Predicting the Steelers 2019 1st round draft pick

The draft is just around the corner now, and fans are on the edge of their seats waiting to see who the Steelers are going to select on April 25th. The Steelers have had their share of successes and failures in recent years when it comes to first round selections, and landing another “T.J. Watt-caliber” player would do wonders for Pittsburgh.

No matter which players you like in the 2019 draft class and which ones you don’t, all that really matters is what the Steelers are going to do with the 20th overall pick. Using data collected in recent draft history, we should be able to get a pretty close prediction.

If you followed the draft closely over the past four years, you can start to uncover the not-so hidden agenda of Kevin Colbert and company. Pre-draft visits and Combine meetings are helpful, but the biggest predictor when it comes to first round picks for the Steelers are Pro Day dinner meetings.

There are certain criteria I look for when predicting the Steelers pick:

  1. Is Mike Tomlin/Kevin Colbert on hand?
  2. Did they bring any positional coaches with them?
  3. Did they have a dinner meeting with a prospect?

If the answer is “no” to number one, you can basically write that prospect off as a potential Steelers pick in the 1st round. Positional coaches often indicate even more interest on the part of the Steelers. Statistically, however, the biggest predictor is pro day dinner meetings.

The Steelers have drafted players in the first round that they haven’t brought into the facility for a pre-draft visit. Likewise, they have passed on players that Tomlin/Colbert were on hand for at a team’s Pro Day. But over the past for years, Bud Dupree, Artie Burns, T.J. Watt, and Terrell Edmunds have all had Pro Day dinner meetings with Tomlin/Colbert.

Based on this evidence here are the players I believe will be the top candidates for the Steelers at pick 20.

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1. Chase Winovich, EDGE Michigan

The only reported dinner meeting so far for the Steelers has been Michigan edge rusher, Chase Winovich.  Winovich meets almost all the criteria that the Steelers look for in a first round prospect: He’s productive, athletic, and from a Power 5 school. However, Winovich is not an underclassman and he’s going to be 24 before the draft. We will see how much that particular area matters to the Steelers later this month.

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2. Devin Bush, LB Michigan

Let’s get something straight, if Devin Bush on the board at pick 20, he will be the Steelers choice. However, I think there is a very good chance he’s gone. The Steelers, in all likelihood, will attempt to trade up to land Bush, but that’s not a guarantee. Like Winovich, Tomlin and Colbert were on hand at Bush’s Pro Day, and no doubt came away impressed. Bush, however, didn’t get the dinner meeting, and it’s possible Tomlin and Colbert know more about his draft status than we do. Perhaps he will be long gone.

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3. Greedy Williams, CB LSU

Greedy is a really interesting prospect – a long rangy cover corner with sub 4.4 speed. Greedy meets most of the criteria for a possible first round selection: He’s young, he’s an underclassman, he’s athletic, and he’s from the SEC. It doesn’t hurt that Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert were both on hand at LSU’s Pro Day, though there were no reports of a dinner meeting. The Steelers don’t typically get chances to land cornerbacks of Greedy Williams’s status with how late they usually pick. He would be hard for the Steelers to pass on.

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4. Clelin Ferrell, EDGE Clemson

Head Coach Mike Tomlin was on hand for Clemson’s Pro Day back on March 14th, so that puts him in the running at pick 20. Though the National Championship team from this past season has a plethora of talent (Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, Trayvon Mullen, Tre Lamar, and more), I think Ferrell is a real possibility. Ferrell was once talked about as a potential top 10 pick, but has slipped as of late. Ferrell is a red-shirt junior who was extremely productive the past two years. If he ends up falling to pick 20, don’t be surprised if the Steelers bite.

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5. Mack Wilson, LB Alabama

It pains me to say this (because I don’t think Mack Wilson is a first round prospect), but I think the Alabama linebacker could be in play at pick 20. We have seen Colbert reach for positional need on a player like Artie Burns, right after the Bengals selected William Jackson. If they weigh the need more than the value, they could do it again for Mack Wilson if Devin Bush is off the board. Kevin Colbert was on hand at Alabama’s Pro Day, along with LB coach Jerry Olsvasky, so the interest is certainly there. Wilson is an underclassman player at a position of need who comes from a great football program. There’s a chance he is the pick at 20.

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