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When it comes to the QB competition, fans should be on ‘Team Steelers’

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/03/2022 - 10:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Even if you have a preference on who wins the job for Week 1, should Steelers fans be wanting one of their own players to fail?

Team Pickett.

Team Mitch.

Team Mason.

Even Team Ola.

Over the next four months leading up to the 2022 NFL regular season, Steelers fans are likely going to be aligning themselves into various groups based on who they would like to see as the starting quarterback this season. Whether or not these individuals will form together into collective groups in order to hold various secret meetings remains to be seen, but there are many who have strong opinions about the subject and are ready to square off with others in opposition parties.

Before I go any farther, I have to make sure we all understand what I’m NOT saying. It’s fine for people to have players they like over others. Having a favorite player is not a problem. Wanting to see your favorite player succeed is not a problem. Hoping the Pittsburgh Steelers fail because you want for your favorite player over someone else, that’s a whole different story.

Before people start dividing themselves in a different factions, remember where we all are starting from. We are all Pittsburgh Steelers fans. Whoever or whatever gives the team the best chance to win games on the field should be our first concern. Hoping someone else is a flop simply because the person you want to see isn’t beneficial to the overall team. What happens if you’re cheering very hard for all other options to fail just so your guy gets the chance only to see him do the same thing? Then what happens? Is that really what you want to wish on the Pittsburgh Steelers?

Even though I’m saying this, we’re still going to find plenty of so-called Steelers fans who will be actively cheering against players on their own roster because they like somebody else. We saw it in 2019 in regards to Duck Hodges and Mason Rudolph. I actually found it quite sickening how hard Steelers fans would root against their own player/team. It even got to a point some fans were rooting for injuries, something so abhorrent I won’t even apply it to this season. Unfortunately, I’m bracing myself to see some of these same thoughts again for 2022.

Instead of all this division and pulling for ‘Team Pickett’ or ‘Team Mitch,’ why don’t we simply do what I plan on doing? Why can’t we hope that all the players succeed? Why not hope that all four of the quarterbacks on the Steelers roster at this time end up completely balling out throughout the 2022 preseason? Wouldn’t that be a great problem? Wouldn’t that put the Pittsburgh Steelers in a much better situation for the season? What would be the downside of such a thing?

For those out there loving the Kenny Pickett selection by Steelers, I understand you want to get your #8 jerseys and have them ready to go as soon as possible. But if it takes other players performing badly just to get him on the field, is that really what you want to see from the Steelers? I would have no problem with Kenny Pickett being the starter right away for the Steelers if he blows us all away throughout the preseason. That’s what I want to see. I want to see all the quarterbacks tearing it up and making the decision as hard as possible for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

For those of you that loved the free agent acquisition of Mitch Trubisky and feel he has a lot left in the tank after being in a bad situation in Chicago for four years, I get that as well. But I also don’t want those fans to hope you have another quarterback fail just so Mitch gets his chance in Pittsburgh.

Before letting the whole topic go, I also want to make sure there’s one other thing were this should not be mistaken. If one of these players does not play well, it’s okay to criticize them when they don’t play well. That’s the nature of the game. It’s not that anyone is beyond criticism, but hoping that someone plays poorly before they take the field at all is a whole different issue.

Hopefully this is just a gentle reminder of where our priorities really should lie. First and foremost, we are fans of Pittsburgh Steelers. Secondly, we have favorite players within the team we would like to see succeed. Thirdly, rooting against players on your own team doesn’t ultimately support the first statement.

FILM ROOM: Steelers may have a star in George Pickens, if they can keep him focused

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/03/2022 - 8:30am
Athens Herald Banner-USA TODAY NETWORK

George Pickens is as talented as they come, but can the Steelers keep him focused on the task at hand?

The Steelers selected wide receiver George Pickens from the University of Georgia in the 2nd Round of the NFL draft, marking the fifth consecutive season they’ve taken a pass catcher with one of their top two picks.

With only Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool returning from their rotation, Pittsburgh had a need for a receiver. The Steelers also have Anthony Miller, a veteran signed off of waivers last season from Houston, and Miles Boykin, who was recently released by the Ravens. But they were determined to add a premium talent to the mix. They found one in Pickens, who, had it not been for a pre-season knee injury that cost him all but four games in 2021, would have likely been a 1st Round pick. The 6’3 Pickens has great ball skills and an elite ability to win in one-on-one situations. He is explosive after the catch, possesses toughness as a blocker, and is a nuanced route-runner.

Pickens also comes with concerns about his attitude and demeanor. He was suspended twice at Georgia, and his focus and concentration have at times been questioned. The Steelers drafted a player with a high ceiling who could become the steal of the 2nd Round. He could also become another receiver who didn’t fulfill his potential in Pittsburgh.

Here’s a closer look at Pickens, and at how he may fit with the Steelers.

Strengths

The thing that jumps out immediately about Pickens is his deep ball ability. Over his final 12 games at Georgia, Pickens caught 7 passes on throws of more than 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage for 246 yards, a whopping 35 yards per reception. Here is one of those, from the national championship against Alabama.

Pickens (#1) is split wide to the bottom of the screen at the start of the clip. He gets a clean release from the corner — something Pickens will abuse if afforded on a regular basis — then smartly keeps his post route to the inside of the hash . The muddle of moving parts in the backfield creates complicated play-action for the defense to diagnose, and with no safety to provide support, Pickens has a clean path to the football. He finishes the play with a beautiful over-the-shoulder grab:

I can’t emphasize enough how difficult this reception is. Pickens’ ability to follow the football as it disappears over his left shoulder is exceptional. The area from the crown of the helmet to the contact point at the hands is one of the most challenging to track a throw. Yet Pickens makes it look easy. He’s as natural gathering deep balls as any receiver in this draft.

Speaking of difficult, watch this beauty, with Pickens aligned to the bottom of the screen:

Cincinnati lines up in press coverage but comes with a corner blitz. They try to rotate the safety over to cover Pickens to the post. That won’t work — in college or the NFL. Pickens, again, is simply lethal if given space. As for the catch at the end, it underscores his ability to track the football and how well he uses his hands.

Pickens is also a solid route-runner who understands how to set up defenders to get open. Going back to his catch against Alabama, we see a great example of this. As Pickens crosses the 30-yard line, look at how he nods to the boundary to get the corner, who to that point is in good position on Pickens’ hip, to straighten up. The head nod suggests Pickens might make some sort of out-cut, so the corner balances to protect against it. This allows Pickens to break inside and gain separation:

On the next one, Pickens again uses leverage to create space for himself. Aligned at the top of the stack to the right of Georgia’s formation, Pickens attacks the leverage of the alley defender, forcing him to protect against an in-breaking route. Pickens then stems up field, and the alley follows. To separate, Pickens jabs inside just before making his break to the boundary. The alley falls off with the jab, giving Pickens room to operate:

Pickens can execute against zone coverage, too. Here, aligned in the right slot, he runs a perfect slant versus cover-2. I wrote in a recent film room on Miles Boykin about the difference in running slant against one versus two-high coverage. With a single safety occupying the middle of the field, receivers want to keep their slant “skinny,” or tighter to the post. Against two-high, a slant should be “fat,” which means he should come flatter out of his break and more towards the middle of the field, between the safeties. Pickens does just that, splitting the safeties for the score:

These are more nuanced routes than you typically see from college receivers, especially those who rely on speed to get open. The fact that Pickens uses speed in combination with technique makes him a dangerous player.

