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2018 Mock Draft database shows the Steelers favored to select Leighton Vander Esch in Round 1

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/15/2018 - 12:32pm

The “experts” on the internet have spoken, and they feel the Steelers and Leighton Vander Esch are destined to meet up in Round 1 of the 2018 NFL Draft.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have options when it comes to their first round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Not only when it comes to prospects, but also in regarding position. With the free agency moves they have made, the Steelers could take an inside linebacker if one of their prized prospects remains, a safety or even another position which they feel the Best Player Available (BPA) strategy would leave them no other choice but to select a prospect not many are suggesting.

You know, like if the Steelers were to take a quarterback or wide receiver in the first round while everyone thinks defense first will be their priority.

Nonetheless, with the draft just under two weeks away, the online mock drafters are feverishly typing away with mock draft after mock draft in hopes of not just garnering clicks, but predicting how the chips will fall on draft day.

It is near impossible to keep tabs on all of the mock drafts out there, so SB Nation has taken the mock drafts and compiled them into a database (hello 2018 Mock Draft Database) which shows fans exactly who the experts who pen these mock drafts truly believe will be the Steelers’ top pick.

Here is how the data shakes out currently for the black-and-gold:

22% — LB Leighton Vander Esch - Boise State

19% — LB Rashaan Evans - Alabama

11% — CB Josh Jackson - Iowa

11% — CB Mike Hughes - UCF

36% — Other

Clearly, the numbers are pretty close between Evans and Vander Esch, but what most people might overlook is the ‘Other’ category. The fact 36-percent of the people posting mock drafts are not in agreement as to who the Steelers will pick in the upcoming draft should tell fans a lot about the team’s overall approach to the process.

Anything can happen.

Sure, tab a player you think will go to the Steelers in Round 1, but the truth is anything can happen when the proverbial bullets start flying on draft night. So, stay tuned and get your popcorn ready. This could be one to remember...

Jerome Bettis chimes in on Le’Veon Bell and the importance of the Steelers getting him signed

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/15/2018 - 10:30am

The Hall of Fame running back, and Steelers legend, chimes in on the Steelers and Le’Veon Bell coming to terms on a new contract.

With each passing day, the countdown continues for the Steelers front office and Le’Veon Bell to agree to a long-term deal (deadline is set for July 16 at 4:00 p.m. EST). Whether Bell still feels he’s being painted a villain by his fans, is his prerogative. One realization that hardly anyone can deny is his significance to the team’s offense and reasons why he mustn’t be in another uniform for the foreseeable future!

Hall of Fame running back, Jerome Bettis spoke with Nick Wright and Chris Carter on FS1’s show ‘First Things First’. He went on to share his thoughts about how open the Steelers’ window is for winning the Super Bowl.

“I think the Steelers are nowhere near as good a football team without Le’Veon Bell… because of the talent that’s around him… it allows him to do a lot more than most running backs could ever consider doing.”

When asked about Bell’s impact on the team.

“If he was on a different team, they’ll put eight guys in the box; if he lines up (wide), they’ll double cover him. So, they would do so much to limit him somewhere else.”

Check out the full interview here:

If both parties can’t come to terms on a new deal, it will be awkward seeing an integral part of the offense broken up. However, one can make the argument the Steelers transitioned fine without Mike Wallace and James Harrison at first, but star players for any team still have legitimate value to long-term success. Are the Steelers prepared to replace Bell with James Conner now? One could argue it is a possibility, but not only their Super Bowl chances would be affected, they would be very vulnerable to losing their top spot in the AFC North.

In other words, the Steelers can’t turn a blind eye to this situation, even as the 2018 NFL Draft approaches.

What’s more telling is how Bell has already stated skip offseason workouts and training camp again. Will this damage his relationship with the team? It’s still a trick situation no matter how you cut it, but why should Colbert and Tomlin have to worry about distractions?

“Any player that misses training camp… I think it does that affect that player, but I think that if affects his teammates as well, because they don’t get to work together,” said Colbert. “He had a productive year without coming to camp last year. Were we as good as we could have been, especially early? Probably not. Hopefully we can get something done long-term, he plugs in, no distractions and we all go to try to win a Super Bowl.”

Bell has insisted that it’s value more so than the money. “I don’t necessary care about the money aspect of it,” said Bell after following up a 155 total yards performance in the playoff loss to the Jaguars. “I just want to be valued where I’m at. If I am playing this game, I want to set standards for all the other running backs behind me, like Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott, Melvin Gordon, guys like that. I’m a guy they can kind of look at. I feel I can do that. I’m in a position where I can do that, and I’m going to do it.”

No matter how you cut it, the thought of Bell not being signed long-term can be a possible sign of things to come. Bell is valuable, but becoming a family resonates more with the organization and the fans than one individual’s value. Being a unified family even means doing everything possible that everyone’s situated is handled appropriately which is why the time is now to try and get a deal done.

Will they be able to get a deal done? Only time will tell, but fans should be hoping Bell and the Steelers can come to terms before it is too late.

Preseason schedule, Bradley, Dunbar and more

Steelers.com News - Sun, 04/15/2018 - 8:00am
If you missed anything this week, we have you covered with our weekly recap.

The Steelers are on the verge of turning a team weakness into a position of strength

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/15/2018 - 7:50am

The Pittsburgh Steelers secondary is potentially on the verge of becoming an area of strength for the team after being widely considered an area of concern in recent seasons. They are following the blueprint to success established by their very own offensive line.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. A genuine compliment to an individual or idea, even if it is often times unintended.

The NFL landscape is a living testament of this old adage. With the 2018 NFL Draft fast approaching, it is impossible to watch any pre-draft programming, or prospect interviews, without being reminded of this fact.

Countless young men about to embark on their professional football journeys enthusiastically recall how they patterned their playing style after their childhood football hero or role model.

Team executives will spill out of NFL war rooms on draft day and confess their desire to emulate another franchise who presumably is ahead of the curve when it comes to team building and cultivating a winning atmosphere within an organization. The Arizona Cardinals (aka Pittsburgh Steelers West) immediately come to mind as they are always picking up former Steeler players and coaches in a thinly veiled attempt to build their franchise in the image of a franchise they greatly admire. There have definitely been worse ideas.

What the Cardinals apparently have failed to realize is there is no great secret to the Steelers ‘success. It is the result of the Rooney family’s influence and values; such as hard work, honor, and personal integrity. It can not be stolen like KFC’s secret recipe, only emulated.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have attempted to rebuild their secondary in recent drafts by committing multiple early round selections to the backend of their defense. This was necessitated by the careers of longtime stalwarts Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, and Ryan Clark coming to an end. The Steelers may finally be ready to reap the fruits of their labor.

They appear to be following the same blueprint they previously used to rebuild their offensive line.

They abandoned the failed Carnell Lake experiment, who turned out to be a far superior player than coach, and brought in former PSU defensive back coach Tom Bradley. The rumor mill was swirling with reports that the team was considering hiring former Steeler great Rod Woodson, but those unconfirmed reports never came to fruition. I believe hiring Tom Bradley was the correct decision as he has been reported to be a strong teacher and tactician, which is just what this young secondary needs at the moment.

