SCU’s picks are in: all of our 2022 Steelers first round draft picks

The day is finally here! Football fans rejoice, your next taste of the 2022 season has arrived as team convene in Las Vegas for three days for the NFL Draft. Names will be called early, names will be called late, and others won’t be called at all as the drama runs rampant.

Steelers fans aren’t immune to the noise this season, as Ben Roethlisberger‘s retirement has left everyone assuming the organization will seek his eventual successor over the next three days. In fact, Liberty quarterback Malik Willis is +300 to be drafted by the Steelers at Betway. Only time will tell if he ends up falling to the Steelers or the team makes a move to get the player they have their eyes set on.

Our team of SCU contributors made their predictions on what Pittsburgh will do with the 20th overall pick in the first round of this year’s draft. Several also made additional picks, but this column focuses on pick 20… who did each of us take? Have a look!

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Jae Greenwald

First Round (20): Desmond Ridder – Quarterback (Cincinnati)

In this mock, I am assuming that both Pickett and Willis are off the board by the time the Steelers are on the clock at #20. Enter Desmond Ridder. A 4-year starter with the Cincinnati Bearcats with a 44-5 record as a starter, 28 career rushing touchdowns (school record for QBs), and overall an incredible athlete with undeniable potential.

Good News: Ridder thrived with the Bearcats working out of an RPO offense and Steelers OC Matt Canada has been introducing RPO to the Steelers offense since his arrival and with the addition of a mobile quarterback in Ridder, perhaps we’ll see a more dynamic offensive attack from Pittsburgh this year.

Above-average arm strength and mobility coming from the quarterback position should empower the young core of offensive weapons the Steelers have in Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuuuth, Diontae Johnson, and Chase Claypool.

Bad News: Ridder struggled the most when having to have to work from under center or look past his first read and scan the whole field. Most of this can be attributed to his accuracy issues and footwork issues – both of which Ridder will need to clean up to maximize his potential at the next level.

Like it or not Steelers Nation – the Pittsburgh Steelers brain trust has made it as clear as day that they plan on drafting a quarterback in the first round of the 2022 draft and they are not usually ones to deploy smoke screens in the draft process.

Whether it be Desmond Ridder, Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett, Matt Corral, or Sam Howell – all signs point to outgoing Steelers GM Kevin Colbert leaving the organization with the new face of the franchise coming out of the 2022 crop of quarterbacks (sorry Trubisky Truthers).

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Steve Dillon

First Round (20): Lewis Cine – Safety (Cincinnati)

The Steelers have a more pressing need at safety so it was between Daxton Hill, defensive back from Michigan, and Lewis Cine, safety from Georgia, for me.

I ultimately went with Cine here over Hill, who I love as a prospect and actually like slightly better than Cine.

I think both players will catch Mike Tomlin’s and Kevin Colbert’s eyes and it wouldn’t surprise me if they also like Daxton Hill more, but, at the risk of using a cliché, Cine just feels like a Steeler.

He’s a violent run defender who sets the tone early and often with highlight-reel hits.

He plays with the energy, competitiveness, and physicality that the Steelers are known for (look no further than the College Football Championship game against Alabama if you want an example of those traits from Cine).

He checks a lot of boxes that the Steelers look for in a first-round pick:

  • He has great athleticism, both on the field and in the impressive numbers that he put up at the combine.
  • He played in the SEC, a power five conference.
  • He’s an early declare for the draft.

One of my negatives for Cine is that he does not create many turnovers. He has the coverage ability, speed, and overall athleticism to produce them, but he did not make enough of those plays in college, despite his ability to break up passes.

Turnovers are something that the Steelers prioritize on defense, so the coaching staff will need to develop that part of Cine’s game if they are going to get the most out of him.

With that said, Cine can come in right away and make an impact on the Steelers’ defense, whose secondary needs restocked after losing Joe Haden and Terrell Edmunds (assuming he doesn’t resign with the team).

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Joe Kuzma (Draft 1.0)

First Round (20): Daxton Hill – Safety (Michigan)

I know, I know: the Steelers have a perceived need at the quarterback position. However, with Mitchell Trubisky signed in free agency and Mason Rudolph looking to compete for the job he was drafted in 2018 to takeover for, I don’t know if the team’s visits and interviews aren’t a smoke screen to select someone at a true position of need: safety.

Pittsburgh enters the 2022 NFL Draft without a starting strong safety penciled in on their depth chart. Terrell Edmunds sits available as a free agent, among others (such as Tyrann Mathieu) as teams stare down a deep class of safeties.

How deep?

Well, this goes hand-in-hand with last season, when I felt the Steelers had to jump to take Najee Harris in the first round, because he wouldn’t be around by their second round pick. That proved to be true, as Harris, Travis Etienne, and Javonte Williams were all of of the board when Pittsburgh was back on the clock.

In the second round they instead snagged the second-best tight end in the draft, Pat Freiermuth, after the top dog Kyle Pitts was taken in the top five picks.

