Christina Rivers’ 2022 3-Round Steelers Mock Draft
The off-season, thus far, for the Pittsburgh Steelers has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride. I am rarely happy to see free agents leave the team unless they were non productive in the Steelers’ system. Additions aren’t always players I can see in the black and gold. The NFL Draft, however, is always a little like Christmas morning, waiting to see what gift may come off of the big board into the Steelers’ grasp.
First Round: Tyler Linderbaum (20) – Center (Iowa)
This may feel like a “homer” pick since I’m an Iowa native, but there’s more to why I put Linderbaum at the top of the draft I’d love to see from the Steelers. Having an opportunity to watch him play locally, knowing the way that Kirk and Brian Ferentz focus on building offensive linemen, and understanding that Pittsburgh is still trying to build an O-line that can do it all for more than a couple years at a time all played a part in my pick at 20.
A two-time All-Big Ten first-team selection, Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year, a unanimous All-American (junior season), Rimington Trophy winner (for the nation’s best center), and finalist for the Outland Trophy (given to the nation’s top interior lineman), Linderbaum held a 90-plus grade two years in a row by Pro Football Focus.
Second Round: Nick Cross (52) – Safety (Maryland)
There seems to be a consensus that the Steelers need help at the safety position and although Cross is not the top-mention in many mock drafts for Pittsburgh, Daxton Hill and Lewis Cine don’t – at this point – look like they’ll fall all the way to 52.
What intrigues me about Cross is that he has stopping power and isn’t afraid to mix it up with big tight ends and move downhill. He has the right temperament to also be effective in stopping rushers and pressuring quarterbacks outside of the pocket.
Cross’s style would allow Minkah Fitzpatrick to play more open coverage at the top of the defense where he can hawk the ball.
If Terrell Edmunds re-signs, it would give the Steelers defensive staff time to work with Cross on opening up his hips to improve his range instead of working in a linear fashion as he has in collegiate play.
Third Round: Brian Asamoah (84) – Linebacker (Oklahoma)
What, no quarterback? That’s right, folks. I honestly don’t see the Steelers grabbing one in the first three rounds (I’ll explain later). With the free agency signing of Myles Jack to pair with Devin Bush, some may question this move, especially in the third.
Asamoah is the type of linebacker some analysts see as a large safety, but he can be a 3-4 inside linebacker or 4-3 Will as well. His ability to react to the ball and get to it is aggressive and he has the athleticism to drop into coverage.
Asamoah can handle tackling duties solo, as long as he improves his angles in gaps. That’s something Bush and Jack can teach him. His quickness between reading and reacting early in the play has allowed him to sniff out misdirection by opposing run offenses. His sideline-to-sideline speed is good as well.
In nearly every mock draft I conducted leading up to this article, one quarterback continued to have a late-round availability: Skylar Thompson of Kansas State. I’m not sold on the fact that Pittsburgh couldn’t get an NFL quarterback off the waiver wire, including Joshua Dobbs (who’s likely the get cut by the Cleveland Browns), ahead of training camp.
Thompson had 40 starts in 45 games with Kansas State. He broke school records with 6,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a career. In his senior year, he completed 69.5 percent of his passes for 12 touchdowns and 2,113 yards.
He is mobile – sometimes too often due to impatience – but he has good timing in reading coverages. He will be 25, though, and has an injury history. Many analysts think he may go undrafted.
Thompson could give the Steelers someone to push Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph to up their game as Pittsburgh continues to monitor the collegiate quarterbacks who’d fill the 2023 draft class.