If math is an exact science, mock drafts represent the ultimate inexact science. Half wish-list and all speculation, mock drafts generate a ton of interest in the months leading up to the real thing. Many analysts put out multiple mock drafts in reaction to the Combine and college Pro-Day results. Regardless of how accurate or inaccurate they turn out to be, they feed the anticipation for the real thing. The Pittsburgh Steelers have two main needs heading into the 2018 NFL Draft. This Pittsburgh Steelers mock draft addresses their primary needs at inside linebacker, safety, and a potential need at running back.
The Steelers have eyes on a seventh Super Bowl title in 2018. They believe they’re only a couple of pieces away from achieving that goal. Since Chuck Noll arrived in 1969, they’ve built six championship teams through the draft. In fact, they’re the last team to win the Super Bowl with a completely homegrown roster. The Steelers are looking to add an inside linebacker to fill the void left by Ryan Shazier, and to replace safety Mike Mitchell. While they’ve added a couple of stop-gaps in Jon Bostic and Morgan Burnett through free agency, the Steelers want long term solutions. It’s hard to say what the Steelers will actually do April 26-28, but it could look similar to this 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers mock draft.
Pittsburgh Steelers First Round Selection: Safety Ronnie Harrison – Alabama
Ronnie Harrison is a typical Alabama safety who is fast and physical. He has natural instincts for the game that allows him to play faster than his speed would indicate. Harrison is a punishing tackler, especially in run defense, and rarely misses when he makes contact. He’s decent in coverage for a safety and is usually in position to break up the pass. Harrison tracks the ball well and will provide the occasional interception, but what he does best is intimidate receivers. He is fluid in his movements and would give the Steelers positional versatility. Harrison could line up at strong or free safety, and as an inside linebacker in nickle and dime sub-packages. He was the first pick in this Steelers mock draft and could be their first pick in two weeks.
Pittsburgh Steelers Second Round Selection: Linebacker Darius Leonard – South Carolina State
There is no way to replace a star the caliber of Ryan Shazier. The Steelers are looking for someone with similar traits though, and Darius Leonard from South Carolina State fits the bill. Leonard lined up at outside linebacker for SCU and played with a huge chip on his shoulder. He was passed over by Clemson and made the rest of the MEAC conference pay for that slight. Leonard is a sure tackler with excellent sideline to sideline range and has impressive closing speed. He diagnoses plays quickly and finishes what he starts.
Leonard finished his career with 381 tackles, with 264 being of the solo variety. That included 42 tackles for loss, 20 sacks, and seven forced fumbles. Leonard also showed the ability to drop into coverage by defending 13 passes and picking off six more. His value to the Pittsburgh Steelers defense would be moving inside. Leonard’s athleticism would be an immediate upgrade at the position, taking away some of the sting from losing Shazier.
Pittsburgh Steelers Third Round Selection: Running Back Nick Chubb – Georgia
Nick Chubb had a monster freshman season for the University of Georgia after replacing Todd Gurley. He was off to an even better sophomore season until it was derailed by an ACL tear. Chubb returned to have a respectable junior season but seemed to lack the home run speed that made him special. That speed returned this past season. Chubb’s breakaway speed, paired with his power and balance, has made him dangerous once again.
Chubb averaged more than six yards per carry at Georgia and scored 44 touchdowns. He finished with 4,769 yards. Chubb has great vision and excellent lateral movement. He runs with good balance and a powerful leg drive, so arm tackles and hitting him high won’t stop him. He’s a good fit for the Steelers offense because of his running style and has a better pair of hands than he’s given credit for. The only thing better than getting Chubb in this Steelers mock draft would be landing him in the third round of the real thing.
Pittsburgh Steelers First Pick in the Fifth Round: Linebacker Shaquem Griffin – Central Florida
Shaquem Griffen is the 2016 ACC Defensive Player of the Year. He put on an eye-popping show at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine, and did it all with one hand. Griffin lost his left hand at the age of four due to a rare prenatal condition. Despite his handicap, Griffin is on the verge of living his NFL dream. He is extremely fast and makes plays all over the field. Griffin finished 2017 with 74 tackles, including 13.5 tackles for loss, and seven sacks. He also recorded an interception, broke up three passes, and forced two fumbles. Griffin would be a great addition to the Steelers special teams. His versatility makes him a great fit in Keith Butler‘s system where he could fill multiple roles in sub-packages.
Pittsburgh Steelers Second Pick of the Fifth Round: Wide Receiver Cedrick Wilson – Boise state
The name Cedric Wilson, who comes via the fifth round of this Steelers mock draft, should be familiar to many Steelers fans. His father, Cedrick, had some clutch receptions on the Steelers Super Bowl XL championship in 2005. Wilson brings excellent size and speed from Boise State. He is one of the best prospects in the draft at tracking the deep ball, and has excellent body control. Wilson is adept at breaking off routes and creating separation, and when he catches the ball, he is athletic and physical. He needs to add some bulk though to help get off of, and through, the press coverage he’ll face in the NFL. Wilson’s initial value will come on special teams, where he has been a solid punt returner.
Pittsburgh Steelers First Pick of the Seventh Round: Guard Wyatt Teller – Va Tech
The Pittsburgh Steelers have had success with offensive linemen who were either drafted late or not drafted at all. Wyatt Teller could be their latest success story. Teller is a grinder with a nasty disposition and plays to the whistle. He’s a converted defensive lineman though, and is very raw. Teller is much better at run blocking than he in pass protection, but has the tools for Mike Munchak to develop. Teller could be a seventh round steal in any draft whether it’s the real one or this Steelers mock draft.
Pittsburgh Steelers Second Pick of the Seventh Round: Defensive tackle Kendrick Norton – Miami
The final pick of this 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers mock draft is Miami’s Kendrick Norton. Norton is stout, powerful, and moves well for a big man. He has a heavy punch and closes down blocks in small spaces. Norton gets upfield ahead of blocks when playing the angles, and closes quickly on sacks. He can be run out of plays with poor technique at times, as well as getting tied up by double teams, but he has a lot to work with. Norton has a chance to be a productive part of a rotation with the right coaching, and he would get that in Pittsburgh.
Last Word on This Pittsburgh Steelers Mock Draft
The Steelers are consistent with how they conduct their drafts, and rarely do anything to raise eyebrows. They have been linked to quarterback Mason Rudolph and running Derrius Guise in the first round, but neither one is likely to be chosen. However, if there is going to be a draft where the Steelers deviate from the norm, this one could be it. They addressed their needs through free agency with a couple of stop-gap free agents, Bostic and safety Morgan Burnett. These additions keep the Steelers from having to reach for their main positions of need in the first two rounds. They also leave the possibility open for the surprise selection. Chances are though that the Steelers will follow their standard operating procedure, but of course anything can happen at any given draft.
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