Finally, Pickens is a willing and physical blocker. Watch him here, split wide to the top of the formation, buckle the Cincinnati corner with a powerful two-hand strike to the chest. I love how Pickens gathers his feet on approach then uncoils his hips as he delivers the blow. This is like watching a good linebacker engage a guard at the point of attack:

This one displays pure effort from Pickens. Watch him come into the frame around the numbers at the 40-yard line and hustle to cut off the contain defender, springing the ball-carrier for extra yards. Blocking, for wide receivers, is often about effort. Pickens is a player who is consistently reliable in that area:

And then there are these two clips, which have been making the rounds on Twitter, where Pickens flat-out abuses the corner aligned over him. To say this young man is aggressive, as a blocker and otherwise, is an understatement:

Weaknesses

Let’s begin with temperament. Some say the allegations that Pickens is a hot head who can let his emotions get the best of him are overblown. This may be true. It’s hard to say, since accusations like these are often speculative. But his ejection from a 2019 contest against Georgia Tech for fighting with a Tech defensive back lend them credence.

We mentioned above that Pickens is an aggressive blocker. That aggression can have consequences if not directed properly. This was a contest where Georgia was winning handily at the time, yet Pickens could not constrain himself. His actions were both selfish, in that they hurt the team, and dangerous, considering punching an opponent in the helmet is a good way to break your hand:

To make things worse, Pickens had already missed the first half of this contest while serving a suspension for breaking an undisclosed team rule. The ejection then cost him the first half of the following week’s game, which was the SEC championship against LSU.

Pickens was just a freshman at the time, and it’s fair to expect he’s grown from the experience. Still, getting Pickens to play with discipline will undoubtedly be a focus of receivers coach Frisman Jackson.

On the field, the biggest challenge facing Pickens may involve freeing himself from press coverage. His slender build will make him susceptible to being bullied at the line of scrimmage by physical NFL corners. While he had success against press corners in college, many were afraid to be too aggressive for fear Pickens would run by them. NFL corners will have no such concerns, at least not initially.

One thing he can use to free himself is his quick first step. Watch here how Pickens, circled at the top, beats LSU’s highly rated Derek Stingley Jr with a great inside move followed by an outside burst. Although this is a run play, it shows that Pickens has the potential to neutralize corners at the line with his quickness:

How Pickens effects the Steelers’ passing game

Pickens will probably be used as the X receiver, lining up on the ball to the weak side of the formation. This will allow him to operate away from coverage strengths, where he should draw a decent amount of man-to-man.

Pickens should also become Pittsburgh’s top deep-ball threat. This is a role they tried to carve out for Chase Claypool last season. But Claypool, despite his 6’4 frame and excellent leaping ability, is largely a cradle-catcher, meaning he catches the ball against his body a lot, which is not conducive to winning contested throws. Pickens, conversely, uses his hands extremely well. He goes up and snatches the football, taking advantage of his long arms to create a huge catch radius. Combined with his speed and long stride, he should quickly become the best vertical threat on the roster.

This means Claypool, when the Steelers go 11 personnel with Pickens in the game, could be slotted more as the Z receiver. The Z generally plays off the ball to the tight end side, and, because he can move about the formation, is asked to do a variety of things. Last season, Claypool was largely reduced to “Go” routes and receiver screens. At the Z, he’ll be asked to run digs, crossing routes, comebacks, corners, and the Mesh and Dagger concepts the Steelers employ. Claypool has expressed a desire to run a more advanced route tree. With Pickens in the fold, it seems he’ll get his wish.

The Steelers will have some interesting options in the slot, too. Pickens played there in college at times, and Mike Tomlin indicated he may be used in that capacity. Diontae Johnson should see slot reps, too. Johnson is an exceptional route runner with great instincts for finding open areas in coverage. He’s a quick-twitch player, which makes him ideal for navigating cluttered spaces in the middle of the field. 4th Round draft pick Calvin Austin III is a burner who should see time there as well. Austin will be the jet sweep, bubble and gadget threat Canada loves in his offense. There’s also Miller, who was primarily a slot player when he caught 140 passes with the Bears between 2018-2020. And, when the Steelers go 12 personnel, Freiermuth has shown he can be effective as a detached tight end. Canada can get creative with his formations given all of these options.

I suspect, so long as his knee is healthy and he digests the playbook, Pickens will see the field quickly. He’s too dynamic a player, and too skilled a deep threat, to sit for long. The Steelers have suddenly become exciting in the passing game, and it may not be long before “Pickett to Pickens” is the most exciting element of all.

The Steelers 2022 draft class grading extravaganza

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/03/2022 - 7:15am
Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

You want grades on the Steelers 2022 draft class? I got ‘em.

I’m usually not one to jump in on the Internet traffic bonanza known as grading things, but if I don’t do it now, right after the Steelers just selected their entire 2022 NFL Draft class, I’m doing a disservice to the click-bait gods in the sky.

I had so much fun last year and the year before that, I figured, why not go for those clicks again?

I only have two grades for this process: Jump for Joy and Smashed Remote.

Obviously, a Jump for joy, as in “When they called his name, I was jumping for joy!” is a positive grade (or plus). I can’t really picture grown adults jumping for joy over the thought of a football player getting drafted by their favorite team, but many often describe this as their reaction to it. Therefore, it must happen a lot.

And if a Jump for Joy is a positive grade, that can only mean a Smashed Remote, as in “If they take that guy, I’m going to smash my remote!” is a negative (or minus). It seems counterproductive to smash something like a remote over a draft choice, but I’ve seen enough people break their flat-screen TVs over a missed tackle to know that it probably happens quite a bit.

OK, let’s dive right into the grades, shall we?

First Round (20th, overall), Kenny Pickett, quarterback, University of Pittsburgh

After months and months and months and maybe even years of speculation, the 2022 NFL Draft finally kicked off last Thursday night in Las Vegas, Nevada. Once it did, it immediately began to unfold in such a way that it could only be considered a dream come true for Steelers fans that were pro-quarterback, which just so happened to include the team’s brain trust when you consider the many visits, interactions and dinners that took place with just about any draft prospect who could throw a football in the months leading up to the event.

As the 20th pick drew closer, it became quite apparent that the Steelers would have a shot at at least one of the top two quarterback prospects—Kenny Pickett and Liberty’s Malik Willis. And right after the Saints pick came and went at 19, it was on like Donkey Kong, as every single quarterback prospect was still on the board for Pittsburgh to choose from.

What a menu, right? Not if you were anti-quarterback, which included many fans and some in the media. But the pick was a quarterback and the pick was Pickett. Despite the entire pool of passers being available to them, it didn't seem like there was a ton of discussion involving general manager Kevin Colbert, head coach Mike Tomlin and the man, himself, owner Art Rooney II, when the Steelers were on the clock. Nope, the Steelers turned their selection in so fast for the legendary Franco Harris to announce, it really left no doubt: Kenny Pickett was who the Steelers wanted all along.

I like it. Some don't, which I get, especially considering no other quarterback went until the third round, an outcome that my cousin described as “terrifying” in a text sent to me on Friday.

That development could be viewed as an indictment of the quarterback class as a whole--including Pickett.

There is also the opinion that the Steelers could have waited to get their man a little later since no other team seemed to be interested in taking a quarterback at that point.

Are you sure about that? Just because Pickett was the first quarterback taken at 20, that doesn’t mean he could have been selected much later. Nobody knows what other teams may have thought about Pickett. Maybe others had a first-round grade on him. Maybe they didn’t. Maybe they were thrown off by the apparent reality that Tomlin was smitten with Willis, the guy who was considered to have the most upside, and that the Steelers were likely going to take him if he was there. After that, someone else may have come in and quickly scooped up Pickett later in the first round. Or if another team thought Pittsburgh was seriously interested in Pickett, it may have been more aggressive and drafted him before 20.

Just because Pickett was the only quarterback taken in the first round does not mean he shouldn't have been picked in the first round.

I think the biggest knock on Pickett, other than his freakishly small hands, is that he doesn’t have a howitzer of an arm. However, according to just about every scout and expert who has been weighing in on him since the draft process first began, Pickett does have an arm good enough to make every throw at the pro level.

