The 2022 NFL Draft has officially kicked off, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have made their first selection. As the seven rounds progress and the team makes all of their picks, we will provide a live draft grade and analysis for each of the Steelers’ selections. How do these new prospects fit with the roster, what kind of impact will they have on the team, and what do the team’s needs look like now that the draft is complete?
Make sure to continue to check back as the 2022 NFL Draft continues for live Pittsburgh Steelers draft grades and analysis.
Pittsburgh Steelers grades for 2022 NFL Draft
What are the Steelers‘ grades for their selections in the 2022 NFL Draft as they look to address their main needs this offseason?
Round 1, Pick 20: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
The hometown hero stays local. With the 20th overall pick, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Kenny Pickett, quarterback of the Pittsburgh Panthers. Pickett spent much of his collegiate career as a volatile signal-caller, but he improved leaps and bounds in a career-defining 2021 campaign. Pickett was a Heisman finalist and the ACC Offensive Player of the Year. Now, he’s the first QB off the board in the 2022 NFL Draft.
The quarterback group in 2022 is very uncertain as a whole, but one could argue that Pickett is the safest option of the group. He has a higher ceiling than advertised but also experience, great mechanics, and accuracy. With his athleticism and off-platform ability, he can create to a degree. And he’s shown he can use his eyes to manipulate DBs. Malik Willis has a higher ceiling, but the Steelers might be able to compete sooner with Pickett — if he can improve his poise.
Round 2, Pick 52: George Pickens, WR, Georgia
The Steelers carefully navigated free agency to acquire flexibility in the 2022 NFL Draft. That flexibility has allowed them to get their potential QB of the future in Round 1 in Kenny Pickett. And now, in Round 2, they’re getting him a dynamic weapon. At the 52nd overall pick, the Steelers selected Georgia WR George Pickens.
Pickens gives the Steelers another wide receiver who can win on the boundary. And in theory, he could move around with his size/speed athleticism. Pickens is 6’3”, 195 pounds, and he’s a great contested-catch threat with his body control and hands. If he can get back to his 2019 form, he also has surprising short-area athleticism, hip sink, and route-running upside. He isn’t a perfect fit for Pickett’s play style, but he can help Pickett convert on more contested targets, while also providing three-level upside. And Pickett to Pickens is just a legendary name combination.
Round 3, Pick 84: DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M
After focusing on the offensive side of the ball for their first two picks, the Pittsburgh Steelers transitioned over to the defensive side of the ball for their third selection. At the 84th overall pick, the Steelers selected Texas A&M defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal.
Leal is an intriguing fit in Pittsburgh. In odd fronts, he fits well as a 3-technique. And in 4-3 under alignments, he can be that strongside defensive end at 5-technique. Leal hasn’t yet reached his ceiling. His tape was frustrating in that aspect; he showed bright flashes but also disappeared at times. Nevertheless, with searing lateral agility, burst, and heavy hands, he has the tools that Pittsburgh’s coaches can maximize.
Round 4, Pick 138: Calvin Austin III, WR, Memphis
Having drafted Kenny Pickett with their first pick, the Pittsburgh Steelers have done an impeccable job making sure he has every chance to succeed at the next level. George Pickens gives him a physical threat. Now, Calvin Austin III gives him a game-changing explosive pass catcher who can impact the game in several ways.
His size might see him pigeonholed as a gadget player at the NFL level, but Austin has serious pass-catching ability. He’s fast, explosive, and an impressive route runner. Furthermore, his ball skills – contested-catch ability, body control, and pass-catching hands – make him a dangerous threat at all levels of the field.
Round 6, Pick 208: Connor Heyward, FB, Michigan State
Fullbacks are NFL Draft picks, too! The Pittsburgh Steelers facilitate a family reunion as Connor Heyward joins his brother at Heinz Field. He’s a rare fullback prospect who possesses really impressive hands as a pass-catching threat. Some of his catches for Michigan State this season would put several wide receivers in this class to shame. Meanwhile, he’s a tough competitor who is some technical refinement away from being an effective blocker. He’ll be a special-teams ace for the Steelers with impressive versatility on his résumé.
Round 7, Pick 225: Mark Robinson, LB, Ole Miss
Mark Robinson isn’t a household name in this linebacker class, but he could end up being a steal here. He’s a perfect fit in the Steelers’ scheme and environment. His teammate Campbell got more buzz during the draft cycle, but Robinson was quietly just as productive at Ole Miss.
A former-running-back-turned-linebacker, Robinson is a bowling ball at 5’11”, 230 pounds. He has great play strength at the point of attack – partly evidenced by his 34 bench reps. Beyond that, he has the athleticism of a former safety. He’s explosive closing gaps in the box, and he hits incredibly hard. A physical, tenacious defender who plays fast, Robinson grants Pittsburgh great upside with special-teams utility.
Round 7, Pick 241: Chris Oladokun, QB, South Dakota State
Late in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Steelers double-dipped at quarterback, taking South Dakota State quarterback Chris Oladokun. The pick seems a bit redundant after taking Kenny Pickett in Round 1. But if the Steelers move on from Mason Rudolph, they could benefit from adding Oladokun as a QB3. Oladokun, a former South Florida commit, has the tools to stick around. He’s a plus athlete with a live arm, and he’s not afraid to push the ball into tight windows.
What were the Steelers’ biggest needs entering the draft?
- QB, OT, WR, S, CB
The Steelers may have signed Mitchell Trubisky in free agency, but it would be a surprise if they feel confident he is their long-term option. While his addition means they do not have to reach for a QB, they should be looking for potential value. They also need to look at pieces to put around whoever is at QB. Their offensive line has been a concern for a couple of years, and they need to make sure they have the next WR ready on the production line.
Defensively, the focus will be on the secondary, where they look very thin heading into 2022. They need a partner for Minkah Fitzpatrick at safety, and there are clear concerns at cornerback.