Sounds a lot like when the Steelers hired Mike Munchak to take over as offensive line coach. The hiring was met with little fanfare but received positive reactions throughout the NFL community.

What a difference hiring the right man for the job can make.

The Steelers are hoping that Bradley’s hiring will produce similar results.

The cupboard is hardly bare. The Steelers secondary is filled with talented individuals who, for whatever reason, have failed to completely mesh as a unit. They haven’t achieved the desired results their collective talents would presume possible. They are a mixture of proven veterans and young players yet to realize their potential.

The recent free agent acquisition of safety Morgan Burnett will undoubtably improve the units tackling ability and help resolve many of their communication issues. He, along with Joe Haden, bring a stabilizing veteran presence to the secondary. He will team with Davis to form a safety tandem which will basically be interchangeable on the backend of the defense.

This is a reoccurring theme when evaluating the individual talents of the players at Tom Bradley’s disposal. Many of the players possess positional flexibility which will enhance Bradley’s creativity when designing his sub packages and assist in disguising his coverage schemes.

Burnett and Davis both represent the new breed of hybrid safety which is becoming common around the league. In an effort to reduce mismatches across the field in response to modern day offenses specifically designed to create them, safeties are being asked to not only cover like a cornerback but tackle like a linebacker. This also helps limit the number of necessary substitutions which can become difficult against no huddle or hurry up offenses. Cameron Sutton has also displayed this positional versatility in the past.

Bradley inherits an intriguing project in cornerback Brian Allen. Allen remains a raw prospect which makes sense seeing he is relatively new to the position after starting his college career as a wide receiver. His impressive measurables and smooth athleticism was on full display during the preseason and during his productive special teams performance throughout the regular season, so much so the team never dared attempt to sneak him on the practice squad at any point.

The Steelers are sure to provide Bradley with additional talent to work with during the 2018 NFL Draft later this month. They have shown interest in a number of intriguing prospects leading up to the draft; such as rangy cover safety Jessie Bates from Wake Forest and safety/linebacker hybrid Kyzir White out of WVU. Both players would be welcomed additions if available.

Soon the draft will be over, the dust will settle, and Tom Bradley can finally get to the task at hand. All he needs to do is channel his inner Mike Munchak and follow the blueprint that has been laid out before him. He must utilize his impressive teaching abilities and communication skills to transform this talented group of individuals into a well coached fighting machine.

Tom Bradley may turn out to be just what the doctor ordered to turn the Steelers secondary around.

I'm glad the Steelers don't have the Browns’ draft dilemma this year

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/15/2018 - 6:44am

Draft Saquon Barkley first overall or risk losing him before the fourth pick? This is the dilemma the Browns face as they prepare for the 2018 NFL Draft.

As they prepare for the 2018 NFL Draft with the first and fourth overall selections in the fold, it sure would be exciting to be a Browns fan right now--at least hypothetically speaking.

Actually, that’s not true because unless your team’s a Super Bowl contender who managed to swing a huge trade, having either or both of those picks means enduring about 364 days of heartache leading up to the draft.

Still, if you’re a Browns fan or front-office official, this upcoming draft has to be rather exciting since it could go a long way towards shifting the team’s fortunes for the good.

Unless they screw it up.

Of course, having the first overall pick, it would be hard for Cleveland to “screw it up” initially, save for a reach of epic proportions.

Coming off an 0-16 2017 campaign--one that piggybacked a 1-15 2016 campaign--nobody would blame the Browns if they went out and drafted a quarterback number one, likely USC’s Sam Darnold.

In football terms, it would be like a coach punting on fourth and one early in the game after his offense stalled out just shy of the 50 yard line. Conventional wisdom says you don’t go for it in that situation, and nobody is going to question a coach if he plays things conservatively--until perhaps weeks or months later.

Yes, what if the team loses a heartbreaker?

How different would the outcome have been, had the coach decided to roll the dice early in the game?

As it pertains to Cleveland’s draft strategy, I believe Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is the equivalent of going for it on fourth and one on your side of the 50 early in the game. It goes against conventional wisdom, but what if you make it?

And there is no question the Browns--or any team, really--will “make it,” if it selects Barkley--a more can’t miss prospect, I haven’t seen in quite some time.

Right, but couldn’t the Browns get Barkley with the fourth overall selection?

Yes...unless someone else comes along and takes him with the second or third pick.

You might think the Giants and Jets, drafting second and third, respectively, may both be in the market for one of the “Big Four” quarterbacks expected to go early--namely Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield and Darnold. And you’d be right, expect for the Giants, I mean.

Of the two professional football organizations that call New York home, if I had to pick one that may be a bit torn between looking for the next Eli Manning and finding a weapon to complement the current Eli Manning, well, it would be the team that resides in the NFC.

The Giants are in a unique situation, where they can get really good in a hurry--franchise quarterbacks are always the great equalizer--and a player like Barkley could be the Terrell Davis-like shot in the arm Manning, 37, needs at this stage of his career.

Therefore, it wouldn’t exactly be a shocker if the Giants quickly snatched up Barkley moments after Cleveland decided on its next quarterback of the future.

This is why, if I’m the Browns, I roll the dice on Barkley with the first pick and then take my chances on whatever quarterbacks happen to be left at number four--in my scenario, Cleveland would have the choice of at least two of those prospects.

All drafts are crap-shoots, but there’s a reason Darnold, Rosen, Allen and Mayfield are bunched together, while Barkley is head and shoulders above every other running back in the draft.

And, man, how much of a difference can a running back make right out of the gate?

Look at what Ezekiel Elliot did for Dak Prescott--and the Cowboys entire offense--two years ago.

Look at what Leonard Fournette did for Blake Bortles--and to the Steelers entire defense--one year ago.

I truly believe this quarterback class can be something special--think 2004 and Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers and Manning--and no matter who the Browns wind up with, he will likely be very good.

But there is no special running back “class” in this 2018 draft--at least in my opinion.

This is why the Browns can’t allow Saquon Barkley to last past the first pick of the 2018 NFL Draft.

They can wind up with the best of both worlds, or they can wind up with even more regret.

Podcast: Plenty of Steelers talk and a live mock draft for the 2018 NFL Draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 04/15/2018 - 5:21am

Join Matt and Sabo as they give their picks for the first ever BTSC live draft in podcast form!

Join Matt and Sabo for another round of sound, but on this special edition of the Black-and-Gold Preview, the duo tackles more than just the news and rumors.

Check out the rundown of the show:

- Burfict suspension upheld (I have some worries about the bengals grabbing the ilb we want)

- Browns and Jarvis Landry Finalizing a 5 year $75.5 mil deal. Every wr that gets paid pushes bell further out the door

- Browns reported to have Josh Allen as the favorite for the number 1 overall pick.