There’s also the concern that Pickett didn’t actually come into his own as a college quarterback until his fifth and final season at Pitt when he completed 334 of 497 passes for 4,319 yards while throwing 42 touchdowns to only seven interceptions.

I don’t see why it’s that big of a deal that it took Pickett a while to get things going. Isn’t it better for him to have flipped the switch while still in college and not five years into his professional career?

Speaking of which, Pickett will turn 24-years old before he plays in his first game for the Steelers and is considered to be a little on the old side for a quarterback. Is 24 too old for a rookie quarterback, though, especially when so many are now playing at a high level into their late-30s and even early-40s?

There’s also the matter of Pickett’s ceiling which is believed to be much lower than Willis’s. That’s the bad news. The good news is Pickett’s floor is believed to be fairly high, meaning, he has the best chance to jump right in and do pretty well from the start.

But is that enough, especially when Pickett is often compared to the likes of Derek Carr, Andy Dalton and Matt Hasselbeck? That’s right, poor Pickett. He hasn’t even taken his first pro rep, and he’s already having limits put on him. Instead of that exciting upside that often includes tattoos, rock-hard abs, huge biceps and a ton of aggression, Pickett is apparently the dependable husband and father of quarterback prospects, complete with a dad bod. He might not fill you with passion, but he pays the bills and keeps a roof over your head.

Wouldn’t you rather have that, though, especially if you’re jumping into bed with your first quarterback so soon after Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement? You know how it is with those aggressive alpha types, right? Sure, there’s a thirty-percent chance that he’ll wind up as some sort of fitness guru with a highly successful and lucrative YouTube channel. But there’s probably a seventy-percent chance you’ll have to take out a restraining order on him.

“Yeah, but Pickett’s comps have never won a Super Bowl!” you might be typing. True, but that only has to happen once for that comparison to take on a whole new meaning with Pickett being the comp for future young quarterbacks.

The Steelers went into the 2022 NFL Draft needing a quarterback—and I don’t care that they signed Mitch Trubisky; they’re going to continue to need a quarterback until someone proves that they don’t—and they selected what looks to be the best of the bunch.

There’s also the added bonus of Pickett hailing from Pitt and forcing Steelers fans who love Penn State to root for him.

Final tally on the Jump for Joy/Smashed Remote grading scale: Plus-eight (as in the number of Super Bowls the Steelers organization will have when Pickett retires).

Round two (52nd, overall), George Pickens, wide receiver, Georgia

As is normally the case in round two, there was a player still on the board that seemed to be the favorite of many Steelers fans—in this case, Western Michigan receiver, Skyy Moore—and they didn't take him. (I shall forever refer to this phenomenon as the Creed Humphrey Award, named after Creed Humphrey, the Oklahoma center the Steelers passed on in the 2021 NFL Draft in favor of Penn State tight end, Pat Freiermuth—something Steelers fans will apparently never forget about, even if Freiermuth eventually wins the NFL MVP Award.)

Instead, Pickens, and his raw athleticism and blinding speed, was the man. At 6’3” and 195 pounds, Pickens is the kind of big-bodied receiver Ben Roethlisberger always wanted but mostly never got during his 18-year career. One Jump for Joy. And after posting a 4.47 40 time at the Combine, Pickens certainly has more than enough speed to be a deep threat. Another Jump for Joy. Pickens is also considered to be a great combat receiver, perhaps on the level of a JuJu Smith-Schuster or Chase Claypool (pre-2020 draft, of course). Two more Jumps for Joy.

However, after catching a combined 85 passes for 1,240 yards and 14 touchdowns over his first two seasons in Athens, Pickens suffered a torn ACL last spring and missed the majority of the 2021 season. Three Smashed Remotes. Pickens did show great desire and work ethic by doing all that he could just to make it back and be a part of the Bulldogs National Championship team last season, even if he only caught five passes for 107 yards on the year. Two Jumps for Joy.

Speaking of work ethic, Pickens might not have it, after all, at least according to an anonymous scout and two anonymous wide-receiver coaches, who were quoted in a Tweet by 93.7 The Fan’s Josh Rowntree on Friday night:

“Which WR is the most boom-or-bust guy?

Scout 2: George Pickens. There’s a lot of upside, but he can’t get out of his own way. He’s been enabled his whole life.

WR Coach 3: Pickens. You love his game, but there’s some issues. Do you want to work with him? He’s a top-6 talent-wise, but it’s impossible not to add those other good things. He has the size, has the really good range. He positions his body on deep throws. He consistently beats press coverage. Has good start-stops with some AI (Allen Iverson) crossover in his game. A lot of stuff in (Todd Monken’s) system translates to the NFL. But I wouldn’t touch him.

WR Coach 5 on Pickens: On tape, he is probably a top-5 wide receiver but there’s just so many red flags, and they’re big red flags. He’s got a lot of growing up to do. If he goes to the right place with a room full of veterans that help him go the right way, I think he’ll have a chance.”

Yikes. I want to give this news a ton of Smashed Remotes, but I can’t figure out why one scout and two position coaches, who were being quoted anonymously, couldn’t elaborate on Pickens’s red flags. They gave us many reasons why Pickens could be a stud on the field—which I think are worth at least Four Jumps for Joy—but nothing about those red flags and/or why he’s been enabled his whole life? Is he always late to meetings? Does he turn into The Incredible Karen when the service is bad at Red Lobster? I’ll give these supposed red flags Two Smashed Remotes simply because I’ve experienced the career of Antonio Brown, who evidently lasted until the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft because of anonymous red flags which eventually were exposed and became really bright by the spring of 2019.

Maybe Pickens’s red flags are simply due to the multiple suspensions he had at Georgia—one for violating team rules and one for fighting a Georgia Tech defensive back during a game.

If that’s the case, is that much to worry about? Would these be considered off-the-field issues, even if one of the issues took place on the field?

Sure, when Hines Ward fought Ed Reed multiple times during his career, we celebrated and bought Hines a beer or two (most likely). But a college receiver does it in the social media age and suddenly it’s a red flag? What if Pickens becomes the next Hines Ward, a receiver who was just a third-round pick from tiny Georgia University and actually played his entire career without one of his ACLs? I’d say that would be worth at least Five Jumps for Joy.

Yeah, but if I had to bet on which of the Steelers' newest draft picks was most likely to go on Twitter after a big drop and mock innocent Steelers fans for not making as much money as him, it would probably be Pickens. Three Smashed Remotes.

Also, Pickens may already be so much of a diva that the mere selection of him provoked someone on Twitter to criticize Chase Claypool, a noted diva receiver, for not being professional enough while announcing the Steelers' second-round pick on Friday. One Smashed Remote.

I don’t care what none a y’all say, I still love the potential of Pickens and what he could bring to the Steelers receiving corps. Three Jumps for Joy. Pittsburgh needed a lot of receiver help heading into the draft and selected someone who could be a real weapon. Two more Jumps for Joy.

There’s also the possibility of some clever t-shirts being produced thanks to the potentially awesome Pickett to Pickens connection. One Jump for Joy.

Of course, that could get very annoying by August. One Smashed Remote.

Final tally on the Jump for Joy/Smashed Remote grading scale: Plus-eleven

Round three (84th, overall), DeMarvin Leal, defensive lineman, Texas A&M

The Steelers certainly needed to address the future of their defensive line heading into the draft, and simply based on where he played and what he accomplished—he was voted First-Team All-American and First-Team SEC in 2021—Leal looks like he could be a great choice to eventually take the baton from Cam Heyward and lead the unit into the future. Two Jumps for Joy. Heck, he might even be able to do that in 2022 as part of the defensive line rotation. Another Jump for Joy.

Yeah, but why did Leal last so long? One Smashed Remote. Is this because he came into the draft without a clear position? At 283 pounds, Leal is considered to be too small to play on the interior. One Smashed Remote. And after posting a 5.0 40 time at the Combine, maybe he’s too slow the be a super-effective defensive end. Another Smashed Remote.

