Hot off an AFC North division title, the Steelers are in a precarious position heading into the NFL Draft. With the Browns handing them a tough loss in the Wild Card Round, the Steelers’ Super Bowl window is closing. They have multiple vital free agents that will leave and only so much cap space to work with this offseason. In this Pittsburgh Steelers 7-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft, I will try to navigate the muddy waters they will enter this offseason.
Ben Roethlisberger seems to be on his last legs, albeit he may go for one more run at it all. Key free agents including Bud Dupree, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Alejandro Villanueva, Cameron Sutton, James Conner, Tyson Alualu, and more may hit the market, and the holes on this team could be plentiful.
However, with news that Roethlisberger is likely to return in addition to the elevation of quarterbacks coach Matt Canada to offensive coordinator, there are clear draft signs and fits. In this class, they try to build around a designed nucleus.
Steelers Pre-Senior Bowl 7-Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft
- Round 1, Pick 24: Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
- Round 2, Pick 55: Creed Humphrey, OC, Oklahoma
- Round 3, Pick 87: Amari Rodgers, WR, Clemson
- Round 4, Pick 118: Kylin Hill, RB, Mississippi State
- Round 4, Comp Pick: Ambry Thomas, CB, Michigan
- Round 6, Pick 188: William Bradley-King, EDGE, Baylor
- Round 6, Comp Pick: Aaron Banks, OG, Notre Dame
- Round 7, Pick 209: Quintin Morris, TE, Bowling Green
- Round 7, Pick 218: Justin Hilliard, LB, Ohio State
Steelers 2021 NFL Mock Draft pick-by-pick analysis
Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
A Senior Bowl invitee, Alex Leatherwood is a name that will ring familiar to lots of people. His hype train is one that has been building over the last few years now.
For the Steelers, this pick makes a little too much sense. The aforementioned Villanueva and Matt Feiler are both likely to leave via free agency this offseason. Yet, even with that in mind, the Steelers’ weak point this season was their offensive line. While pass protection did an excellent job of holding up, the Steelers were the worst run-blocking unit in the league.
Leatherwood immediately comes aboard and helps rectify that issue. Moreover, as it pertains to the run-blocking issue, Leatherwood is big, powerful, and aggressive. Thus, combining those three traits creates a prospect that will move guys.
Leatherwood is polished and a true plug-and-play at left tackle on day one. However, he comes with the nice added luxury of positional flexibility, as he also has ample experience at guard. In this 7-round Steelers Mock Draft, they pull the trigger on Leatherwood.
Creed Humphrey, OC, Oklahoma
The focus on the offensive line and running game, in general, has to be clear this offseason. Roethlisberger is not the quarterback he once was and can no longer carry a team on his back. The surroundings around him must improve to help facilitate his best self. With his best friend and longtime center Maurkice Pouncey potentially calling it a career, the Steelers have a gaping hole they must fill.
As such, enter Creed Humphrey. Humphrey is a prospect that will baffle some fans. Listen, he is not going to give you the flashy pancakes that end up on highlight reels. However, what Humphrey brings to the table is stability. He is stout, strong, smart, and precise in everything he does. Essentially, Humphrey is a commander and excellent communicator.
In that manner, he is already somewhat a veteran presence. He may not be the best athlete, but it is not a detriment either. Humphrey is an easy pick in this 7-round Steelers 2021 NFL Mock Draft.
Amari Rodgers, WR, Clemson
I am sure this one is going to turn some heads given the Steelers’ needs. Am I really going to select another receiver on Day 2?
The answer is yes. In this 7-round Steelers Mock Draft, they jump on a wide receiver for two reasons. One, Smith-Schuster could walk this offseason. If that happens, it leaves a clunky alignment of receivers left in the room. Second, this team needs more speed and YAC ability in the room.
Those traits are precisely what Amari Rodgers brings to the table. A true slot receiver, Rodgers can step into Smith-Schuster’s role but give it a twist. Instead of a big slot role, which Chase Claypool can fill when asked, Rodgers adds another YAC threat to complement Diontae Johnson. Rodgers reminds me of Deebo Samuel. The fit with Canada’s offense and the jet sweeps is a glove-like fit. Rodgers can come in and add another dimension to the Steelers’ offense around Roethlisberger.