- Live Full first round Mock draft!

- and MUCH MORE!

If you missed the live show, you can access it via podcast in a number of ways our BlogTalkRadio page, on iTunes by searching The Standard is the Standard, on various podcast apps for android users, and in the player at the top of the page.

...

The show is sponsored by Frank Walker Law, the top criminal defense firm to call in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia and home to one of the nation’s top-100 ranked trial attorneys in Frank Walker. For his PA office, call 412-212-3878 or to reach his WV office call 304-712-2089. You should also checkout his website frankwalkerlaw.com to see how he can help you in your time of need. Frank Walker Law: Real Talk, Real Experience, Real Results.

Shazier attends Ohio State spring game

Steelers.com Videos - Sat, 04/14/2018 - 9:34pm
Ryan Shazier was on the sidelines for The Ohio State University's annual spring game.

Shazier stands to cheers at Ohio State spring game

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Sat, 04/14/2018 - 6:19pm

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State fan favorite Ryan Shazier visited the spring game Saturday and stood without assistance to cheers from the crowd at his alma mater.

Podcast: Join the guys for the first ever LIVE Mock Draft tonight at 8pm ET

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 04/14/2018 - 4:33pm

Join Matt and Sabo as they give their picks for the first ever BTSC live draft in podcast form!

Join Matt and Sabo for another round of sound, but on this special edition of the Black-and-Gold Preview, the duo tackles more than just the news and rumors.

Check out the rundown of the show:

- Burfict suspension upheld (I have some worries about the bengals grabbing the ilb we want)

- Browns and Jarvis Landry Finalizing a 5 year $75.5 mil deal. Every wr that gets paid pushes bell further out the door

- Browns reported to have Josh Allen as the favorite for the number 1 overall pick.

- Live Full first round Mock draft!

- and MUCH MORE!

To listen live, and to call in, simply go to our BlogTalkRadio page, and dial (347) 850-8581 to be a part of the show!

If you missed the live shows, you can access it via podcast in a number of ways our BlogTalkRadio page, on iTunes by searching The Standard is the Standard, on various podcast apps for android users, and in the player at the top of the page.

...

The show is sponsored by Frank Walker Law, the top criminal defense firm to call in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia and home to one of the nation’s top-100 ranked trial attorneys in Frank Walker. For his PA office, call 412-212-3878 or to reach his WV office call 304-712-2089. You should also checkout his website frankwalkerlaw.com to see how he can help you in your time of need. Frank Walker Law: Real Talk, Real Experience, Real Results.

Ryan Shazier joins Malcolm Jenkins as honorary captains at Ohio State Spring Game

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 04/14/2018 - 1:20pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowl linebacker was back at his old stomping grounds in Ohio for the Buckeyes’ Spring Game.

Ryan Shazier won’t be playing football in 2018, but it doesn’t mean he won’t be around football. Not only is he helping the Pittsburgh Steelers in a variety of ways through coaching and scouting, he recently joined Malcolm Jenkins as honorary captains at the Ohio State Spring Game.

Check out some photos of the event:

The captains ✊

@MalcolmJenkins
⚪️ @RyanShazier pic.twitter.com/1Pbibzww7e

— Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) April 14, 2018

Spring Game Salute to our Buckeye Legends and Scarlet & Gray Captains -- @MalcolmJenkins & @RyanShazier #GoBucks pic.twitter.com/U9RfmYl7l2

— Ohio State Buckeyes (@OhioStAthletics) April 14, 2018

Ryan Shazier raising the roof as one of two honorary captains, along with Malcolm Jenkins, at Ohio State's spring game. pic.twitter.com/RNtHWCOCoF

— Eleven Warriors (@11W) April 14, 2018

Shazier would give up a lot to be back on the field preparing for the upcoming regular season with his teammates, but, with this goal in mind, he will focus on his rehabilitation in hopes of one day donning the black-and-gold again and running onto Heinz Field to play for the team who drafted him.

In the meantime, Shazier is keeping busy, and going back to share some knowledge and inspire the next crop of Ohio State players had to be a pleasure for No. 50.

As always, we here at BTSC continue to support Shazier in his rehabilitation and remind everyone to continue to SHALIEVE!

Shazier: 'It motivates you'

Steelers.com News - Sat, 04/14/2018 - 11:15am
Ryan Shazier was an honorary coach for the Ohio State Spring Game.

Seeing who the experts predict the Steelers to take in Round 1

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 04/14/2018 - 11:08am

Time to look outside of ESPN to see who other “experts” are predicting the Steelers to draft in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

The NFL Draft is fast approaching and is all the rage. Fans see drafts posted every day from the BTSC armchair GMs to BTSC draftniks to industry “experts” who get paid some serious cabbage to share their knowledge. The NFL Draft can be summed up in a quote from Peter King last year, “There’s a gulf between the first player on the vast majority of NFL boards—Texas A&M pass-rusher Myles Garrett—and the second player on those boards. And there is no consensus on who that second player is. That’s why this mock draft will probably be like every other one in the mediasphere before Thursday night: wrong.”

On BTSC Mel Kiper and Todd McShay get their voices heard, but what about the rest of the “experts” out there? Their voices left out in the cold. What makes these guys so miserable that they are silenced on BTSC? Do they not contribute enough to the Jeff Hartman retirement fund? OK, enough teasing the great work that Jeff does around here. I just figured it would be a bit fun to showcase some of the other Pittsburgh Steeler mocks out there by other “experts”.

I asked in a fanpost for suggested sites and received some great suggestion and some are used below.

The Huddle: Forrest Long 4/4

Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise St

The Ryan Shazier injury has left the Steelers with an major hole to fill at LB.

...

NDT Scouting: Jonah Tuls 4/5

Jessie Bates III, S, Wake Forest

Wake Forest’s Jessie Bates has been one of the pre-draft process’ biggest risers. He is arguably the best centerfielder in this draft with his range, instincts and ball skills. While the Steelers signed Morgan Burnett as a stopgap replacement for Mike Mitchell, Bates has all the tools to be Pittsburgh’s long-term solution at free safety.

...

DraftTek:4/11

Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

Having used Free Agency to patch the holes in their roster, the Steelers have latitude to look at a wide swath of talent to identify elite athletes that fit their team. Edge Rushers Okoronkwo and Hubbard are a consideration, as is the Safety, Harrison, from Alabama, but the best talent available might be on offense. TE Gesicki, RB Michel, and WRs Sutton and Moore highlight the pool of skill players on the board here. Since a WR will likely replace the rangy Martavis Bryant, Sutton at 6’3 gets the nod over Moore.