Also, according to his NFL.com Draft Profile, Leal struggled while going up against Evan Neal and Charles Cross—two of the top tackles in the SEC last year and two of the top tackles in the 2022 NFL Draft. Three Smashed Remotes.

I’ve heard contradicting opinions about Leal and his work ethic and character. For example, I’ve read that he has a great motor, but I've also read that he may not be motivated enough. Huh? Which is it, baby? Maybe Leal just has an efficient motor—kind of like a four-cylinder. No, you won’t win the Daytona 500, but you’ll likely get to work on time most days. Three Jumps for Joy.

However, having a four-cylinder likely won’t get you to the quarterback fast enough on most plays. This may explain Leal’s apparent lack of “suddenness.” May I suggest surrounding yourself with wasps? They always make me move with a burst. Anyway, Two Smashed Remotes.

Right after Leal was drafted, someone told me he was arrested for a DUI in December, something that would be worth a zillion Smashed Remotes in my eyes. But after doing some research, I found out that Leal was arrested for marijuana possession. Is that really a big deal anymore? It’s not going to get me to Jump for Joy, but it’s not going to make me Smash any Remotes, either.

Because of his plummeting draft stock, Leal already seems to have the proverbial chip on his shoulder and wants to prove the doubters and haters wrong in 2022. Case-in-point, below is a Tweet from Leal late Thursday night after he slipped out of the first round:

“Lol I actually like this… y’all gonna pay”

That kind of social media trash talk would automatically make every Steelers fan smash their remotes upon reading it—if Leal was a receiver. However, since he’s a defender, it’s actually pretty cool. Three Jumps for Joy.

Speaking of former Aggies and current Steelers, linebacker Buddy Johnson, Leal’s former teammate at A&M and future teammate in Pittsburgh, Tweeted this after Leal was selected on Friday night:

“What a steal! Let’s go!!! Congrats brother! Welcome to the fam!”

That’s right, what a steal! Let’s Go! Three Jumps for Joy. But that's what I said about Quincy Roche last year. Three Smashed Remotes.

Thankfully, Leal has a much higher pedigree than did Roche a year ago, and if he is a steal for a third-round pick, look out! Two Jumps for Joy.

I suppose I should finish up by quoting an anonymous NFC scout from Leal’s NFL.com Draft Profile page:

“The tape didn’t match the hype he had going into the season. You never really feel him (on tape) like you should for a top player.” Ouch. Four Smashed Remotes.

Final tally on the Jumps for Joy/Smashed Remote grading scale: Minus-one.

Round four (138th, overall), Calvin Austin III, wide receiver, Memphis

I think this might be my favorite pick besides Pickett, of course. Austin’s speed is intriguing. Just how fast is he? He posted a 4.32 40 time at the NFL Combine. Two Jumps for Joy.

After a slow start to his college career, Austin caught a combined 137 passes for 2,202 yards and 19 touchdowns over his final two seasons at Memphis. Austin was also a weapon as a punt returner in college, averaging 11.1 yards per return over his final two seasons—including a whopping 27 per return in 2021. Two Jumps for Joy.

There is the matter of Austin’s size which is rather diminutive. In fact, at 5’8” and 170 pounds (with rocks in his socks, I’m sure), Austin’s size is understandably listed as one of his weaknesses in his NFL.com Draft Profile. As per NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, Austin was often “Badly beaten when competing for 50-50 throws in college.” Two Smashed Remotes.

I guess that means that the Steelers will have to utilize Austin out in space...lots and lots of space. Chances are, if you can get your mitts on Austin, it’s game over for him, but if he gets out in space with that 4.3 speed, it’s game over for you. One Jump for Joy. Austin has already been described as an intriguing new toy for offensive coordinator Matt Canada to utilize—like a Ray-Ray McCloud but with more speed and upside. One Jump for Joy.

As a matter of personal pride, Austin was someone I had the Steelers taking in the third round of my one and only genuine mock draft, which means he represents great draft value as a fourth-round pick in the real thing. Two Jumps for Joy. However, as someone who believes in his own draft opinions to the point that he considers them to be draft FACTS, I can’t believe so many teams passed on Austin over the first 137 picks. What were they thinking? Two Smashed Remotes.

If the Steelers can hit on Austin, along with Pickens, what a receiving corps they could have once again. Two Jumps for Joy.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Austin’s NFL.com Draft Profile:

“Productive playmaker with below-average size but above-average heart.”

Damn! When does training camp start? Five Jumps for Joy.

Final tally on the Jumps for Joy/Smashed Remote grading scale: Plus-eight.

Round six (208th, overall), Connor Heyward, fullback/h-back/tight end, Michigan State

That’s right, Cam Heyward’s little brother is on the team, and he joins Terrell Edmunds’s older brother, Trey, and T.J. Watt’s older brother, Derek, and will come to camp equipped with a similar skill-set to them—only with youth and a lesser wage.

Awkward. One Smashed Remote for those pesky distractions.

You know what Heyward’s skill-set screams? Special teams. However, you can never have enough good, young and hungry special teams players. Two Jumps for Joy.

As I alluded to earlier, I don’t like to put limits on these draft picks; when you read that Heyward rushed 118 times for 529 yards, caught 32 passes for 249 yards and returned 13 kicks for 287 yards in 2019 while being named a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most versatile player, it gets you excited about the possibility of him becoming a valuable role player on offense. Two Jumps for Joy.

At 5’11” and 233 pounds, I don’t expect Heyward to do much in the tight end spot, but he does apparently have great hands, so who knows?

Heck, maybe Heyward can become the Derek Watt that Derek Watt has yet to become since arriving in town. One Jump for Joy.

Speaking of Watt, maybe Heyward can become such a fan favorite, it will cause the people to finally turn on a Watt brother. Wouldn’t that be fascinating? One Jump for Joy.

Also, since Heyward spells his first name with two o’s, Steelers fans can finally spell “Connor” that way without it being wrong. One Jump for Joy.

Unfortunately, with two Heywards now on the roster, that doubles the chances of fans spelling that surname wrong. Two Smashed Remotes.

Final tally on the Jump for Joy/Smashed Remote grading scale: Plus-four.

Round seven (225th, overall), Mark Robinson, outside linebacker, Ole Miss

Robinson might be the biggest unknown of all the Steelers' draft picks. He played running back for three years in college before converting over to linebacker for his final season. He jumped from Presbyterian College to Southeast Missouri before transferring to Ole Miss and making the football team as a walk-on in 2021. Robinson tallied 92 tackles and 8.5 sacks in 2021, which is fairly impressive for his first season on defense and in a major conference like the SEC.

Speaking of screaming special teams, ditto for Robinson. Two Jumps for Joy. But, who knows? Maybe Robinson has just scratched the surface of what he can do as a linebacker. If Robinson can make strides at the pro level under senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach/scheme guru Brian Flores, perhaps he can fill a vital role as a reserve player and add depth to the linebacker spot.

Final tally on the Jump for Joy/Smashed Remote grading scale: Plus-two.

Round seven (241st, overall), Chris Oladokun, quarterback, South Dakota State

Wow, another quarterback, and this time, in the seventh round.

Oladokun started his college career at South Florida, where he didn’t see much playing time. After transferring to Samford, Oladokun completed 169 of 272 passes for 2,058 yards, 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2019, while adding another 491 rushing yards on 127 carries. Oladokun again transferred in the fall of 2021—this time to South Dakota State—and completed 238 of 384 passes for 3,164 yards, 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions in his final season.

Oladokun certainly has intriguing physical gifts. He appears to be more than mobile enough, and his arm seems to be good enough. Perhaps, he can be that young quarterback who comes in and learns the system for a year or two before winning the backup spot behind Kenny Pickett (who will be the presumed starter by that point). The Steelers have made it clear that they want their quarterbacks to be mobile in a post-Big Ben world, so it makes sense that they’d book-end their first draft without Roethlisberger by selecting quarterbacks who possess such a trait.

