We are a month away from the NFL Draft and there are still some major chips that will be falling in the league. Aaron Rodgers has made it clear he wants to play for the Jets and Lamar Jackson announced that he officially requested a trade from the Ravens. Fortunately, everything seems to be OK in Pittsburgh.
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 7.0
ROUND 1 – PICK 17: BRIAN BRANCH (S, ALABAMA)
Last Week: Paris Johnson Jr. (OL, Ohio State)
This pick makes more sense with the decision to let Terrell Edmunds walk and there has been a lot of speculation since that the Steelers would be all over Branch in the 1st round. Mike Tomlin loves himself some Alabama defenders and imagine a guy you can put next to fellow Tide great, Minkah Fitzpatrick, but could also play in the slot or anywhere you want to put him. Branch recorded an 89.5 PFF grade and was impressive both against the run (90.7) and in coverage (86.4). He isn’t the biggest guy on the field, but the production and intangible qualities make him a legitimate target at 17th overall.
ROUND 2 – PICK 32: DAWAND JONES (OT, OHIO STATE)
Last Week: Nolan Smith (Edge, Georgia)
I’ve picked Jones before. He is a massive human and his stock is rising as we get closer to draft weekend. By the time we get to late April I’d be surprised if Jones got very far into the 2nd round, if he even gets there at all. The Steelers could pivot from taking Brian Branch in round one to the big tackle to begin round two. The emphasis the Steelers put on running the football fits right into Jones’ game, reflected by his 85 run blocking grade from PFF this past season. At the NFL level, Jones is more prone to succeed if you have a mobile quarterback. Kenny Pickett isn’t going to be confused with Lamar Jackson, but the kid can move around a little bit. Jones could be the continuation of the Steelers getting better up front.
ROUND 2 – PICK 49: ADETOMIWA ADEBAWORE (EDGE, NORTHWESTERN)
Last Week: Jack Campbell (LB, Iowa)
My early apologies to Bill Hillgrove on this one.
If the Steelers would land Adebawore, get ready to say his name a lot. A versatile presence in the defensive trenches spent time between the B-gap and outside of the tackle last season at Northwestern. The Wildcats defender is listed as an edge, but can move inside if need be. The performance at the NFL Scouting Combine was off the charts as Adebawore ran a 4.49 40-yard dash to go along with a 37.5-inch vertical jump, 10-foot-5 broad jump and 27 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press. Solid production in his last two seasons at Northwestern, with over 20 hurries recorded in each season. And his common practice sparring partner? Peter Skoronski, who will undoubtedly have his name called in the opening round.
ROUND 3 – PICK 80: TRE’VIUS HODGES-TOMLINSON (CB, TCU)
Last Week: Eli Ricks (CB, Alabama)
The nephew of pro football Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlin has a stature similar to his uncle — he’s small. Tre’vius turned out an impressive career at TCU with his best work coming in the COVID season of 2020, but this past season he led the nation in forced incompletions with 21. Tomlinson measured in at 5’8, 178 pounds, which certainly leaves some to be desired, but something tells me he could find himself at home as a nickel corner in the league. If he’s anything close to what the Steelers got out of Mike Hilton years ago, that’s a win.
ROUND 4 – PICK 120: TRADE
Last Week: Moro Ojomo (DL, Texas)
HOU RECEIVES: PICK 120
PIT RECEIVES: PICK 161, PICK 188, PICK 203
This isn’t the first time I’ve made a trade in this spot because I think it’s what has to be done, unless the Steelers are satisfied with the gap they have in picks. I think it’s tough to go over 100 selections without making one and I expect some wheeling and dealing to be done on the third day.
ROUND 5 – PICK 161: CHANDLER ZAVALA (OL, NORTH CAROLINA STATE)
Zavala could be a late-round steal for Andy Weidl if he gets his way with the trenches.
At 6’5, 325 pounds, he has the size of someone that could play outside, but his snap logs would tell you otherwise, which is really his only downfall. Last season the big man logged 745 snaps with 744 of them coming at left guard. In 2021, he played all 339 snaps at the position. A solid run blocking grade, per PFF, accompanied by a great mark in pass blocking at 86.5, making him someone that can definitely find a home at the next level. Don’t expect the next Alan Faneca, but the Steelers could have a healthy amount of depth up front once injuries take a toll.
ROUND 6 – PICK 188: JONAH TAVAI (DL, SAN DIEGO STATE)
When I first looked into what Tavai can offer, I was dumbfounded as to how he was available this late in the draft. A 92 PFF grade last season in 736 snaps with 12 sacks and 46 hurries. FORTY SIX. And he had 40 in 2021. He’s a perfect guy for the Steelers operation. A little bit undersized at 6’0, 290 pounds, but he can play all over the defensive line. He spent 158 snaps in the A-gap, 194 snaps in the B-gap, 157 snaps over the tackle and 192 snaps outside of the tackle – that is versatility up front any team will be looking out for. He registered a 92.2 pass rush grade with an 87.9 run defense grade. If the Steelers snagged this guy in this spot, or even a little bit earlier, I think it is reason to cheer.
ROUND 6 – PICK 203: VENTRELL MILLER (LB, FLORIDA)
Miller isn’t a guy that will blow anyone away with his numbers, but this is a spot for depth in a linebacker corps that still needs it. Miller checked in at 6’0, 232 pounds at the combine and looks to be a special team’s guy in his early NFL days with hopes of becoming a starter. The Steelers are hoping to hit with Mark Robinson, who they drafted around this time last year. But like I said earlier, if Miller can step in and at least make an impact on special teams, in which he played all four phases of at Florida, he’d be of value at this spot.
ROUND 7 – PICK 234: MOHAMED IBRAHIM (RB, MINNESOTA)
Last Week: Matt Landers (WR, Arkansas)
The Steelers current backfield consists of Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren with question marks surrounding Benny Snell Jr. and Anthony McFarland Jr. It doesn’t hurt to add another back if you need the guy and to find one with the career Ibrahim had would be nice in the 7th round. 320 attempts, 1675 yards, 20 touchdowns last season in 12 games – earning him an 89.8 PFF grade.
He’s a stocky runner at 5’8, 203 pounds, but he fits into what the Steelers currently have in the backfield and they can keep their identity if they get the guy that is drawing comparisons to Dameon Pierce and finishes runs like a hammer hitting a nail. He’s a hard hat type player and you know how Mike Tomlin feels about that.
ROUND 7 – PICK 241: JUSTIN SHORTER (WR, FLORIDA)
Last Week: DJ Dale (DL, Alabama)
Despite the last name, Shorter isn’t short. He’s a big man – 6’4, 229 pounds. Clearly, I like the idea of drafting a big target for Kenny Pickett in the late rounds and Shorter fits the mold. He can go up and get it or hit a home run, averaging 19.9 yards per reception in 2022 at Florida. He can also find himself in the slot to create a mismatch for inside defenders, lining up there 41 times in 2020 and 2022, and 75 times in 2021. A decent final season at Florida with improvement showing in every season. The Steelers don’t have to make wide receiver a top priority if they don’t want to and can find a player like Shorter at the very end.