Steel City Underground

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison

We can all agree that OLB is an area of need for the Steelers. Can’t we?

Awwww, c’mon man! Let’s proceed on the assumption that we can. There are seven rounds in the upcoming NFL draft, and the Steelers have picks in each round (along with an extra pick in the third). It’s likely that the Steelers will target an OLB type early in the draft, but as has been reported early and often, this is a deep draft at this position. There are decent players throughout.

Let’s look at each round of the draft, and try and determine which OLB/Edge players are likely to be around when the Steelers pick and who they might potentially pull the trigger on. We’ll start with a chart of who might be available when the Steelers pick and then determine the available candidates, who might be a fit for the Steelers.

Steelers Interest Level

Also, there is a column which indicates the level of apparent interest the Steelers might have in the prospect, and it’s set up by a simple formula – if they visited them at the combine, that’s a point, at the school's pro day, that’s a point, or had a pre-draft visit in Pittsburgh that’s two points. The maximum points are 4, with a 0 minimum.

Another Consideration

It’s certain that in each round all of the players listed will not be available. There is a chance that any of the prospects listed might be there (and in at least three different simulations they were). Guys like Myles Garrett and Solomon Thomas are not on this list because in no scenario that was run did they fall to the Steelers pick 30.

Other Interested Parties

The problem the Steelers will have throughout the draft is that teams drafting immediately in front of them (specifically Dallas and Green Bay) also are in need of EDGE rushers.

Atlanta, who drafts immediately behind the Steelers also is in need of EDGE rushers, so it’s possible they could try and move up to jump the Cowboys, Packers, and Steelers. In addition to those teams Kansas City, Oakland, Miami and Detroit could all be in the market for a quality EDGE rusher.

It’s a good thing this is a deep draft.

The List

The following is a list of players with their interest "grade" and projected round the Steelers could find them available in.

Rank Player College Height Weight Interest Round
1 Charles Harris Missouri 6' 3" 253 2 1
2 Takkarist McKinley UCLA 6' 2" 250 3 1
3 T.J. Watt Wisconsin 6' 4" 252 2 1
4 Tyus Bowser Houston 6' 3" 247 2 1
5 Taco Charlton Michigan 6' 6" 277 2 1
6 Derek Barnett Tennessee 6' 3" 259 2 1
7 Carl Lawson Auburn 6' 2" 261 2 1-2
8 Derek Rivers Youngstown State 6' 4" 248 4 1-2
9 Jordan Willis Kansas State 6' 4" 255 2 1-2
10 Tim Williams Alabama 6' 3" 244 4 1-2
11 Ryan Anderson Alabama 6' 2" 253 2 2-3
12 Dawaune Smoot Illinois 6' 3" 264 1 2-3
13 Tarell Basham Ohio 6' 4" 269 2 2-3
14 Demarcus Walker Florida State 6' 4" 280 2 2-3
15 Daeshon Hall Texas A & M 6' 5" 266 2 3
16 Tanoh KPassagnon Villanova 6' 7" 289 2 3
17 Vince Biegel Wisconsin 6' 3" 246 2 3-4
18 Joe Mathis Washington 6' 2" 266 2 3-4
19 Trey Hendrickson Florida Atlantic 6' 4" 266 2 3-4
20 Carroll Phillips Illinois 6' 3" 242 2 3-4
21 Deatrich Wise, JR. Arkansas 6' 5" 274 2 4
22 Ejuan Price Pitt 5' 11" 241 2 4-5
23 Samson Ebukam Eastern Washington 6' 3" 240 2 5
24 Hunter Dimick Utah 6' 3" 269 1 5
25 Devonte Fields Louisville 6' 2" 236 2 5
26 Fadol Brown Mississippi 6' 4" 273 1 6
27 Keionta Davis Chattanooga 6' 3" 271 1 6
28 Keion Adams Western Michigan 6' 2" 245 2 6
29 Dylan Donahue West Georgia 6' 3" 248 1 6
30 Garrett Sickels Penn State 6' 3" 261 1 6-7
31 Avery Moss Youngstown State 6' 3" 264 1 7
32 Josh Carraway TCU 6' 3" 242 0 7
33 Bryan Cox, Jr. Florida 6' 3" 265 0 7
34 Tyshawn Bowser LSU 6' 5" 250 1 7
35 Javancy Jones Jackson State 6' 1" 239 2 7

Top Rounds

Let’s get some things out of the way immediately – Barnett and Harris (and probably McKinley) will not be around at 30. That is, in some ways, a good thing (except maybe for McKinley). Taco Charlton isn’t a scheme fit, even if the Steelers visited him at his pro day. I hope he’s gone by 30.

I’m not a huge fan of Charles Harris, and would rather pass. The Steelers apparently aren’t overly interested either, with Harris only garnering only two interest points (combine and a pro day visit). Of this listing, the highest verifiable interest is in three players: Takkarist McKinley (combine and pre-draft visit), Tim Williams and Derek Rivers (both had the full gamut – combine, pro day, and a scheduled visit).