The Steelers now have a veteran quarterback, a high-pedigreed young quarterback and a low-pedigreed young quarterback on their roster (and Mason Rudolph for now), a dynamic that’s pretty common on most NFL teams.

There isn’t much to hate about this pick. And, hey, if Pickett to Pickens makes an unfortunate left turn toward Kenny Pickoff, Oladokun may find it common for folks to start calling for him to start.

Final tally on the Jump for Joy/Smashed Remote grading scale: Plus-one.

Scouting Roundup on Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/03/2022 - 6:00am
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Looking at the pre-draft evaluation of the Steelers 1st round pick.

The Steelers had their pick of quarterbacks with the 20th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, and they selected Kenny Pickett from the University of Pittsburgh.

Here’s what was being said about him before the draft.

Natalie Miller for USA Today’s Draft Wire

The Good

Pickett is an exceptional thrower of the football, possessing great accuracy, touch, and above-average arm strength. He uses these traits in combination with his high football IQ to punish defenses on a consistent basis. . . Pickett uses his high level of athleticism to create and extend plays with his feet, all while keeping his eyes downfield. He routinely took off for chunk plays and long touchdowns using his impressive speed.

The Bad

While sufficient, Pickett’s arm isn’t elite, which leads one to wonder if he can routinely make top-shelf NFL throws on the boundary. His smaller hands have been much maligned, but not without reason, as he fumbled the ball 38 times during his college career.

His one season of massive production does also run counter to his prior years of mediocre numbers, which could cast doubt as to whether or not he was a flash in the pan more than a prospect who can have sustained success at the next level.

The Verdict

Pickett was one of the top players in the country at a premium position, and he will without a doubt be in the conversation for the first quarterback taken in this year’s draft. He’s got an extremely high floor, and enough experience to play right away.

Nate Tice for Bleacher Report

The Good

Good height with above-average bulk for the QB position.
Asked to run a wide variety of concepts and shows a solid understanding of their intent.
Good accuracy at all three levels. Is able to deliver catchable throws even when feet aren’t set.
Most dangerous when he breaks out of the pocket. Willing to attack down the field on unscripted plays. Can punish blitzes doing so.

The Bad

Inconsistent timing on his throws that isn’t as glaring at the college level due to a stout offensive line. Resorts to scramble drills too often because he ends up late.
Takes unnecessary sacks because he looks to scramble instead of attempting to operate from the pocket.
Notably small hands.

The Verdict

3rd rated QB in the draft.
3rd round projection.

Joe Marino for The Draft Network

The Good

Pickett brings good size, mobility, accuracy, poise, toughness, and leadership to the table. He is a terrific vertical passer that can work off-script and make things happen with his legs. He has terrific command and confidence running the offense and does a wonderful job of blending an aggressive mentality with consistently working his progressions and generally making good decisions with the football.

The Bad

While Pickett showcased good ball placement in 2021, there are some misfires and the ball can sail on him. In addition, he is guilty of aggressive decisions both in terms of slotting throws but also in how he navigates the pocket and addresses pressure.

The Verdict

If 2021 is an indication of what Pickett can be moving forward, then there is no doubt about his ability to become a franchise quarterback in the NFL. With that said, blending all the layers of the evaluation together makes Pickett an interesting case study.

Pro Football Focus

The Good

Pickett has a natural feel that’s uncoachable in a lot of ways. Whether it’s throwing guys open, understanding receiver leverage, avoiding the rush or keying blitzes, Pickett gets a lot of the little things already.

The Bad

He has to speed up his process in the league. He’ll work through reads under the assumption he can always buy himself more time. “Ball out” has to be his first thought at the next level instead of “break pocket.”

The Verdict

Between his combination of experience and NFL-translatable skills, Pickett is as ready as any quarterback in the draft class to start out the gate. The question is: How high is his ceiling?

Summary

The most NFL ready quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft class, Pickett checks a lot of the boxes teams look for in a quarterback.

But the ones he doesn’t check are things like having smaller hands than any NFL quarterback, and questions about his ceiling as a player.

A big factor for me is the Steelers have had ample opportunity to study Pickett during his time at the University of Pittsburgh, by virtue of the Pitt Panthers sharing practice facilities with the Steelers. If that unparalleled access led them to believe he was the #1 quarterback then they made the right choice.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 05/03/2022 - 4:30am

Get the latest BTSC podcast content in the ‘Podcast Roundup’.

The Pittsburgh Steelers seasons come and go with no real offseason, at least not for those diehard fans. For those fans, the preseason bleeds into the regular season, the regular season into the offseason, free agency and the NFL Draft. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle.

Nonetheless, we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the website, but now we’ve decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest three podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

With that being said or typed, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each show:

BAD Language: There’s a reason why we don’t make the draft decisions for the Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers made a decision to draft Kenny Pickett when they did at No. 20 because they didn’t feel that they could afford to wait to draft the Pitt QB. Because another signal caller wasn’t chosen until the third round, some will the Steelers could have waited. But what we are forgetting is that Pickett very well could have gone in the first round if he was available. Everybody’s got an opinion. Some subscribe to conventional wisdom. others are ill-informed, while some are unorthodox and way out there. So, BTSC podcast producer Bryan Anthony Davis decided to make no apologies and share his black-and-gold brand of enlightenment. Join BAD preaching his own gospel of the hypocycloids on the new show, BAD Language. This week, it’s all about why we can’t second guess the decision makers this early.

  • News and Notes
  • The perils of second -guessing the Steelers’ Draft
  • A visit from Britsburgh Owen, Voice from Across the Pond
  • and MUCH MORE!
Steelers Hangover: Did you need to sleep off the Steelers’ Draft?

Plain and simple, some people loved the Steelers’ 2022 Draft. Others are chagrined. Let’s talk abaht it. Join BTSC Podcast Producer Bryan Anthony Davis, Tony Defeo and Shannon White in discussing this as the hangover from the regular season shifts into the organizational build to the 2022 season.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers Draft Analysis
  • and MUCH MORE!
From the Steelers’ Cutting Room Floor: Where’s the Cornerback? Looking at the Steelers defensive additions

The Pittsburgh Steelers covered a lot of areas over the weekend but did not really address the cornerback position. How much of a concern will that be? Join BTSC’s Geoffrey Benedict for weekly player analysis as it pertains to the Men of Steel. This week, Geoffrey’s focus turns back to the draft and the defensive personnel. It’s film study in audio form.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Where are the cornerbacks?
  • and MUCH MORE!

Geoffrey walks you through everything you need to know regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Be sure to check out this and all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Kenny Pickett among the top choices for 2022 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/02/2022 - 2:30pm
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

In odds reported by Draft Kings, Pickett has the second-best chance of being the top offensive rookie in 2022.

Even before the conclusion of the 2022 NFL draft, there were a number of betting odds released in regards to newly drafted players. When it comes to those drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, their first-round pick of quarterback Kenny Pickett of the Pittsburgh Panthers found himself almost at the top for the best odds of winning the NFL‘s Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Of course, the nature of the positions drafted factor a lot into who will be most likely to bring home Offensive Rookie of the Year. When it comes to the odds, some of the highest drafted players on the offense don’t find themselves on any higher than 100:1 odds due to being offensive lineman. Despite linemen being three of the top four positions taken on offense, they still landed behind undrafted quarterback Carson Strong (40:1) simply based on the position they play.

Here are the latest odds for the top 20 candidates to win Offensive Rookie of the Year according to draftkings.com.

Be sure to check out the DraftKings Sportsbook for all the latest odds.

