NFL free agency started a week ago and we have already seen the next version of the Pittsburgh Steelers take shape. A complete overhaul at inside linebacker.
Losing a key defender but replacing him with a Hall of Famer. Adding starters and depth to the offensive line. And bringing back a pair of useful defensive pieces.
It’s Monday – you know what that means.
Now we go back to the Pro Football Focus mock draft simulator.
Alright, here we go…Donny Football’s Steelers Mock Draft 6.0
ROUND 1 – PICK 17: PARIS JOHNSON JR. (OL, OHIO STATE)
Last Week: Bryan Bresee (DL, Clemson)
I’ve made this pick before and I’ll probably make it again. The Steelers newish regime with Omar Khan now in charge and Andy Weidl as his right-hand man will put an emphasis on the offensive line. Based on the moves made this past week, they already have. Isaac Seumalo will come in and start at left guard with Nate Herbig being a valuable and versatile backup or swing man. Another key piece of information to consider is the Steelers not having a love affair with Dan Moore Jr. like we may have thought. Moore is an alright player, but only alright.
Multiple reports said the Steelers were in on Orlando Brown Jr. and he was the best offensive tackle on the market. With Brown going elsewhere, the Steelers should still have an interest in improving that position. Johnson can do that.
He has tree branches for arms in a frame goes 6’6, 313 pounds and was graded out as one of the best at his position this past season with the Buckeyes.
ROUND 2 – PICK 32: NOLAN SMITH (EDGE, GEORGIA)
Last Week: Zay Flowers (WR, Florida)
This isn’t an indictment on Alex Highsmith because he has been a tremendous Robin to TJ Watt’s Batman. But there is a concern with depth at edge rusher that has plagued the Steelers for a few seasons and it’s tricky to walk a tightrope at that spot when you are one injury away from a clear weakness. Smith would be a nice addition to that group and will be important when called upon. The Georgia defender had an all-time combine led by a staggering 4.39 40-yard dash. My concerns align with his size and production. There was not a single starting NFL edge rusher last season listed under 240 pounds and Smith checks in at 238.
That leaves room to add good weight, but one scout said he isn’t sure if the additional weight will slow him down out there. Smith registered an 83.8 PFF grade last season, but he didn’t have numbers to fall in love with – only tallying 12 sacks in 32 games from 2020-2022. His athleticism certainly translates to the NFL level and that’s what has him getting picked in the end of the 1st round or early in the 2nd, you just hope the production follows suit.
ROUND 2 – PICK 49: JACK CAMPBELL (LB, IOWA)
Last Week: Steve Avila (OL, TCU)
Campbell is another player I have already taken during mock draft season, but he is one that fits the bill for the Steelers at a position they value highly. It is also a need. The front office decided to wisely rehaul the inside linebacker position during free agency, letting Robert Spillane and Devin Bush walk, cutting Myles Jack, and replacing that trio with two players in the form of Elandon Roberts and Cole Holcomb. Mark Robinson will be entering year two in what you hope is another promising season for him to emerge as a legitimate option. That leaves the Steelers likely taking one relatively early in the draft. Let’s be honest – the Steelers would run to the podium with the chance to take Campbell at 49 and the fans would be excited too. What he may lack in speed, he more than makes up for with size and instincts. Campbell measured up at 6’5, 249 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine and has the numbers to back up his potential. He was a great player in his two seasons as a starter for Iowa, collecting well over 100 tackles in each year. He’s a middle linebacker, his first name is Jack and he already wears black and gold – hell, it’s writing itself.
ROUND 3 – PICK 80: ELI RICKS (CB, ALABAMA)
Last Week: Garrett Williams (CB, Syracuse)
Waiting until the 80th pick in the draft would tell me the Steelers are either satisfied with their cornerback room, have added to it or are looking to hit on a diamond in the rough. I picked a corner in this spot last week and I went back to the well this week with Eli Ricks, who played at two SEC powers, LSU then Alabama. Last season’s stats, or lack thereof from opposing receivers, was impressive. Ricks played nine games and 224 snaps in coverage, yet allowed only six receptions for 77 yards and a passer rating against of 45.3 – significantly down from what he did in 2021 and even 2020. Ricks is long and lean – checking in at the NFL Scouting Combine at 6’2, 188 pounds with 32+ inch arms. He lacks some speed for the position, but if the size can make up for that, Ricks could be a nice find in the 3rd round.
ROUND 4 – PICK 120: MORO OJOMO (DL, TEXAS)
Last Week: Dorian Williams (LB, Tulane)
Andy Weidl loves his trenches and understands the importance of replenishing that group every year. Last year the Steelers came away with DeMarvin Leal who showed plenty of promise in year one along the defensive front. Ojomo is another 3-4 defensive end they can add to their litter. The big man from Texas checks in at 6’3, 292 pounds and did 29 reps on the bench press at the combine.
He finds his home mainly in the B-gap and registered a 90.6 PFF grade this past season with a lot of that coming from his work in the run game. If he betters his pass rush, the Steelers would love a guy like this in the middle rounds.
ROUND 7 – PICK 234: MATT LANDERS (WR, ARKANSAS)
Last Week: Richard Gouraige (OL, Florida)
This could be an absolute steal for the Steelers in the 7th round.
Landers is long and he is fast, and he has the numbers to back it up. 6’4, 200 pounds, a 4.37 40-yard dash following a season with the Razorbacks in which he caught 47 passes for 901 yards and eight touchdowns in 13 games. He spent the majority of his time on the outside with his size, but did lineup in the slot for 45 snaps. Landers averaged 19.2 yards per reception and was a consistent homerun threat. Picturing Landers in the pass-catching corps along with George Pickens, Diontae Johnson, Pat Freiermuth and hopefully Calvin Austin III gives Kenny Pickett a lot of options.
ROUND 7 – PICK 241: DJ DALE (DL, ALABAMA)
Last Week: Will Mallory (TE, Miami)
More versatility along the defensive line. You know Andy Weidl wants to build it and Dale provides a body that is more accustomed for the middle of that line. In a program that produces talent from the defensive line, Dale started for three seasons at Alabama. The 6’1, 302-pounder spent almost all of his time between the A-gap and B-gap and earned an 80.5 grade from PFF in 2022. He was on the field for over 350 snaps in the past three years under Nick Saban and you know Mike Tomlin has an appreciation for players out of the perennial power at Alabama.