Steel City Underground

NFL Draft News & Coverage

The mock draft season is upon us. Well, it really began as soon as last year's draft was completed, but realistically speaking, it's difficult to project where players may end up when you don't even know the pecking order of who is picking where until the Super Bowl is over.

Even then, at this very moment, guessing where players may wind up can be a fruitless effort. Free agency, the NFL Combine, pro day workouts, and other variables will all play into an already unpredictable NFL Draft.

However, that doesn't stop the speculation, which in many ways, is a fun exercise. With that in mind, I have pulled some of the early Steelers projected picks from around the web, along with comments about the pick (if available).

All picks are first round selections.

I also add my own two cents to the conclusion at the very bottom. Enjoy!

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ESPN

Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa

What they said:

The Steelers still can use help on the outside, even after using a first-round pick on a CB in 2016 (Artie Burns)...

Jackson is a long corner and an absolute ball hawk who led the nation with eight INTs. His timed speed at the combine will play a big role in where he gets drafted.

Full Mock Draft

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Bleacher Report

Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

What they said:

Rashaan Evans had two productive years at linebacker, and he put enough on film to suggest he can handle a starting job in the NFL. The Alabama prospect displayed the ability to stay on the field for short-area coverage assignments and take shots at the quarterback on designed blitzes.

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier has a long road toward recovery. He has movement in his legs but doesn't have the ability to walk on his own. The 25-year-old confirmed KQRS reporter Michele Tafoya's report via Twitter:

https://twitter.com/RyanShazier/status/960338633881473025

General manager Kevin Colbert should add a versatile asset to the linebackers room, someone who can play all three downs. In addition to package flexibility, Evans brings leadership qualities as an outspoken starter of a championship program.

Full Mock Draft

FanRag Sports

Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

What they said:

The injury to ILB Ryan Shazier will likely force the Steelers’ hand in this draft class. Shazier is a terrific talent who was a centerpiece of the Pittsburgh front for the past several seasons, but Shazier needs to be focused fully on his health and the Steelers will have to look elsewhere for someone to hold down the middle.

Enter Evans, who has made great strides during his brief stint as a starter at Alabama. Evans has awesome athleticism and versatility, traits that are well-known requirements to play Shazier’s role.

Full Mock Draft

Sporting News

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Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

Via Trade — Pittsburgh Steelers (from 49ers)

What they said:

A second massive trade-up for a quarterback: The Steelers make a deal in a similar move to what the Chiefs did a year ago for Patrick Mahomes. Pittsburgh can trade its first-round picks this year and next year in order to select Ben Roethlisberger’s future replacement.

Full Mock Draft

247Sports

Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

What they said:

The career of Ryan Shazier is in doubt, which means the team has to prepare for his absence. The Steelers have taken a linebacker in the first round in four of the last five drafts.

Full Mock Draft

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Walter Football

Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

What they said:

Teams believed Lamar Jackson would return to school, but he has opted to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft. Jackson has amazing upside because of his huge arm and great mobility, but he needs to work on his mechanics and ball placement. Sitting behind Ben Roethlisberger for a year or two would be ideal.

Full Mock Draft

SB Nation

Arden Key, Edge, LSU

What they said:

The Steelers need a player who can create pressure off the edge because thus far Bud Dupree hasn’t been that player. Key is raw, and has some off-field questions to answer, but he’s at the least a good edge rusher.

Full Mock Draft

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CBS Sports

Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

What they said:

While Ben Roethlisberger hasn't indicated he's ready to call it quits, that time is coming soon, possibly after the 2018 campaign. Rudolph is a similar style quarterback with a large frame who thrives from inside the pocket.

Full Mock Draft

NFL.com

Rashaan Evans - LB, Alabama

What they said:

Evans fits beautifully in the Steelers' defense. He'll be able to play inside or outside.

Full Mock Draft

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Conclusion

After the Steelers parted ways with Todd Haley, and promoted Ben Roethlisberger's BFF, QB coach Randy Fichtner, to offensive coordinator, there has been nothing short of comments alluding to Big Ben wanting to play for several more years. Speaking on the subject last week, team president Art Rooney II had even mentioned "reworking" Roethlisberger's contract, which could be to create cap space as well as keep the franchise quarterback on the team for longer than previously envisioned.

For that reason, another three or four years of Big Ben would mean ANY quarterback drafted in 2018 by the Steelers would collect dust on the bench. Initial rookie contracts carry a maximum of four years. If selected in the first round, a team may opt for a "fifth-year option" and retain the player one more season, before a make or break decision on whether to keep them or move on.

I can't picture a scenario where the Steelers decide to create a Brett Favre/Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning/Andrew Luck situation in Pittsburgh. A top prospect whom they highly value would have to fall in their lap, much like Rodgers did with Green Bay. The Colts situation was different, as no one knew if Manning would recover from an entire season away due to injury; they also had the top pick and a tempting go at another 10-15 year franchise QB.

I would not have passed on that opportunity either.

However, even though the Steelers don't appear to have many pressing needs on the roster, I still can't see them going for broke on a luxury QB pick with their top pick. I can't even see them doing it with any pick this season, as they already started developing Josh Dobbs, a fourth-round pick last season. Landry Jones is serviceable and likely going nowhere (and he is under contract for one more season at a minimum).

That leaves the most glaring of the roster concerns: inside linebacker. As noted by the draftniks above, no one knows Ryan Shazier's future. Including Shazier, 3 of the 4 inside linebackers from the opening week depth chart could become free agents following the 2018 season. (Sean Spence, who was signed following Shazier's injury, is not currently signed to the team either.)

That's why Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans makes the most sense of the predictions made above. Several of the analysts recognized a greater need to address the future of the Steelers defense rather than a signal caller who will never see playing time.

ESPN's Todd McShay is still stuck on giving the Steelers a cornerback, however. This pick makes more sense than a QB, but that all depends on if the Steelers feel comfortable with their current array of corners which include Artie Burns, Joe Haden, Mike Hilton, Cam Sutton, William Gay, and Brian Allen.

Four of the six joined the team last season (Haden, Hilton, Sutton, Allen) while Burns enters year three and the veteran Gay could be on his way out. Should Pittsburgh go with best available versus forcing a position of need, McShay's pick is intriguing.

Otherwise, my smart money is on investing once again in a linebacker. Whether that be a replacement for Shazier or another edge rusher (pending what the team decides on with Bud Dupree entering year four of his rookie contract) I don't see how the pick is made without the "four" in the 3-4 defense in mind.





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  1. VinHudd says:

    Lamar Jackson!?!? God no! I completely agree with you on it’ll probably be a LB and Evans would be nice. Also I wouldn’t mind them investing in a talented QB to be groomed. Josh Allen would be great but probably cost too much to move up to get him. Rudolph is intriguing and very well could be there at 28 and be just as talented in a cpl of yrs when called upon. Just please no Lamar Jackson lol

    • Joe Kuzma says:

      Ben is on record saying he wants to play at least 3 more seasons. I don’t think you can blow a first round pick (or any pick for that matter) on a quarterback who will collect dust until heading into a contract year… or worse, you get the AJ McCarron or Jimmy G situation, where you are losing the guy, and hope to get something in return… then left without a QB in the end and have to start over.

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