Drake London +550
Kenny Pickett +600
Treylon Burks +700
Breece Hall +700
Garrett Wilson +850
Kenneth Walker III +900
Christian Waton +950
Chris Olave +1000
Skyy Moore +1000
Jameson Williams +1100
Malik Willis: +1400
James Cook +1500
Desmond Ridder +1500
Jahan Dotson +1800
Matt Corral +2200
Sam Howell +2500
Isaiah Spiller +3000
5 players at +4000

Since the NFL began awarding Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1967, there have only been running backs, wide receivers, and quarterbacks to win the award. When Ben Roethlisberger won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2004, he was only the second quarterback ever to do so and the first since Dennis Shaw in 1970. But starting with Roethlisberger, nine of the last 18 winners of the award have been quarterbacks. The other nine selections include six running backs and three wide receivers.

With the quarterback position being a more likely candidates for the award in recent years, it makes sense for Kenny Pickett (6:1) to be ranked so high as the only quarterback selected in the first two rounds. The only player above him on the list was the first wide receiver taken as the eighth overall pick by the Atlanta Falcons in a Drake London out of USC at 11:2 odds.

It should also be noted that while Kenny Pickett is the only draftee by the Pittsburgh Steelers to land on the list above by name, the Steelers second-round draft pick of wide receiver George Pickens out of Georgia landed in the top 20 as well being one of the players at 40:1 odds to win the award.

What will ultimately determine if Kenny Pickett is in the running for the 2022 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year will be his playing time throughout the season. With Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin stating on draft weekend that Pickett will have the opportunity to win the starting job, the chances of Pickett to win the award would increase even more should he be named the starter.

The complete list for the odds for 2022 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year according to DraftKings can be seen HERE.

Steelers reportedly do not pick up the 5th-year option on Devin Bush

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/02/2022 - 12:58pm
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers linebacker is set to enter year four as his final season under cotract.

The Pittsburgh Steelers came out of the 2022 NFL draft with a lot of business to still take care of in the coming days. After announcing the signing 10 undrafted free agents, the Steelers also have a 4 PM deadline on Monday, May 2, to make a decision on the fifth-year option for 2019 first-round draft pick Devin Bush. On Monday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has reported the Steelers are not picking up Bush’s fifth-year option.

Steelers declined to pick up the fifth-year option for Linebacker Devin Bush, per source. He now will be playing on an expiring contract.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 2, 2022

The amount of a player’s fifth-year option is based on position, playing time, and Pro Bowl selections. Starting off with players making two or more Pro Bowls, their fifth year option is the same as the franchise tag salary at their position from the previous year. If a player makes one Pro Bowl, their fifth-year option is the same amount as the transition tag. The other designation is for players who are on the field for 75% of the teams offensive or defensive snaps in two of their first three seasons, have 50% of the snaps played in each of the three seasons, or a 75% average over all three seasons. Those players are in the average of the 3rd to 20th highest paid players at that position. For those who do not meet the snap criteria, it is the average of the 3rd to the 25th highest paid players at the position.

Prior to the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), it was where a player was selected in the first round which determined their fifth-year option. Under the new CBA the exact selection in the first round is irrelevant.

Looking specifically at Devin Bush, he fell into the final category as he just missed each of the next two categories. In his rookie season, Devin Bush stated he was informed he was a Pro Bowl alternate and could be called on for the game but ultimately they had enough players at the position who chose to attend. As for the snap requirements, Devin Bush played 82% of the snaps of his rookie season but missed 11 games in 2020 and only had 27% of the snaps. Needing another season of 75% of the snaps or more, Bush only played 65.4% of the snaps in 2021 after missing Week 2 with a groin injury and Week 16 and Week 17 due to being on the Reserve/COVID-19 List.

Since Bush did not meet the snap requirement, his fifth-year option was for $10.9 million instead of the $11.7 million it would have been had he played enough snaps.

As for on-field production, Bush had 109 tackles, two interceptions, one sack, and four fumble recoveries with one being for a touchdown in his rookie season where he came in third in the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year voting behind Nick Bosa and Maxx Crosby. After suffering an ACL injury in Week 5 of his second season, Bush did not have nearly as much production when he returned in 2021 with only 70 tackles and one fumble recovery along with 2.0 sacks in 14 games.

Despite declining Bush’s fifth-year option, it does not mean the 2022 has to be his last season in Pittsburgh. The Steelers have the opportunity to work out a long-term deal prior to this season or could bring Bush back during the 2023 offseason. Last year, the Steelers declined the fifth year option for safety Terrell Edmunds but recently signed him to a one-year deal for 2022. With fifth-year options being much more lucrative in the new CBA, it is more common for teams to not exercise these options which was the trend, particularly for the Steelers, previous to 2021.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for breaking news, player updates, rookie breakdowns, and all things Pittsburgh Steelers.

Pittsburgh Steelers announce dates for their 2022 Rookie Minicamp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/02/2022 - 12:27pm
Handout Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers rookie minicamp is set to start in just a couple weeks.

The first chance for the Pittsburgh Steelers organization, and the media, to get a glimpse of the 2022 NFL Draft class and undrafted rookie free agents (UDFAs) will be coming up in just a couple weeks. It was announced Monday the Steelers’ Rookie Minicamp will be held at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex from May 13-15.

Steelers announce that rookie minicamp will be held May 13-15 at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) May 2, 2022

For Steelers fans, it will be the first opportunity for them to see their seven new players via the NFL Draft wearing black and gold, but also the 10 UDFAs and those who were given invitations to attend camp on a try-out basis.

The Steelers rookies and UDFAs who will be showing what they can do, albeit in shorts, will be as follows:

2022 NFL Draft Class Round 1

Pick No. 20 / Overall: 20 — Kenny Pickett, QB, University of Pittsburgh

Round 2

Pick No. 20 / Overall: 52 — George Pickens, WR, University of Georgia

Round 3

Pick No. 20 / Overall: 84 — DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M

Round 4

Pick No. 33 / Overall: 138 (Comp) — Calvin Austin III, WR, Memphis

Round 5

No Pick

Round 6

Pick No. 30 / Overall: 208 (via KC) — Connor Heyward, TE/RB, Michigan State

Round 7

Pick No. 4 / Overall: 225 (via NYJ) — Mark Robinson, LB, Ole Miss

Pick No. 20 / Overall: 241 — Chris Oladokun, QB, South Dakota State

Undrafted Rookie Free Agents

OT Jake Dixon - Duquesne

RB Mataeo Durant - Duke

DL Donovan Jeter - Michigan

OLB Tyree Johnson - Texas A&M

OLB T.D. Moultry - Auburn

G Chris Owens - Alabama

CB Chris Steele - USC

OT Jordan Tucker - UNC

RB Jaylen Warren - Oklahoma State

CB Bryce Watts - UMass

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare for minicamps, OTAs and the start of training camp later this summer at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA.

Mel Kiper gives the Steelers 2022 draft a passing grade

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/02/2022 - 11:30am
Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

The most vilified, and talked about, ESPN analyst grades out the Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 draft class.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 NFL Draft class was all over the map, as it pertains to positions which were selected. Out of the seven picks they had, five of those were spent on the offensive side of the football.

The draft class consisted of their top three picks of quarterback Kenny Pickett, wide receiver George Pickens and defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal. After those two days of the draft process, the Steelers continued to stack offensive players. Round 4 saw the team select Memphis wide receiver Calvin Austin III, fullback/tight end Connor Heyward in the 6th Round and linebacker Mark Robinson and quarterback Chris Oladokun with their two seventh round picks.

After the draft has concluded, fans are always curious what the experts think about their draft class. What grades did they give? While some, including myself, find post-draft grades futile, many are curious what experts like ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. think of the latest crop of players.

