Steve Dillon’s 2021 6-Round Steelers Mock Draft
The 2021 offseason has not been kind to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster. The Steelers made savvy moves to keep some of their better free agents in town, despite significant salary cap issues, in Cam Sutton, Tyson Alualu, and Juju Smith-Schuster. However, the departures of Bud Dupree, Maurkice Pouncey, Mike Hilton, Steven Nelson, Matt Feiler, Vince Williams, and Alejandro Villanueva, have left the team with multiple glaring holes on the roster that they will need to address in the draft later this month.
The team has serious short-term, and long-term, needs at both cornerback and offensive line, so they will likely target those positions early in the draft.
Moreover, they will also look to add depth at linebacker, edge rusher, tight end, and safety, as well as a running back that can compete for a starting job.
Round 1 (24): Asante Samuel Jr. – CB (Florida State)
The Steelers are aware that they need help in the secondary, as evidenced by the fact that they have spoken, in some capacity, with most of the top tier cornerback prospects in the 2021 draft class, including Caleb Farley from Virginia Tech, Jaycee Horn from South Carolina, Greg Newsome from Northwestern, and Asante Samuel Jr. from Florida State.
Jaycee Horn will, unfortunately, probably go off the board well before the Steelers pick at 24 and did so in this mock. Similarly, Greg Newsome also did not make it to the Steelers at 24 in this mock draft.
I could have gone with Caleb Farley here but while he offers, by far, the highest ceiling of any cornerback prospect in the class, and I believe the Steelers will love his film, it is hard to say whether they will still have him on their board given his injury history and the recent news that he would need a second back procedure despite not playing in the 2020 college season.
With that said, I ultimately have the Steelers drafting Asante Samuel Jr. in the first round here.
While he does not fit the elite athletic profile that the Steelers look for in first-round picks, they have shown interest in Samuel and there is a good chance that he will end up being one of the higher graded prospects left on their board, and their highest-graded cornerback when they pick at 24.
He also will probably not make it back to them in the 2nd round if they pass on him here and the talent drop off at corner in this class is pretty steep.
Some of the things that stood out to me while I was watching Samuel:
- Samuel is extremely smart and instinctive. He reads routes and the quarterback’s eyes well, and his IQ in zone coverage jumps off the screen.
- He is a calculated ball hawk. When he knows where the ball is going, he is quick to break on a route and make a pass breakup or interception.
- He is a high pedigree prospect, which the Steelers love.
- While he does not have elite athleticism, he is quick and “twitchy,” meaning he can easily change his direction and accelerate.
- Samuel is very experienced in man coverage, but he has the IQ to succeed in NFL zone coverage schemes as well.
- He recovers quickly when he gets beat on a route.
- He is an aggressive, physical tackler for his size.
- At 5’10”, 185 pounds, he is undersized for the position.
I love Asante Samuel Jr. as a prospect and am confident that he will succeed in the NFL. However, while I believe Samuel has high-end cornerback two potential, I do not think he will ever be a number one corner. In today’s NFL though, you need to have a deep secondary to succeed on defense, and the cornerback-two position is much more valuable than it used to be.
Round 2 (55): Liam Eichenberg – OT (Notre Dame)
The Steelers will most likely take advantage of the depth of this offensive line class at some point, and if a player like Eichenberg falls to them in the 2nd round, Steelers fans should be ecstatic. I have my reservations that he will fall this far, but he did in this mock, so I drafted him.
Eichenberg is better as a run-blocking tackle thus far in his development. His pass protection is a bit inconsistent and he can be a liability at times, especially against speed rushers.
That does not mean he will always be a liability in that department, however. He has the athleticism and quickness for it, he may just need more coaching before a team fully trusts him to pass protect, especially if he plays left tackle.
His best reps right now, in my opinion, came when Notre Dame allowed him to get vertical in the running game and get to the second level.
Overall, Eichenberg is a fairly polished prospect that should be able to contribute in the NFL right away, and if he develops to his potential he could turn into one of the league’s better tackles.
Round 3 (87): Chazz Surratt – LB (UNC)
Chazz Surratt is more of a project player than the first two picks in this mock. Recruited as a quarterback out of high school, Surratt did not play linebacker at UNC until his junior season in 2019.
He has high-end athleticism that would translate to more of a depth player behind Devin Bush than a replacement for Vince Williams. What he lacks in size, at 229 pounds, he makes up for in speed, though he is strong for his size. He is not a liability against the run, but he projects to have more success in coverage and chase to the sidelines type of linebacker than a between-the-tackles player.
Ideally, Surratt would play in a rotation with Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, and company, early on in 2021 while the Steelers coach him up to take on a larger role towards the end of the season and going forward.
Round 4 (128): Trey Hill – C (Georgia)
With Maurkice Pouncey’s retirement, the Steelers have a significant need at center now and they will likely address the position in the draft to at least add competition for B.J. Finney for the starting job. That player could very well be Trey Hill, given that the Steelers have reportedly spoken with him.
Trey Hill primarily played center at Georgia, but he also has the flexibility to backup guard and center should he not win the starting job over Finney in 2021.
He does not have the athleticism that the Steelers are used to from a player like Pouncey, but he is strong and aggressive as a run-blocking lineman.
Round 4 (140): James Wiggins – S (Cincinnati)
Wiggins is an athletic, physical defender that the Steelers can draft in the middle rounds and develop into a contributor. He likely would have gone higher in the draft if not for his injury history.
Despite signing Miles Killebrew this offseason, the Steelers could still upgrade their depth at safety for sub-packages, and in case Minkah Fitzpatrick or Terrell Edmunds go down to injury this season.
Round 6 (216): Cade Johnson – WR (South Dakota State)
Wide receiver is arguably the deepest position group on the Steelers’ roster in 2021, but the depth chart could significantly thin out in 2022 if both Juju Smith-Schuster and James Washington leave in free agency. The Steelers also still do not know exactly what they have in Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool.
Cade Johnson is a shifty wide receiver and punt returner that the Steelers can bring into training camp to see if he can earn a spot on the roster as a 6th wide receiver. Ideally, he would “redshirt” his rookie season while he acclimates to NFL-level competition, since he played in the FCS in college, and possibly develop into a wide receiver three or four in 2022.
Johnson is a good route runner, had strong production in the FCS, and performed well at the Senior Bowl. I love his route running and ability to separate, and believe he could develop into a contributor for an NFL roster.