Sutton projects as a slightly bigger and more explosive version of 2017 pick JuJu Smith-Schuster. He racked up 2331 yards and 22TDs in the last two seasons for the Mustangs. A former Safety, Sutton plays the game with physicality, doesn’t shy away from contact, and is a very effective blocker. A quick glance at his huge MockDraftable web shows that an athlete with excellent strength, explosion, and change-of-direction skills. Sutton doesn’t have an elite top gear but the one-time SMU basketballer uses his body effectively to make contested catches. As expected from a player with only a few years at receiver, he isn’t a polished route runner with an extensive route tree. While Sutton’s 4.11 sec short shuttle demonstrates his fluid athleticism, he still needs to learn how to apply those physical gifts to create space on the field. With Martavis Bryant on the last year of his contract, Sutton will have that time to develop while contributing situationally and on special teams.

...

Walerfootball 4/11

Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

I’ve had the Steelers taking Lamar Jackson in my previous updates, but with Ben Roethlisberger saying that he wants to play for three more years, it makes sense for the front office to look elsewhere.

Pittsburgh obviously needs to replace Ryan Shazier, who won’t play in 2018. Rashaan Evans’ stock has slipped of late, but he could still be chosen in the opening round.

...

Rotoworld: Josh Norris 3/30

Justin Reid, S, Stanford

Justin Reid is receiving plenty of interest from mid- to late-first round teams. He’s super athletic, a trend for multiple first and second round picks for the Steelers in recent years.

...

Athlon Sports: Bryan Fischer 3/21

Ronnie Harrison, DB, Alabama

It’s no secret that the Steelers will be looking to upgrade the secondary this offseason after that early playoff exit and Harrison fits the mold of what the team will look for at safety. While he can roam the back end well, it’s his ability to provide run support and enforce the middle of the field that the team will really enjoy in the tough AFC North.

...

Pro Football Focus: Steve Palazzolo 4/3

Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

One of the most unique body types in the draft, Edmunds is an oversized linebacker at 6-foot-5, 254 pounds, but he has traditional linebacker skills. He can play all three downs in the middle of the Pittsburgh defense, adding range in coverage and an exceptional lateral movement in the run game. If Edmunds can clean up parts of his game, including a penchant to take on the wrong side of blocks, he could become a steal as an every-down linebacker.

...

For the last two I decided to go out and find a couple that are off the beaten path with positions that are not generally seen as a need. Rather these positions would be more luxury for 2018.

FantasyPros: Mike Tagliere 4/9

Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

Do you think the Steelers are going to be a contender as long as Ben Roethlisberger is the starter? I do, though we don’t know exactly how long that will be. Because of that, you have to think – how many opportunities will they have to draft a franchise quarterback without trading up? Landing someone with the potential of Rudolph at No. 28 is huge and I don’t expect the Steelers to pass on him. If they do, I’d look for them to draft a linebacker, whether it be inside or outside, as both are needs. Safety is another possibility after releasing Mike Mitchell this offseason.

...

Fansided: Sayre Bedinger 4/10

Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

The Steelers need to bring in a new quarterback of their defense with Ryan Shazier out for 2018 and who knows how much longer after that.

The great thing about Jefferson that could endear him to the Steelers is his ability to stay on the field all three downs. He is extremely athletic, and can stick with backs and tight ends in coverage.

Last season, he finished with 110 tackles and 10 for loss, and has racked up 10.5 sacks in the past two years.

This guy can make plays all over the field, and the Steelers need that with Shazier’s future in question.

...

CBS Sportsline: R.J. White 4/12

Derrius Guice, RB, LSU.

If the Steelers don’t get Le’Veon Bell signed to a long-term deal soon, it’s possible they pivot to selecting Guice, a player in whom they’ve shown plenty of interest in the run up to the draft. It would be fascinating to see if the Steelers could turn around and trade Bell after selecting Guice; could they get the Eagles to send over a Jordan Hicks or Mychal Kendricks plus a pick for the talented back? Could you even begin to imagine Bell on that offense?

...

SBNation: James Brady, Adam Stites, Harry Lyles Jr., and Sarah Hardy 4/13

Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville

Alexander is the kind of player who could fit in immediately with the Steelers. They need secondary help and Alexander is an instinctive player, which is a quality the Steelers look for on defense.

...

The diversity regarding who Pittsburgh might actually draft is not surprising. Unlike most other teams, the Black-and-Gold do not have a glaring hole that needs immediately filled by a rookie. Most view the 2018 first rounder as a luxury pick, or someone who could possibly push one of the incumbent starters for playing time. Could some of them be drafted to provide flexibility in sub packages during their rookie campaigns? All draftniks and “experts” are in guess mode until that card hits the stage in Dallas in just a few short weeks.

Steelers host big-name wide receiver for official Pre-Draft visit

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 04/14/2018 - 8:37am

A huge offensive weapon was at the Steelers’ facility Friday for an official team pre-draft visit.

Another day, another pre-draft visit for the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, this latest visit was abnormal for the trend the team had been following the past few weeks. Other than Leighton Vander Esch of Boise State, the Steelers hadn’t hosted any prospects who are considered Day 1 players in the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft.

While they hosted a big-name wide receiver Friday at the team’s facility, he is considered a Day 2 selection.

The Steelers bring in wide receiver Christian Kirk from Texas A&M for a pre-draft visit Friday. He is considered a top five receiver in his class

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) April 13, 2018

Texas A&M wide receiver Christian Kirk was the player in for a visit, and there is plenty to be excited about when it comes to this potential player. While not projected to be a 1st round pick, he is slotted to be a Day 2 selection — right up the Steelers’ alley for their wide receiver picks.

Don’t know much about Kirk? This is a great overview from his NFL Draft Profile:

Kirk is a well-built, mentally tough slot target whose game is built around pace more than explosiveness. His lack of speed and length make him less likely to impact games down the field, but his footwork, route tempo and hands should give him an opportunity to find catches underneath. Kirk’s ability to help in the return game is a plus, but the difference between average and good as a receiver could depend on finding the right fit.

Kirk’s visit is likely just the tip of the iceberg for the Steelers, when it comes to bringing in prospects who are potential first round picks. With Kirk’s visit the team has now hosted 15 of their 30 pre-draft visits, barring any which were not counted due to proximity to Pittsburgh and/or hometown of said prospect.

Stay up-to-date on the Steelers’ offseason news with the BTSC Pre-Draft Visit Tracker!

Steelers secondary continues overhaul of jersey numbers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 04/14/2018 - 7:00am

The Pittsburgh Steelers secondary will look a lot different next year — literally.

When Joe Haden and Sean Davis changed their jersey number about a month ago, you could understand why. After all, Haden wasn’t given his No. 23 due to Mike Mitchell having it, and the No. 21 Davis wanted out of college was occupied by Robert Golden and then Haden.

With Golden and Mitchell being released it vacated their individual numbers. So, it made sense, to an extent.

Now, it seems to be getting a little ridiculous...

NUMBERS UPDATE

4️⃣2️⃣ @MoBetta_42
2️⃣8️⃣ @MikeHilton_28
2️⃣2️⃣ @StevanRidley
2️⃣0️⃣ @CamSutton20 pic.twitter.com/AlLUSaSUdL

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 13, 2018

Newly acquired Burnett will wear his usual No. 42, but three other current members of the roster took at stab with a new number.