In his post-draft grades, Kiper gave the Steelers a passing grade. Check out what he said:

Pittsburgh Steelers: B

Top needs: QB, OL, WR

Quarterback or no quarterback? That was the crucial question for the Steelers in this draft. Ben Roethlisberger had held down the position in Pittsburgh since 2004, so coach Mike Tomlin hadn’t worried about it since he took over the job in 2007. In the end — after Tomlin had a busy spring tour of seeing many of the signal-callers’ pro days — the board fell perfectly for the Steelers to get their guy and not have to trade up.

Note the italics above. I liked Malik Willis a little bit more than Kenny Pickett, but I can’t fault the Steelers for going with the local quarterback. My comp for Pickett? Some Derek Carr, some Andy Dalton. Teams can win with that. I don’t know that he’ll definitely beat out Mitch Trubisky in Year 1, and he doesn’t have the ceiling of Willis. But the important part is that the front office didn’t have to move up to get him, so this is solid value in a strange draft when Pickett was the only signal-caller selected in the first two rounds.

Wide receivers George Pickens (52) and Calvin Austin III (138) are nice replacements for JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington. Pickens is more of the Washington role — he’ll catch some fades down the sideline — while the diminutive dynamo Austin will line up mostly out of the slot and rack up yards after the catch. Defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal (84) looked like a future first-rounder at times in 2020, but he struggled for consistency last season. He has some versatility along the Pittsburgh front. Connor Heyward (208) is my top-ranked fullback in the class, and he’ll join his brother, Cam, in the yellow and black.

This was the final draft for general manager Kevin Colbert, and he did a nice job plugging holes. If Pickett becomes a star, Colbert might have set up the Steelers for the next 15 years with this group.

At this point, you might be curious how the rest of the AFC North teams graded out after their drafts. As you may imagine, Kiper, the Baltimore native, loved what the Ravens did during the selection process.

AFC North Grades

Baltimore Ravens: A
Cincinnati Bengals: B
Cleveland Browns: B

With the Steelers’ draft concluded, what grade do you give the class as a whole? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers this offseason.

FILM ROOM: Kenny Pickett’s most valuable trait made him worth the first round pick

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/02/2022 - 10:00am
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Looking at the Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 first round draft pick.

There’s a lot of things that get discussed when we talk about quarterbacks and the traits that make them good NFL quarterbacks. Things like accuracy, arm strength, and of course, 2022 Steelers buzz-word, mobility. The kind of traits players can show off when they run fast, throw the ball really far and and go through drills throwing on-target balls to un-defended receivers at the combine. Kenny Pickett isn’t exactly a slouch in those areas.

Kenny Pickett is moving to his right by design here, and shows off some nice arm strength with a quick flick of a throw that is on target and covers roughly 40 yards in the air. Mobility, Accuracy, Arm Strength. There’s enough of all three on this play to show he can play in the NFL.

But this film room isn’t about arm strength, or accuracy or mobility. If those were the traits the Steelers were drafting for they would have taken Malik Willis. This film room is about the trait(s) that Pickett has that made him the best quarterback prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft.

This is what the modern NFL wants. Pickett evades a free rusher, rolls out to his left, gets his eyes up-field and makes an off-platform throw for a touchdown.

My favorite part of this play is how he makes the throw. No time to set his feet, no way to get his body into proper alignment for a normal throw, so he jumps off his back foot, and if you watch, you can see his shoulders square up to the throw and his body stays square throughout the jump, mimicking good upper body technique as much as possible in that situation.

I also like how he never looks directly at the rusher, and once he escapes he gets his eyes back up to look downfield. Quarterbacks are first and foremost passers, and Pickett is always looking to make plays with his arm.

Another escape, multiple adjustments to defenders, and yet his eyes are downfield the whole time, and he ends up finding a target for a big gain.

Watch the timing and movement he takes before running out of the pocket, the lateral move inside baits the outside rusher inside more, where Pickett can get by him. Pickett shows the awareness of a running quarterback to bait defenders into places where he can escape them, but the whole time he is looking downfield for a throw to make.

It doesn’t always mean running out of the pocket for Pickett either.

Love the slow movement to his left here, he sees the rush breaking through and moves to put more of his blocker between him and the rush, buying time for a big downfield throw that ends up incomplete.

This is the kind of movement and footwork Ben Roethlisberger was great at. He would extend plays with subtle movements that helped his blockers buy him more time.

Even here, on this quicker throw, you can see Pickett move to his left to counter the rush on his right before making this throw.

And what really stands out to me is how well he can read the defense while dealing with pressure.

His pocket is disrupted from the start, and he ends up with bodies to his right and a rusher to his left here, and yet he makes this throw. This is a really good read on the defense from Pickett, on a play where his pocket wasn’t clean and orderly.

The deep safety to the bottom of the screen is the read here. The routes are attacking that safety first with the underneath route from the furthest inside receiver and secondly from the receiver Pickett throws to, who is open because that safety attacked the underneath route.

Pickett has pressure in his pocket, but makes the read and gets the ball out in time to complete it. One of the reasons teams value pressure creation so much is it throws off the timing of the quarterback. Most quarterbacks, even in the NFL, will deal with pressure and then have to re-orient to look downfield and find their target. Pickett is more like a Ben Roethlisberger or Aaron Rogers in how he handles disruptions in the pocket.

Yeah, I know, I just compared Kenny Pickett to Aaron Rogers and Ben Roethlisberger. So now I have to qualify that Pickett is way behind those two in physical gifts like arm strength, elusiveness in the pocket, hand size, and even accuracy. Just like almost every other quarterback in the NFL has been during those two quarterback’s best seasons.

Pickett isn’t those guys, but his ability to navigate a messy pocket, keep his focus and find the right throw is reminiscent of those great quarterbacks.

And yes I brought up the specter of Kenny Pickett’s hand size. So let’s address that real quick. First off, we always hear that small hands won’t be able to throw in cold weather, but that ignores the fact that the ball deflates and becomes easier to throw when the weather is cold. The ball deflates and is easier to grip. Just ask Tom Brady.

The rain is a bigger issue, but Pickett has played well in the rain in college, and while he didn’t at the Senior Bowl practices, I’m pretty sure they can find him the right gloves to wear in the rain in the NFL.

The biggest negative about hand size I’ve heard recently is Kenny Pickett’s fumbles. He does have a good number of them, but in the NFL and college hand size and fumbling doesn’t correlate, or we’d be talking about hand size for running backs a lot more. The issue isn’t hand size, it’s how you hold the football.

Here’s a fumble from Pickett, he’s trying to navigate the pressure, but gets caught from behind and fumbles the ball. Take a look at the replay.

That’s how you fumble, you hold the ball away from your body, nose down. Bigger hands aren’t going to save you there, Ben Roethlisberger fumbled when he got hit like that.

Will fumbling be a problem for Pickett? Probably. But that’s because he’s a quarterback who even when he scrambles is thinking about throwing the ball, instead of protecting it like a running back. It’s not his hands being slightly smaller than Joe Burrow’s hands that causes that problem.

There is a reason that Kenny Pickett fell over the draft process in many mock drafts. Because actual football stopped, and football in shorts started. Football in shorts is about who runs faster, throws farther and can hit targets when you don’t have to worry about defenders hitting you.

Kenny Pickett lags behind other quarterbacks in football in shorts ability. But when an actual football game breaks out, the traits that NFL quarterbacks really need, Kenny Pickett has.

2023 Mock Draft: Steelers take a CB in a way too early mock draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/02/2022 - 8:30am
Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers look to add to their secondary in a way-too-early 2023 mock draft.

The 2022 NFL Draft is officially in the books, and, after getting minimal sleep over the past couple weeks, I am somewhat glad about it. However, we cannot officially put a bow on the 2022 draft cycle without a way-too-early glance at the 2023 draft class. With that being said, I am happy to release to you my annual way-too-early mock draft.