Coincidentally, another Kyle, Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton, is considered the draft’s best safety, and should be long gone before pick 20 this year. That leaves several big names on the board still, where the Steelers could get a starting safety in the first round – but not if they wait until the second.

I buck the trend here in other mocks by not only going defense, but going against my gut of a quarterback pick, defensive line depth (and potential future starter) or even a stud receiver by taking Dax Hill, who projects to be a versatile chess piece who can be used anywhere on the field.

But it’s a close race with Lewis Cine, who likely won’t dip into the second round either and is a thumper that the Steelers also covet. Either way, this is the spot to guarantee your starter next to Minkah Fitzpatrick. (And if they miss, I hope the red Bat-phone is nearby to ring up the Honey Badger.)

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Christina Rivers

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.

Link To Mock Draft

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Zac Celedonia

First Round (20): Malik Willis – Quarterback (Liberty)

Oh yeah baby, you read that right. I have the Steelers landing the big fish, the headliner, the apple of Mike Tomlin’s eye: Malik Willis.

“No way Willis falls to 20.” I can hear the moaning and groaning already.

Look that may very well be the case, but that’s the whole reason I ran the simulator eight times. It took me eight times to get Malik Willis at 20, three times. I wanted to get him three times to ensure it wasn’t a fluke. (I took screenshots and all! We have receipts!)

In my findings, I concluded that the most common spot Willis goes before the Steelers is right at 19 to the Saints. In those instances, elite-level players such as Chris Olave, and Jordan Davis were sitting right there for the taking at 20.

So number one: if they need to jump the Saints, whether it be their pick at 19 or 16, it won’t cost much at all. And number two, if Malik Willis does go too early, the Steelers should get their pick of a pretty darn good player who falls in his place.

I’m telling you these fun facts because I’m a people pleaser. If you don’t want Malik Willis, well fine dude, there’s going to be plenty of talent left at 20.

And if you’re scared to death of trading up because you think it will cost a king’s ransom, I say it won’t. That’s all the comfort you get from me because like it or not, here comes Malik.

The Steelers get their quarterback of the future and I’m a happy camper. I’m also willing to bet that goes double for Mike Tomlin, whose love for Willis is currently the worst kept secret in the NFL.

Link To Mock Draft

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Ryan Lippert

First Round (20): Malik Willis – Quarterback (Liberty)

As I mentioned, we are entering a new era with a new starting quarterback for the Steelers. They signed Mitchell Trubisky this off-season and I believe he will get his shot as the starter, but they need a true franchise talent waiting and learning behind him.

The worst-kept secret of this draft cycle for the Steelers is that Mike Tomlin loves Malik Willis.

Yes, I understand that they may have to trade up to get him and I believe that is on the table, but after looking at the board, there’s a chance he falls right in their laps at 20.

Willis has some things to work on and isn’t a Day 1 starter but his ceiling is superstar level. He has a strong arm that can stretch the field and is very dangerous as a runner as well.

If he can sit a year and wait, he can step in and be the next franchise QB in Pittsburgh. However, if they can’t get Willis, I strongly believe that they should wait until next year’s draft as there aren’t any other quarterbacks that excite me.

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Joe Kuzma (Draft 2.0)

First Round (20): Malik Willis – Quarterback (Liberty)

Willis is the player who I believe the Steelers will draft.

Entering the offseason, I wasn’t on board with any of the quarterbacks. But after the constant flirtation by Mike Tomlin and company, the smoke signals all point to Willis as much as it did with Najee Harris last season.

There was no way the Steelers were passing on a running back with pick 22 last year, and there’s no way they are passing on a QB with pick 20: if they stay put.

To grab Willis will mean he needs to get past teams such as the Carolina Panthers (6), Houston Texans (13), and two picks by the New Orleans Saints (16,19). In most simulations, Willis was gone by 20, usually to the Saints.

That left me with other choices, such as Kenny Pickett and Desmond Ridder. However, I feel if Willis is the guy, and he makes it out of the top ten, the Steelers will do something to move up a few picks to acquire him. If not, Pickett and Ridder could be just as high on their boards.

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Brian E. Roach (Who he thinks gets picked)

First Round (20): Malik Willis – Quarterback (Liberty)

As we have said repeatedly on the podcast, of the quarterbacks in this draft class, Willis has the most “potential” for upside. That may also mean he has the most potential for buts. He’s athletic, has a strong arm, and can benefit from a year behind Trubisky/Rudolph to learn the pro game and the offense from Matt Canada.

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Brian E. Roach (Who I want them to pick)

First Round (20): Devonte Wyatt – Defensive Line (Georgia)

I am back on the Wyatt train. I am a Wyatt stan (no idea if I am using that word right or not). I’ll be honest, would be happy with either him or Jordan Davis (Wyatt’s teammate), but I think Wyatt is the better pro prospect, has greater position flexibility, and is just a monster of a Grown Ass Man. I’m all in.

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