Mike Hilton will go from No. 31 to No. 28.

Stevan Ridley will go from No. 38 to No. 22.

Cameron Sutton will go from No. 34 to No. 20.

Throw in how Haden is now wearing No. 23, and Davis No. 21, and that equates to 5 players with new numbers for the upcoming 2018 season.

Might be smart to keep a roster handy for the preseason games next year so you know exactly who you are yelling at from the comfort of your own home.

On-the-job training

Steelers.com News - Sat, 04/14/2018 - 6:00am
Rookies relied upon rapidly in recent seasons.

Steelers “Sour 16” Bracket: 1996 Jamain Stephens vs. 2015 Alvin “Bud” Dupree

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 04/14/2018 - 5:43am

The first round bracket of less celebrated Pittsburgh first rounders continues with a battle between a post Super Bowl project and everybody’s bud.

BTSC continues to look at the least successful first round selections since 1969 with a matchup between a possible front runner for the title and a current player who still could flourish.

But first, here are the most recent results from BTSC’s “Steelers Sour 16”.

  • 82% 1999 Troy Edwards (898 votes)
  • 18% 2009 Ziggy Hood (191 votes)

1089 votes total

Edwards moves on to face Jarvis Jones, but first...you help decide who advances between a Cowher and Tomlin selection in our latest first round battle.

1996 Round 1 Pick 29 OT Jamain Stephens-North Carolina A&T

Jamain Stephens had great size and was selected as a “project” with the second-to-last pick of the ‘96 draft. The Steelers could afford to do that because of boasting a solid offensive line and having just come off of a season in which they were runners-up in the Super Bowl. However, Stephens was believed to have had poor conditioning habits and a suspect work ethic. After Stephens showed up allegedly over 350 pounds at the beginning of 1999’s training camp in Latrobe and failed to complete the customary 40-yard runs, Bill Cowher cut him almost immediately that day. Legend has it that Stephens also consumed an entire pizza on the Steeler sideline during pregame warmups of a game.

2015 Round 1 Pick 22 OLB Alvin “Bud” Dupree-Kentucky

At 269 pounds, Dupree is a large man coming off of the edge and has had 14.5 sacks the past three seasons. Dupree missed a majority of the 2016 season due to a sports hernia injury, but still recorded 4.5 sacks in seven games vicious throttling Miami’s Matt Moore in the playoffs that year. Before 2017, the pass-rushing coach and guru, Chuck Smith, worked with Dupree in the offseason and forecasted No. 48 as a potential winner of the Defensive Player of the Year Award. However, Dupree looked lost at times last year and was also not employed as a pass rusher as much as having been dropped back into coverage. 2018 seems to be a make-or-break season for Bud in the Burgh. Frankly, I don’t find Dupree deserving of being included in this poll, but it goes to show how solid Pittsburgh drafts are. Also, the readers helped vote him in. So there you go. Hopefully, Bud’s 2018 lands Dupree in the “Too Sweet 16” bracket.

Be sure to vote below in the poll and keep coming back to BTSC for more offseason fun.

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Offseason Edition, Vol. 13

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 04/13/2018 - 5:40pm

Ugh...the offseason. Here We Go.

There has been several people have asked if we could bring back the Friday Night open thread. I had moved the event to Saturday morning, but after minimal success, I decided to bring back the Friday night open thread...with a slight twist.

I liked the Saturday Six Pack theme, so I decided to just take the six questions and move them to Friday night. Say hello to Friday Night Six Pack of Steelers Questions, and open thread!

The rules haven’t changed...

Quick rundown of the ground rules.

  • I’ll ask at least four questions strictly related to the Steelers.
  • The rest of the questions could be about anything.
  • Be respectful.
  • Have fun talking about the Black-and-gold.

That’s it! With that out of the way, it’s time to get this party started. Hey, don’t act like you’ve never done a little Friday night drinking. Here goes:

1. Rank the following NCAA quarterback from best-to-worst:

Josh Allen
Josh Rosan
Baker Mayfield
Lamar Jackson
Mason Rudolph
Sam Darnold

2. If you don’t remember much about the mid-90s Steelers, skip this question. Which player, with a short NFL career, was better, in your opinion?

Barry Foster (RB) or Eric Green (TE)?? Explain.

3. Dez Bryant was just released by the Cowboys. No post-June 1 designation...just released. Is there any player you can see the Steelers doing this with in the near future?

4. Simple question: Do you see the Steelers making any more moves this offseason other than just adding drafted players?

5. Vontaze Burfict is suspended, again, and made me think about the all-time villains in Steelers history. Who would you say was the biggest villain going against the black-and-gold?

6. I love sports movies, and the NHL Playoffs have me thinking about hockey movies. Rank the following from best-to-worst:

Mighty Ducks (The original)
Miracle
Slap Shot
Youngblood (1986 movie with a young Rob Lowe starring)
Mystery Alaska (I’ve never seen this, but Bryan Anthony Davis says it is good...not sure I believe him.)

No matter what, always remember...

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

Cameron Sutton preparing for anything in 2018

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 04/13/2018 - 12:04pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers will have some options with how they handle Cameron Sutton in 2018.

As the Pittsburgh Steelers turn their attention to the 2018 NFL Draft, pundits everywhere are predicting the team to try and locate a safety to help fill the void left by recently released Mike Mitchell.

The usual prospects names are being tossed around: Ronnie Harrison of Alabama, Justin Reid of Stanford and even Jessie Bates of Wake Forest.

However, there is a chance the team might not need to address the position as early as many predict, and the flexibility of Cameron Sutton might be the reason why.

After signing a versatile weapon like Morgan Burnett in free agency, Sutton’s own set of skills could help bridge the gap in certain situations. I’m not suggesting Sutton will be an every down starter at Free Safety alongside Sean Davis, but he does have experience at safety while in college, and could be a situational player who could be utilized in such a role.

While the Steelers currently have a very deep cornerback room, which consists of Artie Burns, Joe Haden, Mike Hilton, Coty Sensabaugh and Sutton himself, the more you can do will only better the chances of getting on the football field.

Most have Sutton pegged to fill the William Gay sub package role from last year, but why paint such a talented player into a corner like that? Sutton is capable, and the Steelers would be wise to see what he brings to the team in a more intricate and detailed role.

As for Sutton’s preparation, he is preparing for anything this offseason.

“I am not limiting myself.” Sutton told Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. “I have a lot of time to get reps at everything, whether it’s off man, press man, getting in the film room and seeing how teams are going to attack us. Every aspect of the return game. Getting in the weight room. Nobody’s game is perfect, but you have to have the mindset of having no flaws in your game. The more you become well-rounded, the more it takes pressure off and you can go out there and play and have fun.”

For Sutton, he just wants to get on the football field. After having to watch the majority of the 2017 regular season with a hamstring injury, he is looking to put that in the past and focus on the future.

“I enjoyed the year,” said Sutton. “You never know what to expect. I thought this was the best situation for me. It’s been nothing but positive since I got here. Everyone embraced us. It’s been fun. I made a lot of friendships and memories that will carry on with me for my entire life.”

