,The Pittsburgh Steelers may have been the team to beat in the AFC in 2017 if not for the fact the New England Patriots broke protocol and made a huge splash in free agency.
The black and gold have a lot of catching up to do. The offseason began with the news quarterback Ben Roethlisberger may not play this year, as he was pondering retirement. It was followed by new that the team signed wide receiver Antonio Brown to a four-year, $68 million deal, locking up the Pro Bowl player for the foreseeable future as the league’s highest-paid pass catcher.
Once free agency started, the team was hit with the news that veteran linebacker Lawrence Timmons was taking his talents to South Beach to play for the Miami Dolphins. The Pittsburgh Steelers will miss the veteran’s presence on the field but can help themselves in the draft by adding more defensive talent.
Wait a minute; are we not talking about this very topic each year? The Steelers always seem to need help on the defensive side of the ball and yet they continue to challenge for a playoff berth and a Super Bowl run.
The Pittsburgh Steelers need help in the secondary and at linebacker (a replacement for Timmons). As in other years, this franchise will take the best players available to fit their needs. In addition, at some point, the topic of finding Roethlisberger’s replacement needs addressing.
Here is how I see the Pittsburgh Steelers draft playing out.
Round One, Pick 30 – Adoree Jackson, Defensive Back, USC
The idea of having Jackson, who was fringe first-round pick before the Combine where he showed off his blazing speed, play opposite Artie Burns is a step in the right direction.
A three-year starter, Jackson has had 28 career pass breakups, including 11 in 2016, and six interceptions, five of which came in 2016. He’s also an accomplished kick and punt returner, scoring four touchdowns on each. This would keep Antonio Brown out of return duties.
The only knock on Jackson might be his height, where are 5-foot-11, he is a bit undersized.
Round Two, Pick 62 – Davis Webb, Quarterback, California
Oh, let the drama begin.
We all knew that at some point the Steelers would draft a quarterback with the idea of replacing a retired Roethlisberger. Webb is a perfect fit. He does not have to play right away, but he is going to be a solid if not spectacular NFL player. Webb replaced Jared Goff at Cal and looked the part of an instant star. Great size and pocket awareness. His arm is impressive.
Not an immediate need for Pittsburgh, but it solves the team’s future elephant in the room.
Round Three, Pick 94 – Chris Wormley, Defensive Tackle, Michigan
Wormley is a Steelers type of pick. Wormley has the size of a defensive tackle but played primarily at left and right defensive end. In Michigan’s base, four-man front Wormley would occasionally kick inside.
His versatility makes him perfect for the line and could provide solid depth before moving into the starting lineup. His 6-foot-5, 298-pound frame will clog up the middle and help with run defense.
The team voted him captain his senior year, so the Steelers are getting another leader to take command of their defense.
Round 3, Pick 105 (compensatory pick) – Kendell Beckwith, Linebacker, LSU
There are some injury concerns, but Beckwith solves the loss of Timmons to the Dolphins.
According to his scouting report, he is “An every-down linebacker for the Tigers, Beckwith is extremely patient with a natural feel to sift through the trash, find the ball and make the stop. He is a fundamentally sound tackler with strong hands to hook, stay low and drop the ball carrier, using leverage to wrap and finish.”
He has the size that could allow him to play defensive end in third-down situations, as well.
Round Four, Pick 134 – Stacy Coley, Wide Receiver, Miami
Coley has good size at 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds. For this reason, he would fit in the Steelers offense as a fourth receiver. Additionally, he could help in the return game.
According to CBS Sports, like former teammate Phillip Dorsett (Indianapolis Colts’ first round pick in 2015), Coley is a speed demon who projects best as a vertical threat and returner at the next level.
The Steelers could always use another pair of hands in their offense. Especially since Sammie Coates is a mixed bag of hit and miss on the field.
Round Five, Pick 173 – George Kittle, Tight End, Iowa
Another tough kid from the Big Ten who brings his lunch to work every day.
Similarly, his size, at 6-foot-4 and 247 pounds could mean he plays more in a Jordan Reed-type role with the Steelers.
Tight end is still a big part of the Steelers offense. In fact, a player with Kittle’s versatility off the line would be beneficial.
Round Six, Pick 213 – James Conner, Running Back, Pittsburgh
This would be the feel-good story of the draft. Also, being selected by the Steelers after his career at Pitt would make it that much more special.
Conner returned to play for the Panthers after beating cancer. All things considered, he could become a nice addition to the team’s running game.
No one will ever replace Le’Veon Bell in the offense. However, Conner offers a solid, up the middle type back, like Bell. Furthermore, his 233-pound frame will make it difficult to bring him down in the open field.
Round Seven, Pick 219 – Storm Norton, Tackle, Toledo
The name alone gives him a shot to make it in this league. As a result, the Steelers could draft Norton as a project player with room to improve.
His consistency has been a question mark at times. It brought to light again at the East-West Shrine Game. Nevertheless, if there is a team that will utilize the small-school talent to his strengths, it is the Pittsburgh Steelers. Consequently, this pick could be low risk, high reward.