cleveland, the run game is alive and well in the division. The Steelers get a classic nose tackle in Lawrence, who anchors the line against the run as well as anyone in this year’s draft class. Starting defensive tackle Javon Hargrave is in the last year of his rookie contract, so this pick makes sense on multiple levels.

Round 3, Pick 66 (from Raiders): Emanuel Hall, WR, Missouri

This makes for an intriguing pick considering it’s a selection they received from Oakland as part of the Antonio Brown trade. Hall could be to Smith-Schuster what Smith-Schuster was to Antonio Brown in 2017. He would give Pittsburgh a big play threat and clear out some space for JuJu & Co. The team drafted James Washington in the second round last year and signed Donte Moncrief in free agency this offseason, but Hall brings something to the field that neither of those players can offer.

Round 3, Pick 83: Zach Allen, Edge, Boston College

Last April the Steelers exercised the fifth-year option on Bud Dupree. After just 20 sacks in four seasons, the team is likely looking for his replacement. Allen isn’t the best athlete but he is a technician with a non-stop motor. He also brings a high football IQ to the field, which often covers for the lack of athleticism. Allen could develop for a season before stepping in full-time opposite T.J. Watt. He should at the very least match Dupree’s paltry production.

Round 4, pick 122: Damien Harris, RB, Alabama

Change-of-pace back Jaylen Samuels had a nice rookie season with 455 all-purpose yards in 2018, but Pittsburgh will likely look for a mid-round back to better duplicate what Connor brings to the table. Harris is a powerful runner with good vision. He could step in as the feature back for a game or two should Connor go down with an injury. Harris is also a nice player to have in the holster for those cold weather late-season and playoff games.

Round 5, pick 141 (from Raiders): Isaac Nauta, TE, Georgia

Nauta is possibly the best blocking tight end in the class. He’s dominant run blocker with the ability to handle some edge rushers one-on-one. Nauta doesn’t offer much in the passing game, mostly due to his lack of speed. He provides a depth/blocking TE behind starter Vance McDonald now that Jesse James is in Detroit.

Round 6, pick 175 (from Raiders): Cameron Smith, LB, USC

Oakland is the team that keeps on giving. This pick isn’t from the Brown deal but rather the August 2018 deal that brought WR Ryan Switzer to the team. Smith is an instinctive tackler who fights through trash to find the ball carrier. What he lacks in athleticism he makes up for in effort. Pittsburgh’s linebacker corps seems to be one in transition, so don’t be surprised if they add some depth with one or more of their mid-round picks.

Round 6, pick 192: Derwin Gray, OT, Maryland

Gray is a developmental project who was named honorable mention All-Big Ten selection as a left tackle. He’s a massive prospect at 6’4” and 320 lbs. Gray might have to move to the right side, though he’s shown promising development in his 25 starts for the Terrapins. The Steelers are as likely as anyone to take a chance on Gray given the emergence of their undrafted starter at right tackle, Matt Feiler.

Round 6, pick 207 (from Cardinals): Paul Adams, OL

Adams is a three-year starter at right tackle and could move inside to guard. His high upside makes this pick a depth addition with the potential to develop into a starter. Adams’ work last year under Missouri offensive coordinator Derek Dooley gave him much-needed experience in a pro-style system. The durable team captain brings a lot of intangibles and flexibility to the table.

Round 7, pick 219: Otaro Alaka, LB, Texas A&M

Alaka fits the Steelers mold as a rugged defender with good instincts. He’s an old school tone-setter with the ability to make some bone-jarring hits as a run-stuffing inside linebacker. Alaka plays quick but has a habit of over-pursuing in search of the big hit, so he’ll be a bit of a project for defensive coordinator Keith Butler.

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