The question now remains: Will Sutton be playing more cornerback or safety in the upcoming 2018 regular season? How the team drafts could give a hint as to the team’s plans this year, but expect Sutton to be a big part of those plans — whether it is a cornerback or safety.

Texas A&M receiver Christian Kirk visits Steelers

post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL - Fri, 04/13/2018 - 11:20am

One of the top receivers in this year’s draft class is visiting the Steelers Friday. Christian Kirk of Texas A&M is visiting with the Steelers coaches at the UMPC Rooney Sports Complex.

An in-depth look at the NFL Draft prospects who have met with the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 04/13/2018 - 10:27am

The Steelers only interview players they’d be willing to pick. What patterns can we see from the meetings to date?

Any Steeler fan who follows the draft knows that player meetings are the single best indicator of who the team is likely to pick. In my experience at least half of all draft picks met with the team beforehand, with the percentage going up for the earlier rounds. We don’t always know about the meetings, such as Juju Smith Schuster’s Combine “speed date,” but the pattern holds.

What follows in a list of the prospects with whom the Steelers have met. All grades are drawn from the BTSC Big Board. The descriptions are too but have been greatly abbreviated. See those articles for fuller information and useful links. A close look at those grades and who the team has met reveals some pretty clear patterns.

DEFENSIVE LINE

The team has met with two budding stars they probably want to know for future reference. They seem like unlikely picks unless some miracle dropped them toward 2:28. Both can be fairly compared to Cam Heyward.

The bigger cluster is several athletic Round 5 prospects in the “Javon Hargrave Lite” mold. This is at least in part because monstrous immovable objects are few and far between this year, but also shows how the team views its future approach to this position.

Two likely free agent targets round this group out.

  • 2:12 DL Da’ron Payne, Alabama [COMBINE]. 6’2”, 311 lbs. Imagine a player you really, truly believe will be the next Cam Heyward.
  • 2:12 DL Harrison Phillips, Stanford [COMBINE]. 6’4”, 307 lbs. Another top prospect who could grow into a legit challenger to Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt.
  • 5:01 DL/NT B.J. Hill, N. Car. St. [VISIT]. 6’4”, 315 lbs. A NT who could 2-gap in a pinch but is much closer to Hargrave than Hampton.
  • 5:01 DL/NT Kendrick Norton, Miami [COMBINE]. 6’3”, 314 lbs. A NT who could 2-gap in a pinch but is much closer to Hargrave than Hampton.
  • 5:16 DL/NT Derrick Nnadi, Florida St. [COMBINE]. 6’1”, 317 lbs. And again: A NT who could 2-gap in a pinch but is much closer to Hargrave than Hampton.
  • 5:16 DL Deadrin Senat, USF [COMBINE]. 6’0” 314 lbs. And a fourth: NT who could 2-gap in a pinch but is much closer to Hargrave than Hampton.
  • 7:99 DL Curtis Cothran, Penn State [PRO DAY]. 6’5”, 301 lbs. More a general Defensive Tackle than a Nose Tack. He’ll need to spend a year in an NFL strength training program before trying to compete for a job.
  • 7:99 DL Joshua Frazier, Alabama [PRO DAY]. 6’4”, 324 lbs. An immovable object to compete with Dan McCullers.
EDGE RUSHERS

There is a contingent of Steeler fans who adamantly believe a certain young OLB has played below the line. Prepare for disappointment because the front office has shown no interest in meeting potential challengers. Nor has it shown any interest in looking for additional depth despite a nice cluster of talent that could be available at 2:28.

  • 7:99 OLB Macklin Weaver, Eastern Illinois [PRO DAY]. 6’5”, 260 lbs.
INSIDE LINEBACKERS

The team clearly views this position with just as much urgency as the fanbase. The two dream picks (Edmunds and Smith) have not even been interviewed, so it’s fair to say that the more optimistic fantasies aren’t worth even that minimal cost. It also suggests that the team has little or no intention of trading up.

A huge amount of attention has been paid to LVE and relatively little to Rashaan Evans, the other prospect that most mocks send our way. But that may not say much because Evans has put up an enormous amount of tape. He was a much more known commodity and the front office may simply be content that meeting at the Combine was enough to confirm that the young man was who they thought. It may also reflect the heavy emphasis on lighter Mack/Nickel types. LVE has a much bigger build and it’s hard, in the abstract, to believe he’s fleet enough to replace Shazier. No one would buy that if not for the athletic testing. LVE also has vastly less than Evans in the way of technique and thus requires more care in any projection.

The team has looked at a trio of Mack/Nickel types graded from 2:24 to 3:12. Malik Jefferson has the clear edge athletically but is very divisive in the draft community. “Round 2 steal or Round 5 consolation prize?” [I offer his name as a prime suggestion for any of our BTSC film watchers are looking for a prospect we really ought to know better.] Fred Warner is a late riser in the process who might not be a bargain at 2:28 but is very unlikely to fall much further. And my draft crush Shaun Dion Hamilton offers an easy Round 2 bargain for quality, but significant question marks when it comes to durability. The Big Board contains two or three other players in this general band who have yet to be interviewed so far as we know.

The Big Board has five Mack/Nickel types with Round 4-5 grades and there are many others in the general Day 3 range who I did not take the time to list. The team has met with exactly one player in this tier. That sends a strong signal that ILB will be addressed no later than Round 3, and won’t get a double dip unless there is an incredible bargain (a Round 2-3 talent available in Round 5).

OTOH, the list of meetings with Round 5 talent focuses heavily on players who excel at special teams. There may well be an oversized Safety in the mix who ought to have the ability to double as a Dime LB in the mold of a Morgan Burnett. This is discussed in more detail below.

ROUND 1 ILB PROSPECTS

  • 1:20 Mack/Buck Leighton Vander Esch, Boise St. [COMBINE, DINNER, PRO DAY, VISIT]. 6’4”, 256 lbs. See Tremaine Edmunds and then make him vaguely human. OTOH, he is all potential with vastly less polish than you’d like to see. The risk of projecting that far would be why he falls to 1:28 and yield the team a bargain, but make no mistake: it is a risk.
  • 1:20 Mack/Nickel Rashaan Evans, Alabama [COMBINE]. 6’3”, 234 lbs. The NFL.com scouting profile compares him to a young Lawrence Timmons who played through a nasty groin injury for all of 2018. Some BTSC posters have expressed doubts but the pundits all seem to agree with that.

