[Editor’s Note: Version 1.0 below originally published on February 15]
In a season where the Steelers were playing quarterback Russian roulette, it was hard to get a gauge on where this team could go next season. The defense was spectacular after they shipped off their first-round pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick, but just about everyone on the offense, including JuJu Smith-Schuster, took steps back with Ben Roethlisberger out for the season due to an elbow injury. The Steelers have some clear indicators that can make them easier to predict than some teams, but with a cap-strapped budget and multiple needs, the Steelers have a lot of work ahead of them. Here is a Steelers 7-round mock draft that could help them improve in 2020.
The offensive side of the football is where the Steelers are probably going to zero-in on in this draft to a certain extent. However, without a first-round pick and their third-round, it is not going to be easy to address everything. With Roethlisberger coming back, the Steelers are likely to kick the ball on drafting their quarterback of the future down the road. They do not have the draft capital for it, and they will want to go all-in on this final push with Roethlisberger. Running back is somewhat a need. James Conner is too often injured, and behind him, they have found no one spectacular.
However, the team likely will only go running back early in a best player available scenario. The same can be said about the wide receiver, where the Steelers had two promising years from James Washington and Diontae Johnson. Smith-Schuster had a down year that was riddled by drops, fumbles, and injuries, however. And the depth behind the top three is nothing great, so if they get to add to the receiving corps, they probably will. Tight end is going to be their top need with Nick Vannett and Vance McDonald having uncertain futures with the team.
Meanwhile, the offensive line can use bolstering at tackle or on the interior with most of the guys on the line aging. Ramon Foster could be walking, and that would force starting right tackle Matt Feiler inside, meaning the Steelers could look to draft a tackle in this draft. And in general, they need some interior offensive line depth, anyways.
For a team that had a strong defensive team last year, this is a surprisingly long list. Javon Hargrave is on his way out due to cap restraints and will force the Steelers to find some depth on the interior of the defensive line. Then, there is the question about Bud Dupree. Does he stay, or will he walk? There is really no correct answer on that right now, but the Steelers do have the means to make room for the franchise tag, and that is probably the route they go right now. Regardless if he stays or not, Anthony Chickillo is probably gone, and they do need some depth there.
The same is true for an inside linebacker, where Mark Barron will likely be released to make room for Dupree. Vince Williams played maybe the best ball of his career, and Devin Bush is an ascending young player, but there are depth concerns here, too. For once, the Steelers do not need a cornerback. They are five deep there with a young developmental chip in Justin Layne also.
Now we get to the bog that is safety. Fitzpatrick is fantastic, but Terrell Edmunds has not panned out so far, and behind him, they have very bare bones. It is likely the Steelers will at least address depth, but if the opportunity presents itself, do not be shocked if they go with one early in this draft.
Pittsburgh Steelers 7-round mock draft
Round 2, Pick 49: Adam Trautman, TE Dayton
I had a tough time going back and forth in this mock draft. However, this second-round pick has to be one of the more unpredictable picks I can remember the Steelers having in recent memory. They have needs, but with the amount of wide receiver talent in this class, I have to wonder if they will bite at one of the top receivers if they make it this far. However, they instead choose to go and deal with their tight end issues.
Adam Trautman checks a lot of the boxes the Steelers need out of their tight ends. He is versatile and can play in-line or flexed out. He has the functional athleticism that few Steelers tight ends have had in the recent past. However, and most importantly, Trautman gets after it as a blocker. If you want to play for the Steelers as a tight end, you better be able to block. Trautman goes against a lot of the trends the Steelers use when they pick guys. He is a Senior from a non-Power five conference and does not have a family bloodline of football around him. However, there are notable exceptions when Kevin Colbert and company love the talent, and I have to think with Trautman being the most complete tight end in this class, this will be one of those exceptions. The fit and talent are too good to pass up at a position of need.
Also Considered: LSU WR Justin Jefferson, TCU IDL Ross Blacklock, Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor
Round 3 (Compensatory Pick): Josh Uche, EDGE Michigan
This pick makes a lot of sense. I believe Bud Dupree will be back with the franchise tag slapped on him but beyond this year? I have my doubts if he is back the year after. The Steelers have significant depth concerns off the edge at outside linebacker, and Uche would inject some much needed young depth along with Tuzar Skipper and Ola Adeniyi already being there.
Uche lit up the Senior Bowl with a polished pass rush plan, bend, and good hand usage. He is a classic speed rusher, but he can come and beat guys with power, too. His functional athleticism in space is going to be another added boon of this potential pick. Uche can play off-ball with his athleticism and football IQ. He knows how to read the quarterback and play in spot zones already. There is no reason he can not do that hybrid role at the next level.
Uche is one of those guys that feels like a perfect fit in the Steelers defense given the needs the Steelers have and what he can do for a defense depth-wise. This is a guy who steps in day one and gets significant playing time as a chess piece. He has some things to improve on, but that fit is too good to pass up.
Also Considered: Ohio State IDL Davon Hamilton, Michigan WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, LSU IOL Damien Lewis
Round 4, Pick 114: Jordan Elliott, IDL Missouri
Okay, we are going back to the old Steelers formula now. The Steelers need a defensive lineman with Javon Hargrave hitting the open market and heading out of town due to cap constraints. Elliott is an underclassman, from a Power-5 conference, and fits exactly what the Steelers need with Hargrave out. Tyson Alualu filled in nicely, and Isaiah Buggs showed some nice flashes, but that does not mean Elliott can not get some snaps right away.
He is a strong, well-built defender that can clog up lanes in the middle and cause havoc with his strength and bull rush. There are some issues with hand usage and pad level, but defensive line coach Karl Dunbar has proven to be a great addition to the defensive line unit. He has proven he can mold these young guys and fix a lot of their issues.
Elliott has all the athletic traits you could want with an explosive first step and a hot motor, but the technical things are what is holding him back from being a top tier prospect and a productive pass rusher. Pittsburgh is precisely the place where he can mold himself and do just that.
Also Considered: Ole Miss IDL Benito Jones, Oregon State WR Isaiah Hodgins, Wyoming ILB Logan Wilson