Kylin Hill, RB, Mississippi State
The running back pick is finally here! The Steelers may take one earlier than this, but the value on other selections was too much to pass on. Thus, it is best to make do with what is at the Steelers’ disposal. With an uninspiring running back room possibly losing James Conner on top of it, they have to pick a running back at some point in this draft. Kylin Hill can be that guy.
Honestly, the thing that intrigues me so much about Hill is how he makes chicken salad out of chicken crap so often. Hill is bricked up and shredded. He invites contacts and punishes defenders in the hole. Still, another important thing is Hill makes an impact in the receiving game. Hill may not step in and be a lead back immediately, but he very well could emerge as that guy by the end of the year.
Ambry Thomas, CB, Michigan
The Steelers’ cornerback room is solid on paper entering this Steelers 7-round Mock Draft. However, Mike Hilton and Sutton are free agents this year. Consequently, they likely lose one of those guys, and Joe Haden is not getting any younger. James Pierre’s promise and the potential of Justin Layne looms large, but you can never have enough quality cover corners on a team.
Ambry Thomas was an opt out this season that should interest the Steelers. He can really get up there and play mean in press coverage. That appears to be where Thomas is most comfortable.
Luckily, he doesn’t get lost in zone coverage. There is a feel for route combinations within Thomas. Moreover, Thomas has the football IQ and quickness to get to where he wants to go and make a play on the ball. Add in his ball skills, and Thomas is a solid fourth-round cornerback option.
William Bradley-King, EDGE, Baylor
With the likely departure of Bud Dupree, the Steelers will need to add someone to their edge depth. Alex Highsmith is an excellent starter, but they can not have him and T.J. Watt on the field for 95 percent of the snaps. Thus, William Bradley-King makes sense for the Steelers in this Steelers 7-round Mock Draft.
Bradley-King fits what the Steelers like in their edge guys. He is twitched-up, long, and plays violently. More importantly, Bradley-King has an array of moves that he can deploy. Bradley-King is heavy-handed and packs a punch. Therefore, he can win with a speed rush and normal dip-rip or with his hands. The club-rip move he has is a great one in his arsenal. Bradley-King goes earlier in a typical edge class, but a deep edge class helps the Steelers get a guy like him here.
Aaron Banks, OG, Notre Dame
Following the same theme of attacking the offensive line, Aaron Banks is a true and blue brand to the Pittsburgh Steelers. A people-mover and mauler, Banks has the mindset that made fans fall in love with Kevin Dotson in 2020.
Additionally, he is the guy that will put opposing defensive lineman right into the dirt. Banks is just an all-around good football player who can outplay his draft position. In this Steelers 7-round NFL Mock Draft, Banks adds additional guard depth behind Dotson and David DeCastro.
Quintin Morris, TE, Bowling Green
In the seventh round, you are looking for a guy with upside. For example, the Steelers especially need that in their tight end room. With one of Vance McDonald or Eric Ebron likely gone, the Steelers need to invest in this room to some extent. It can undoubtedly come earlier than this, but they wait until later in this draft, given how the board falls.
And hey, Quintin Morris is a nice consolation prize. Essentially, Morris is all upside. A former basketball player, Morris has legitimate speed, and as an F-receiver or even a flex-Y, Morris can fit in quite nicely to the Steelers’ offense. Above the rim, Morris is consistent, thanks to his basketball experience. Even as a blocker, Morris has grown with his intensity and hand usage. In this Steelers 7-round Mock Draft, they bet on Morris’ continued improvement and traits.
Justin Hilliard, LB, Ohio State
The Steelers’ linebacker depth wore thin this season. Moreover, they will likely lose Avery Williamson to free agency. This is a position they need some depth at despite the flashes by Marcus Allen and Robert Spillane.
Thus, Justin Hilliard is a solution to help ease those problems a bit. From a pure impact standpoint, Hilliard is an excellent tackler and will contribute on special teams. You can never have enough solid contributors on special teams.
More importantly, Hilliard has burst downhill to make plays in the backfield to shoot gaps. Additionally, he shows some sideline-to-sideline range. Hilliard plays the game hard and has traits to go along with it. Accordingly, the Steelers will love him.
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