ROUND 2-3 ILB PROSPECTS

  • 2:24 Mack/Nickel Fred Warner, BYU [SENIOR BOWL]. 6’3”, 236 lbs. Fast, fluid, and built to play the role occupied by Ryan Shazier, albeit at an “excellent NFL athlete” level instead of comic book land.
  • 3:12 Mack/Nickel Shaun Dion-Hamilton, Alabama [COMBINE]. 6’0”, 230 lbs. Another fast, fluid but undersized LB in the mold of Ryan Shazier. Possesses a brilliant football IQ and wonderful leadership skills, but also had both his 2016 and 2017 seasons ended prematurely by injury. The injuries are unrelated, but two years has to raise durability concerns nevertheless.
  • 3:12 Mack/Nickel Malik Jefferson, Texas [VISIT]. 6’3”, 236 lbs. Fringe-1st physical talents offset by persistent rumors of a suspect football IQ. If we knew that he interviewed well he’s be graded around 2:01. If we knew the rumors were true he’d be down in Round 5.

ROUND 5 ILB PROSPECTS

  • 4:16 Nickel/Dime Dorian O’Daniel, Clemson [VISIT]. 6’1”, 215 lbs. See the Special Teams section.
  • 4:16 Mack/Nickel Joel “Iggy” Iyiegbuniwe, W. Kentucky [VISIT]. 6’1”, 229 lbs. A solid, not flashy, mid-round Mack.

ROUND 7 & F.A. ILB PROSPECTS

  • 6:16 MACK/NICKEL ILB Jermaine Carter, Maryland [VISIT]. 6’0”, 228 lbs. See the Special Teams section.
INTERLUDE – SPECIAL TEAMS AND SUB-PACKAGE TALENT

There is a pattern in the meetings that makes me believe the Front Office has offered Coach Danny Smith a handshake promise as recompense for cutting his special teams captain, Robert Golden. “We will pay special attention to your needs with our mid-round picks.”

Look at the following list of meetings! These are all players who would be absolute gifts to Coach Smith. Some of them have the promise to grow into other roles while others face a steeper road, but there are so many of them that I think it’s all but guaranteed. If they don’t spend the Round 3 pick on a teams-and-other player, the Steelers are going to devote at least one of their Round 5 picks and perhaps a Round 7 pick to lunatics that love to careen into their peers with a 40 yard head start.

NOTE: I give 3:12 SS/Dime ILB Marcus Allen, Penn State honorable mention here. There has been no reported meeting but Allen fits the profile to perfection and is local enough that a de facto meeting might have occurred outside of and/or before the draft season channels we know about.

  • 2:24 SS/Dime ILB Terrell Edmunds, Virginia Tech [TOMLIN & COLBERT BOTH AT PRO DAY]. 6’2”, 220 lbs. Portrait of a SPARQ-score superstar: the size of a huge, almost-linebackerish Strong Safety wedded with the exceptional speed and athleticism of a true Free Safety. His tape would only justify a Round 3 grade, but his potential and his guaranteed use on special teams bumps him up.
  • 3:01 SS/Dime ILB Kyzir White, W. Va. [VISIT]. 6’2”, 216 lbs. 100% football player, and a classic example of “Too slow to play Safety and too small to play Linebacker.” Great fit as a sub package role player and special teams ace, plus a chance to be even more.
  • 4:16 Nickel/Dime Dorian O’Daniel, Clemson [VISIT]. 6’1”, 215 lbs. Another member in the TToo slow to play Safety and too small to play Linebacker” club, but this time from the LB direction. He was a legendary special teams ace in college and might really help as a sub package role player.
  • 5:16 Buck/Mack Chris Worley, Ohio State [VISIT]. 6’2”, 230 lbs. A 100% football player who lacks the speed to play Nickel but has that “likely to find a way” air. Major team leader who should be ideal for special teams.
  • 6:16 MACK/NICKEL ILB Jermaine Carter, Maryland [VISIT]. 6’0”, 228 lbs. A two-year captain who projects to be a special teams and sub package specialist. This brief scouting profile catches the essence: a “short, stocky, high motor… heart and soul of the defense” type.
  • 7:01 WR Russell Gage, LSU [VISIT]. 6’0”, 184 lbs. A tough, competitive, junk yard dog of a special teams player who doubles as a Wide Receiver.
SAFETIES

The team has looked at Round 2-4 talent and that’s about it. This probably reflects a weakness in the class more than intent. There are two real clusters. The first is a trio of players with early Round 2 grades. They are the most likely “consolation prizes” if the Board goes utterly wrong in Round 1, and the most likely dream picks for 2:28.

The Round 3-4 grades are mostly up above because they double as special teams demons and I think it is fair to call that their primary position. The guy stuck in the middle is Terrell Edmunds, who I’ve put in both spots because I simply couldn’t decide.

ROUND 1, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

1:01 FS/CB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama [COMBINE]. I can’t explain it except as general research. Don’t dream, it Ain’t Gonna Happen.

ROUND 1-2

  • 2:01 FS/SS Justin Reid, Stanford [COMBINE & VISIT]. 6’1”, 204 lbs. The model of a modern Steelers Safety. Might be seen as a slight reach at 1:28 but a major bargain if he falls to 2:28. Would make a great special teamer too but only until he develops enough to claim a starting role.
  • 2:12 FS Jessie Bates III, Wake Forest [COMBINE & PRO DAY]. 6’2”, 195. A classic centerfield Free Safety who plays bigger than he is.
  • 2:12 SS/FS Ronnie Harrison, Alabama [COMBINE]. 6’3”, 214 lbs. A size XL version of the Model Steeler Safety. Another special teams ace who will grow out of that role when he claims a starting job.

ROUND 3

  • 2:24 SS/Dime ILB Terrell Edmunds, Virginia Tech [TOMLIN & COLBERT BOTH AT PRO DAY]. 6’2”, 220 lbs. See the entry under Special Teams.
  • 4:16 SS/FS Trey Flowers, Okla. St. [COMBINE]. 6’3”, 202 lbs. He wants to be a special teams ace and Kam Chancellor type, but right now he’s an oversized reed. It’s hard to project where he’ll end up.
CORNERBACKS

There are very few visits, which reflects the general opinion that Pittsburgh has a load of young talent at the position with only the normal question marks you’d expect from players who “ought” to succeed but haven’t done it yet. The only pattern is style. The Day 1 & 2 meetings are all with players who have reputations as tough and efficient tacklers, tied to at least adequate physical skills. NOTE: All of these grades are lower than they would be for a team with bigger holes at the CB position.

  • 1:20 CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville [Tomlin & Colbert at Pro Day but likely for other players]. 5’10”, 196 lbs. Combine superstar and apparently the player the only Corner who might fall to 1:28 and actually get considered. But it would also take a really weird 1st round for Alexander to be available. He’d be at 1:10 if Haden and Burns got kneecapped by some rogue, not to be named linebacker headed up the river from Cincinnatti on his way to a four game suspension.
  • 3:01 CB Duke Dawson, Florida [VISIT]. 5’10-1/2”, 197 lbs. A football player who happens to play Corner. Solid Round 2 value for most teams and a 3:28 steal that Pittsburgh might go for if he drops that far.
  • 3:01 CB M.J. Stewart, N. Carolina [VISIT]. 5’11”, 200 lbs. Rinse and repeat. A football player who happens to play Corner and steal at 3:28 - which should not happen in any normal scenario.
  • 7.16 CB Trey Johnson, Villanova [PRO DAY]. 5’11”, 187 lbs. Team attends pro day with whatever initial impression. Prospect runs a very surprising 4.33 dash and a 4.20 short shuttle. Teams says, “We need to know more...”
OFFENSIVE LINE

The Pittsburgh Steelers are doing their due diligence but aren’t seriously looking for help at these positions. The only prospect with a Day 1 or 2 grade is a local kid brought in for a no-cost meet and greet.