If McKinley wasn’t recovering from shoulder surgery, and if I actually thought he’d be on the board at 30 (it’s possible, but I doubt it), I’d take him. He probably has the most upside of anyone in this group but is still very raw. I think he is a perfect fit for the Steelers, but I don’t think he’ll be there (because I don’t think he gets past Detroit, and if he does, then Dallas may snap him up).

I like Derek Rivers because while he is not as polished as Carl Lawson as a pass rusher, he has more athleticism and upside. The fact that he comes free from the baggage following Tim Williams also makes him a safer pick for the Steelers.

I’m not interested in Tim Williams. The only reason I care about his failed drug tests is the potential for suspensions. What’s the point in drafting a guy who won’t be able to play? Just ask the Cowboys about Randy Gregory. However, it’s not those tests that keep me from being interested in Williams. He has the talent, and will, in all likelihood be good.

If he wants to be.

I question his desire. When you show up to the combine out of shape, and you end up underperforming in an extreme way, it doesn’t speak to your dedication and desire to play the game. I just see too many red flags. However, I am not privy to the conversations the Steelers have had with him and if they feel he is a “changed” man. My gut tells me that the interest they’ve shown in him is a smoke screen, but it certainly could be legitimate.

The caveat is that the Steelers rarely if ever, use their first round draft pick on a small school player. I want Rivers in Pittsburgh, but I would be happier if they went corner in the first and were able to pick Rivers up in the second. I don’t think that’s going to happen since too many boards have Rivers rated as late one to early two.

If the Steelers want Rivers, this is where they will likely have to get him. I'd rather take him in the second, but he wasn't available in six of the ten simulations I ran. I'd also consider T.J. Watt, Carl Lawson and Takkarist McKinley with pick 30. Nobody else is worth a first round consideration.

Jumping to day two, I don’t expect Jordon Willis to be around at the Steelers second round pick, 62 overall. He’s been climbing the boards and generating interest. I doubt that Carl Lawson is here, although he was in 6 out of 10 draft sims I ran. If the Cowboys don’t go EDGE in the 1st, and he’s around I think they jump on him.

Demarcus Walker is more of a 4-3 DE than an OLB, so he’s not a scheme fit (and will likely be gone anyway). I’m hoping either Derek Rivers or Carl Lawson fall this far (or maybe Jordan Willis). If not, then it’s between Ryan Anderson and Tarell Basham.

Anderson is the guy with tremendous football IQ and heart, but Basham is the one with the talent. He’s big, strong, powerful but raw. He needs grooming, but under the tutelage of Joey Porter and James Harrison, I think he can be tempered into something awesome.

Middle Rounds

The Steelers have two potential shots at an EDGE player in the third round. The most intriguing are Dawaune Smoot, Carroll Phillips, and Joe Mathis.

In my honest opinion, there are only two guys on this list with starter potential and both have issues – Smoot and Mathis.

Smoot has only average burst and needs to add weight to avoid being swallowed by NFL tackles. His NFL draft page likens him to Anthony Chickillo, but I see too much Jarvis Jones in him to make me feel comfortable.

Mathis doesn’t possess elite athleticism and isn’t a twitchy pass rusher. What he does have are physicality and strength. He needs to get quicker and develop his pass rush skills to become a contributing starter.

If Ejuan Price had just a little more height teams would be all over him. Trey Hendrickson is intriguing, but I think he is a better DE fit, and Deatrich Wise might have potential, but not at OLB, but as a 3-4 DE, so he could be a target (but not as an OLB).

If Mathis is still on the board, I would take him here, but let’s assume he’s gone, in which case the pick is between Carroll Phillips or Biegel.

I think Biegel can add high value on special teams while he ramps up to being a serviceable backup. I don’t see him as having starter potential, but I do think he can be a contributor.

Dimick has garnered only minimal interest at the combine. Fields has potential, but there are questions about whether he actually loves playing football, and the demands of the NFL might be too much for him. The wild card is Samson Ebukam from Eastern Washington. He is an extremely productive pass rusher from a variety of positions and is an ideal 3-4 OLB prospect.

I put him here because he’s not rated on almost any draft board, so it’s hard to measure his grade. I'd guess he's a fourth or fifth round selection.

Bottom Rounds

Teams are drafting special teams players and backups at this point. Keion Adams is compared to Arthur Moats, which isn’t a bad thing. Javancy Jones has talent, but he really needs to bulk up, plus he's not that fast.

Anyone drafted this low is a project.


The three players with the most interest thus far are Derek Rivers, Tim Williams, and Takkarist McKinley.

Rivers is my top pick because I can't see the Steelers using a high pick on Williams (red flags with off-field behavior) or McKinley (shoulder surgery).

There's also a trend of Pittsburgh taking more than one player at a position of need. Looking at the table above, there are more than enough candidates where they could in fact "double-dip" at the edge position.

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Inside The Pittsburgh Steelers plans for the 2017 NFL Draft

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