Mock draft season is a time I both love and hate. On one hand, I love learning about different prospects and trying to predict who the Steelers will draft. On the other, I'm reduced to a dog chasing its tail and am constantly going back and forth between potential picks. Yes, draft season is fluid, but that's part of the fun.
This mock, like all of mine, has gone through an endless number of changes. With each move the Steelers made I've made tweaks along the way. One of the hard decisions I had to make was whether or not I will include trades in my mock. If I were, I would have the Steelers trading down for Devin Bush (a move I wrote an extensive article on). However, I've decided to forego trades and stick to the Steelers original picks.
This mock I've put together today I actually feel confident in. If you agree or disagree, sound off in the comments or let me know on Twitter.
Round 1: Noah Fant (TE) - Iowa
With the Steelers signing Steven Nelson, Donte Moncrief, and Mark Barron, the team has done well alleviating their needs. Nelson will be starting alongside Joe Haden at cornerback, Barron can start if need be, and while Moncrief may not be starting, he is valuable depth that will surely contribute on offense.
Despite signing Barron, linebacker should still be the priority to target in round one... but, unfortunately, neither Devin White or Devin Bush will likely be around at pick #20. If either linebackers were here I would be sprinting to the podium, but barring a trade, acquiring either seems unlikely. All this said, my pick may be unconventional, but I'm taking tight end, Noah Fant.
With Jesse James now in Detriot, the Steelers have a hole at tight end. With Fant, the Steelers can plug that hole while also adding a whole new dynamic to their offense. I'm of the belief that the Steelers shouldn't be aiming to merely find a replacement for Antonio Brown. Rather, what they can do is add another dynamic to their offense. Fant is an athletic specimen, and while he needs to improve his blocking, he can still contribute instantly.
The Steelers have never had two athletic tight ends on their roster and Randy Fichtner could get very creative with these weapons. Also, Fant does have the ability to be flexed out and act as the X receiver at times. Drafting a tight end this high may seem like a luxury, but I see it as hitting two birds with one stone.
Instead of drafting an X receiver and a new tight end, why not draft both of those needs combined into one player?
(Plus we already know he looks good in black and gold)
Round 2: Darnell Savage (S) - Maryland
The Steelers shouldn't go too long without addressing defense, and they do it here with Darnell Savage.
At this point in the drafts all the premiere EDGE rushers will likely be gone and it's a tad too early to target the second tier inside linebackers, so I'm looking at improving the secondary. Safety may not appear as a pressing need, but with Morgan Burnett being released anyday now the Steelers need somebody to be the third safety.
He may not be a big name or a big guy, but he plays a big game. Savage uses his 4.36 speed to fly around the field and cause havoc everywhere - he's just as likely to get a pick as he is to smack a runner in the back field. He not only brings speed, but playmaking ability the Steelers badly need on defense.
Sean Davis is the Steelers' starting free safety, but he is entering the final year of his contract and it's hard to guess what is going to happen with him following the season. Savage not only can be the third safety this year, but if the Steelers feel the need to move on from Davis next season then they have Savage to potentially take his place.
Savage is a versatile player who in the short-term can finally fill the dimebacker role the Steelers can't seem to fill. In the long-term he could be a starter on this defense and give the Steelers a much-needed playmaker in the secondary. Regardless, by drafting Savage the Steelers get a baller who will surely make this defense better.
Round 3A: Bobby Okereke (ILB) - Stanford
At this point in the draft, the Steelers shouldn't wait any longer to address inside linebacker. Vosean Joseph and Joe Giles-Harris are options here, but I'm opting for Bobby Okereke.
He isn't a perfect prospect, but I think he has the skillset to be an upgrade at inside linebacker over Jon Bostic and develop while Barron starts. His 4.58 40 yard dash gives the Steelers some much-needed speed at the position that's been missing since the loss of Ryan Shazier. He is also noted for being a very intelligent player and a leader - qualities I am sure the Steelers value given all of the recent drama. He may not end up being a huge difference maker like Devin Bush or Devin White would be, but I believe with his instincts and athleticism he can develop into a good starter.
The Steelers acknowledged that they didn't do enough to replace Ryan Shazier for the 2018 season so I would certainly expect an inside linebacker to be taken in the first 3 rounds. Yes Barron was signed, but the Steelers need somebody who can be the future of the position - I believe Okereke can be that guy.
Round 3B: Oshane Ximines (EDGE) - Old Dominion
The Steelers continue to flesh out there roster and add depth by drafting Oshane Ximines. The Steelers recently signed Anthony Chickillo to a new deal, but their depth at edge rusher is still fairly poor. I don't want to call Chickillo just a body, but, he isn't the most inspiring backup. With the Bud Dupree playing on a one year deal, the Steeler should be looking to draft somebody to develop behind him - Ximines can be that guy.
Coming from a small school, Ximines is a guy who could benefit from some time on the bench. He isn't an elite athlete like Dupree or TJ Watt, but I think he has the tools the Steelers can develop. I drafted D'Andre Walker in my previous mock draft for the same reason - best case scenario he can develop into a future starter, worst case scenario you get some depth and a good special teams player. Regardless, edge rusher is a position the Steelers need to pay attention to in the draft.
Round 4: Stanley Morgan Jr. (WR) - Nebraska
There's been a lot of debate regarding how urgent of a need wide receiver is. Many people don't have faith in James Washington and aren't especially inspire by the signing of Donte Moncrief. Some though, including myself, saw Washington's flashes in 2018 and believe in his ability to be a starter in 2019.
As I mentioned in my intro, (I know some of you skipped it) I also believe that Moncrief can contribute as a backup. I certainly wouldn't be upset if the Steelers drafted a wide receiver in rounds 2 or 3, but given their other needs and the depth of this wide receiver class, I believe they can land a talented wide receiver in the 4th round.
All this said, here I'm giving the Steelers Stanley Morgan Jr. Morgan who provides great depth and gives the Steelers another versatile receiver.
Round 5: Ben Burr-Kirven (ILB) - Washington
With the Steelers early pick in the 5th, I would like them to bolster their inside linebacker depth even further. With Ben Burr-Kirven you get a player with questionable size and instincts, but you also get a player with plus athleticism and a relentless motor. The trend with linebackers right now are guys who play with speed and Burr-Kirven fits that mold.
Often the Steelers double dip at positions of need (in 2018 they drafted both Terrell Edmunds and Marcus Allen) and this year I believe they should continue that strategy. He projects as a special teams stud and with his athleticism, he may be able to contribute on defense over time.
The Steelers have four remaining picks in the draft, but it's a bit early for me to confidently mock them any players there. Once players begin visiting the facility and we get more information from pro days we'll have a much better idea of who their late round targets will be.
If the draft plays out how I predicted, I'm sure it'll get mixed responses. Many people will be mad that the Steelers didn't take a linebacker earlier, but in the draft, you just gotta play the cards you’re dealt. I'm a huge advocate for the Steelers trading up for Devin Bush, but the draft doesn't always go the way you want it to. With this haul, the offense and defense are both replenished and I think the roster is in a good spot going into 2019.