  • N/A OT Brian O’Neil, Pitt [VISIT/LOCAL]. 6’7”, 305 lbs. The NFL.com scouting profile ends with a Round 2 grade.
  • 5:16 C/G Tony Adams, N.C. State [PRO DAY]. 6’2”, 322 lbs. The NFL.com scouting profile ends with a Round 5 grade for a prospect with a very good build, good quickness, but desperate need for an NFL strength training program. This scouting profile from our sister site for the Giants points out that Adams was once a Top 20 tennis player in New England.
  • 7:16 OT Jordan Mailata, Rugby Player [VISIT]. 6’8”, 346 lbs. A miracle athlete who’s never played a snap of football in his life.
  • 7:99 OG R.J. Prince, North Carolina [PRO DAY]. 6’6”, 311 lbs. Makes a lot of sense as a free agent target.
QUARTERBACKS

One kid who’d be a potential steal at 1:28, and won’t be there unless the Board has gone so loopy that most of the Steelers intended targets are likely gone. A second prospect who fits that exact description for Round 2. And then an obscure but good looking boom-or-bust prospect for Day 3.

It sounds like the Steelers really want to see what Josh Dobbs has to offer before taking the next step in the search for an Heir to Ben.

  • 1:15 QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville [COMBINE & Tomlin/Colbert both at Pro Day]. 6’2”, 216 lbs.
  • 2:12 QB Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma St. [COMBINE]. 6’5”, 235 lbs. He fits the physical profile to a “T” and has been a good, steadily improving pocket passer throughout his college career. Generally viewed as the clear #6 prospect in the class.
  • 6:01 QB Brogan Roback, Eastern Michigan. [VISIT]. 6’3”, 220 lbs. As explained in this scouting profile, Roback is a small school star with decent size and a lot of talent. A similar story is told in this scouting profile.
TIGHT ENDS

There is a mort of Round 2-6 talent in this year’s class. The Steelers seem to be focused on prospects who’d be particular bargains at 2:28, 3:28, and in Round 5.

  • 2:12 TE Mike Gesicki, Penn St. [COMBINE] 6’5”, 247 lbs. Check out this spider-graph at Mocktable.com. Mike Gesicki is a SPARQ-score monster who makes Vance McDonald look slow and clumsy. But he isn’t a blocker and isn’t likely to become one because he’s isn’t all that stocky.
  • 3:12 TE Ian Thomas, Indiana [COMBINE]. 6’5”, 248 lbs. The second highest SPARQ score in this year’s class after Gesicki, which ranks him in the top 20% of all NFL TE’s (Gesicki being in the top 1% with room to spare).
  • 4:16 TE Will Dissly, Washington [COMBINE]. 6’5”, 257 lbs. A converted Edge Rusher. His SPARQ-score was lousy, but mostly due to really bad marks on the bench and in the leaps. Mike Mayock called him “the best blocking TE in the class”, he has a Steelerish tough-guy attitude, and he excelled in the C.O.D. drills where no one thought he would.
  • 4:16 TE Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin [COMBINE]. 6’6”, 248 lbs. A big, receiving-oriented Tight End with fabulous hands, good route running skills, lots of grit, and a knack for getting open despite average athleticism.
RUNNING BACKS

Steeler Nation needs to get over it. The front office clearly views Lev Bell as its long term plan. This is a very strong draft for RB’s with a lot of dream talent that could fall to 2:28 (Sony Michel, Ronald Jones); a long list of players who should be very fine value at 2:28; and a third, equally long list of prospects who’d be great value at 3:28. The team has interviewed exactly two of the top 20 Running Back prospects: the guy who should not fall all the way to 1:28 unless the draft takes a drastic left hand turn somewhere, and the lifelong Steeler fan who falls in that 2:28 belt. The only other prospect is a late round boom-or-bust candidate.

I admit it. I have been pounding the “back for when Bell leaves” drum as much as anyone but the meetings say it Ain’t Gonna Happen.

  • 1:20 RB Derrius Guice, LSU [COMBINE, DINNER]. 5’10”, 212 lbs. Derrius Guice is solid late-1st value. That doesn’t make him the best pick if other top talents are on the Board but it wouldn’t be a waste in any sense. The constant comparison is to a young Marshawn Lynch.
  • 2:12 RB Kerryon Johnson, Auburn [COMBINE]. 6’0”, 212 lbs. Johnson has every asset you want in a running back except breakaway speed and bone-crushing power. He’s shifty, sudden, hard to tackle, plenty fast enough, a good blocker, a hard worker, etc.
  • 6:16 RB/WR Reggie Bonnafon, Louisville [VISIT]. 6’2”, 210 lbs. A superb athlete who converted from QB to WR in 2016 when it became clear that Lamar Jackson was The Man, and then to RB in 2017.
  • 7:99 FB/TE John David (“J.D.”) Moore, LSU [VISIT]. 6’4”, 236 lbs. Every year LSU awards #18 to high character tough guys the locker room admires. J.D. Moore was the most recent.
WIDE RECEIVERS

The Steelers appear to be bargain shopping with a serious intent to draft a receiver. Six meetings is a lot. There is no particular pattern beyond that except an observation that they’ve interviewed two of the premier super-bug prospects. And then four who were “other.”

3:01 WR James Washington, Okla. St. [COMBINE & PRO DAY] 5’11”, 213 lbs. A finalist for the Biletnikoff Award (best college WR) who should by rights be given a fringe-1st grade. There’s a chance he’d be a shock-pick at 2:28. At 3:28 they couldn’t resist. This very unfair grade reflects the lack-of-need discount.

5:01 WR Justin Watson, Penn. [VISIT] 6’3”, 215 lbs. The NFL.com scouting profile describes a receiver with great hands, character and size who utterly dominated the Ivy League. But come on, the Ivy league? Then came the SPARQ-score data from his pro day and those results suddenly looked real.

5:16 WR Richie James, Middle Tenn. St. [COMBINE & VISIT] 5’9”, 178 lbs. An undersized, super agile, sneaky fast, punt returning Jack Russell Terrier of the football world.

6:16 WR Devin Gray, Cincinnati [PRO DAY]. 5’11”, 183 lbs. Very good 4.4 speed. Supposed to have good hands too but was held back by poor QB play.

6:16 WR Quadree Henderson, Pitt. [LOCAL VISIT]. 5’8”, 190 lbs. A punt/kick returner who doubles with less success as a Wide Receiver. A good bit bigger but not as scrappy as Richie James.

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