Zach Metkler’s 2019 Steelers 7-Round Mock Draft 1.0

I’m not sure how we already made it back to this point, but it is yet again the best time of the year: NFL Draft season! If you have followed any of my work in recent years, you should know that this is the time I enjoy the most. These draft hopefuls have been working for this for large parts of their lives but for a few long months, they work hard to impress NFL teams with the dream of hearing their name called on draft night.

As the Steelers head into the 2019 NFL Draft, they have holes to fill on their roster just as every team in the league does. Which direction will they go? Who will be the next wave of Black and Gold rookies to take the field in 2019? Find out as I kickoff my first Steelers 7-round mock draft below… with a bit of a surprise in Round 1.

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1st Round: Brian Burns – EDGE – Florida State

Getting my first mock draft started with a bang (that’ll likely take some heat). But hear me out.

Throughout the draft process, many fans will be clamoring for the Steelers to look exclusively at cornerback or inside linebacker. The issue with this for me is that outside of two prospects (Byron Murphy and Devin White), I’m not entirely sold on the talent in the 1st round at those positions. Instead, it might be beneficial for the Steelers to look elsewhere at a position where they shouldn’t be completely satisfied.

Bud Dupree is under contract in 2019 but is due to take on a hefty salary for a player that hasn’t been terrible but also hasn’t lived up to the production expected from a 1st round edge rusher. Enter Brian Burns, a long, explosive edge rusher from Florida State. Burns likely won’t get the hype that Montez Sweat or Jachai Polite will garner, but don’t mistake that for a lack of talent. When Dupree came out of Kentucky, he lacked a developed pass rushing toolbox with the same flexibility and ability to bend as a piece of concrete. The complete opposite can be said of Burns, who will enter into the NFL with one of the most well-developed pass rushing skillsets we have seen in quite some time and the flexibility to easily dip under and around opposing offensive tackles. Another area where Burns shines is with his hand usage, a similar strength that was seen with T.J. Watt in the 2017 NFL Draft. Combine these athletic traits with the ability to effectively process what’s happening in front of him on the offensive line, and you have a player that could easily step in as a pass rushing specialist in year one while he works on his run defending (a weakness) before taking over every-down responsibilities in year two.

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2nd Round: Amani Oruwariye – CB – Penn State

After shoring up their pass rush in round one, the Steelers turn to their secondary in the second, snagging one of the more complete corners in this draft class. Amani Oruwariye checks off all of the boxes that make for a successful cornerback in today’s NFL: great length and size, outstanding ball skills, extremely scheme versatile, and, most importantly, the ability to trust the technique and quickly take in and process everything happening in front of him. The last part is what makes him a special corner, especially when you consider technique and processing skills are two of Artie Burns’ biggest issues as a football player. Oruwariye would likely be able to compete for the starting job opposite of Joe Haden in year one and would help solidify the position in Pittsburgh for years to come.

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3rd Round: Vosean Joseph – ILB – Florida

As the Steelers head into the third, they go after one of the players that doesn’t get talked about nearly as much. Vosean Joseph isn’t a perfect prospect, as his size (6’1″, 226 lbs.) stands out for many as a red flag, but that does not mean he can’t play the game. Joseph is about as violent of a defender as you’ll see in this year’s draft. He accelerates to full speed in the blink of an eye, closing in on opposing ball carriers in a hurry. For a player of his size, he also does a solid job of undercutting blocking routes and sifting through traffic to avoid contact. This largely stems from his ability to flow laterally with the flow of the offense before identifying where to properly attack.

Joseph isn’t without his technical faults, namely his lackluster processing skills and inconsistencies reading and reacting to what the offense gives him. While he isn’t at all Ryan Shazier from a talent standpoint, there are some similarities to their game from when Shazier came out in 2014. The main difference is just the general polish that Joseph currently lacks. The highs are extremely high for Joseph but the lows are what drive Joseph away from being a top prospect in this class. But with a need for an exciting playmaker in the middle, Joseph (given the proper patience and development) can turn into a solid player for the Pittsburgh defense.

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4th Round: Dax Raymond – TE – Utah State

After going defense for the first three rounds, the Steelers switch focus to the offensive side of the ball and go after a position that isn’t extremely high on the list of priorities but could still use some upgrades. I believe that Jesse James will be back in Pittsburgh in 2019 but selecting a modern tight end that could help stretch their offense could be too much to pass up. Dax Raymond isn’t completely polished as a blocker, but the effort and potential is there for improvements. But that’s not why you select Raymond. He is a physical and tough player that thrives in the passing game. Over the middle, Raymond effectively finds lanes between linebackers and safeties in coverage and can make plays once the ball is in his hands (an impressive feat for a 6’5″ 250 lb. tight end). Raymond isn’t a day one starter, but could thrive as the #2 option behind Vance McDonald and give Pittsburgh another option in their high-powered passing attack.

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6th Round (1): Jalen Hurd – WR – Baylor

Here’s a fun fact for you: since 2005, the Steelers have taken at least one receiver in every draft except in 2011. Over the past 30 seasons, they have taken at least one receiver in all but FOUR drafts. So if we’ve learned anything, it’s that they’ll likely continue restocking the position this year.

That expectation becomes even more prevalent if the team moves on from Antonio Brown.

Jalen Hurd is one of the more interesting and intriguing receiver prospects in this year’s draft class. As a former running back at Tennessee, Hurd made the move to receiver at Baylor, where he made a very smooth transition to the outside. Hurd is what teams want in a receiver today: long, tall, and athletic. At 6’4″, 229 lbs., Hurd can turn into yet another matchup nightmare in the NFL. His open-field vision is evident due to his history as a running back and his body and balance allows him to work through contact from defenders. While he is still developing as a route runner (which is to be expected given the late position change in his career), the tools are there for Hurd to turn into a stud at the next level. His work ethic should only help facilitate this. If Hurd was somehow available this late, he’d be a no-brainer for a team with success at receiver like Pittsburgh.

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6th Round (2): Keaton Sutherland – OG – Texas A&M

Interior offensive line has been one of the positional needs for Pittsburgh that no one seems to be talking about. Ramon Foster and B.J. Finney are both free agents and Maurkice Pouncey isn’t getting any younger. While I believe that Foster and/or Finney will return in 2019, the Steelers could benefit from getting younger at the position. Keaton Sutherland has been an under-the-radar prospect in an underwhelming interior offensive line class but saw a likely boost to his draft stock after showing improvement during his week of practices for the East-West Shrine game. Sutherland seemingly plays with a bit of a nasty streak in him, saw time at both guard spots at Texas A&M, has quick eyes with decent situational awareness, and has shown success at blocking on the second level, which is important for the Steelers zone blocking concepts.

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7th Round: Dontavius Russell – DT/NT – Auburn

As the Steelers finish off their draft, they look back to the defensive side of the ball and go after another defensive lineman, much like they did in 2018. Dontavius Russell brings ample experience to the NFL (he was a four-year starter at Auburn) and a stout frame that would’ve made him a coveted prospect in the NFL of old. But that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have worth in today’s league. The Steelers have struggled against the run at times and while Javon Hargrave is clearly the Steelers’ future at nose tackle, they could still use an upgrade over Daniel McCullers as depth. Russell is a lineman who flourishes against the run and can ultimately make a home for himself there on early/clear running downs. He takes on blocks at the point of attack with great leverage and control, freeing up linebackers and allowing them to flow naturally through the gaps and attack downhill. While Russell will likely never be a top player in the NFL, his well-documented work ethic and leadership on and off the field make him the perfect choice for a late-round developmental selection in the draft.

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