After the selection of Kenny Pickett this year, quarterback is more than likely off the board for the Steelers next year. Wide receiver could be in play, but much will depend on whether Diontae Johnson gets locked up long-term or not. Personally, I believe it would be in the best interest of both parties to move on, especially when you consider the high value currently being placed on receivers. The Steelers cannot afford to overpay for Johnson, and they have proven their ability to scout receivers at a relatively high level. I trust the Steelers to replace him through the draft, and I would be intrigued to see what Johnson’s trade value is. If the Steelers were to trade him, they may be able to pick up a high draft pick in return.

On defense, nose tackle has to be near the top of the list. The Steelers passed on Travis Jones in the second round, which would have been good value, but perhaps their eye is on somebody in the 2023 class. Cornerback could also be a major area of need, as the Steelers chose not to address the position in the draft this year. Neither Ahkello Witherspoon nor Levi Wallace are number one corners, so I would not be surprised to see the team target one early and hope he develops into the lockdown corner of the future.

If you have any thoughts as to which direction the Steelers could go in round 1 of the 2023 draft, be sure to share them in the comment section below.

Let’s get to the mock!

Round 1 **PROJECTED TRADE** (Falcons receive Giants’ 2023 1st round pick and 2024 1st and 3rd round picks)

1. Giants- Bryce Young | QB | Alabama
2. Jaguars- Jalen Carter | DT | Georgia
3. Dolphins- Will Anderson, Jr. | EDGE | Alabama
4. Texans (from Browns)- Nolan Smith | EDGE | Georgia
5. Bears- Jaxson Smith-Njigba | WR | Ohio State
6. Lions- Anthony Richardson | QB | Florida
7. Seahawks- C.J. Stroud | QB | Ohio State
8. Falcons (projected from Giants)- Kayshon Boutte | WR | LSU
9. Texans- Myles Murphy | EDGE | Clemson
10. Commanders- Eli Hicks | CB | Alabama
11. Eagles (from Saints)- Kelee Ringo | CB | Georgia
12. Raiders- Jordan Addison | WR | Pittsburgh
13. Vikings- Michael Mayer | TE | Notre Dame
14. Jets- Brandon Joseph | S | Notre Dame
15. Titans- Marvin Mims | WR | Oklahoma
16. Patriots- Noah Sewell | LB | Oregon

17. Steelers- Joey Porter, Jr. | CB | Penn State

One of the biggest surprises in the 2022 draft was that the Steelers left the cornerback position unaddressed. Levi Wallace and Ahkello Witherspoon are only set to make $4,000,000 each in 2022, and neither player is a number one corner. With Stephon Gilmore now off the table, it looks as if the Steelers will roll with who they currently have, while potentially bringing back Joe Haden on a small deal as the CB3. The latter, of course, will likely come down to money.

Nonetheless, corner is a position the Steelers need to find a long-term solution at. This predicament prompts the drafting of Penn State cornerback Joey Porter, Jr. The Steelers love players with NFL bloodlines, and in this situation, those bloodlines go back to a former Steeler. What I love about Porter the most is his aggressive play style. He is not afraid to get physical with receivers at the line of scrimmage, and he is a willing tackler. The splash plays have not come yet, but he has every physical trait necessary to become a star corner in the NFL.

At some point, whether fans want to hear it or not, the Steelers will have to learn to develop their own talent at corner through the draft. With a new general manager coming in, hopefully the Steelers’ scouting philosophy will change when it comes to evaluating cornerbacks, although the bigger issue is likely Mike Tomlin’s zone-heavy scheme. Either way, the Steelers need to find a true lockdown corner if they want to take their defense to the next level, and Porter could be exactly what they need.

18. Panthers- Malachi Moore | CB/S | Alabama
19. Eagles- Bryan Bresee | DL | Clemson
20. Seahawks (from Broncos)- Emil Ekiyor | G | Alabama
21. Colts- Will Levis | QB | Kentucky
22. 49ers- Calijah Kancey | DL | Pittsburgh
23. Ravens- Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson
24. Cardinals- Bijan Robinson | RB | Texas
25. Bengals- Dawand Jones | OT | Ohio State
26. Cowboys- Carter Warren | OT | Pittsburgh
27. Chargers- Sam LaPorta | TE | Iowa
28. Packers- Jordan Battle | S | Alabama
29. Bills- Zion Nelson | OT | Miami
30. Lions (from Rams)- Trenton Simpson | LB | Clemson
31. Chiefs- Henry To’oTo’o | LB | Alabama
32. Buccaneers- Tyler Van Dyke | QB | Miami

There you have it, Steelers fans! That is the just the first glance at the 2023 NFL Draft, and I look forward to breaking down the class more extensively throughout the next year. What did you think of the mock? Do you think Joey Porter, Jr. would be nice fit for the Steelers? Be sure to light up the comment section below with your thoughts on this and all things NFL Draft!

Updating the Steelers’ salary cap situation after re-signing Terrell Edmunds

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/02/2022 - 7:15am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

After bringing Edmunds back right before the draft, how much space do the Steelers have under the 2022 salary cap?

The Pittsburgh Steelers have made numerous moves to start off the 2022 NFL league year. While reports come in of these deals well before they are official, even after pen is put to paper it can sometimes take some time to know the exact financials within the contract. Relying heavily on reliable salary cap websites such as overthecap.com or spotrac.com, when they are able to report a player’s contract numbers over the specific years I then update the salary cap situation with a more precise number.

Just ahead of the 2022 NFL draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers re-signed their starting strong safety from the previous four seasons. After going more than a month during free agency without coming to terms with another team, Terrell Edmunds returned to the Steelers with what was reported as a $2.5 million contract for one season. With all the craziness of the draft over the weekend, the precise numbers for Edmunds came in and are not as cut and dry as many would have expected.

The deal Terrell Edmunds signed with the Steelers ends up being a “Four-Year Player Qualifying Contract.” This is another type of contract defined in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that allows teams to pay a player more money in one season than what will qualify against the salary cap. Rather than quote paragraph after paragraph about this provision from the CBA, the short of it is as long as the contract is laid out in the proper way, more than half of Edmunds salary, $1.35 million to be exact, does not count against the salary cap at all and is a “player benefit.” In order to qualify for this contract, the player must have spent every game on the team’s roster over the previous four seasons.

Being this type of contract, Terrell Edmunds will have a $2.385 million base salary and a $152,500 signing bonus with both amounts being the maximum allowed as a Four-Year Player Qualifying Contract. Therefore, Edmunds base salary only counts the minimum for a player with his experience on the salary cap which is $1.035 million. Along with his signing bonus, Edmunds ultimately has a cap hit of $1.1875 million.

As for newly signed safety Damontae Kazee, he has not been officially announced by the Pittsburgh Steelers or have there been any financials disclosed about his contract at this time.

If you are looking for the added salary cap due to the 2022 draftees, they will not be included at this time as they have not signed their contracts. But based on the structure of rookie salaries in the latest CBA, the estimated dollar amounts are known for 2022. Therefore, an explanation as to how much the rookies will cost is given at the bottom of the article.

To determine how much each player changes the Steelers’ salary cap space, their cap number must be adjusted due to roster displacement. As a reminder, roster displacement is taking into account only the top 51 contracts for a team count towards the salary cap during the offseason. As a larger contract comes on the books, it bumps a smaller contract out of the top 51. Therefore, it’s only the difference in those contracts that increases the salary cap number.

Here is the approximate breakdown of the Steelers salary cap space based on their recent moves by my own calculations. The numbers are strictly the salary cap hit for each player in 2022. Players who were released, were given a tender, or had their exact salary reported are indicated below and the precise numbers are known.

(NOTE: Unless indicated, reported salaries displaced a $825k salary.)

Steelers salary cap space heading into free agency: Approximately $28.8 million

Dwayne Haskins: Tendered $2.54 million salary; After displacement++: -$1.715 million
Miles Killebrew: Reported $1.5175 million; After displacement: -$0.6925 million
Arthur Maulet: Reported $1.535 million; After displacement: -$0.71 million
Mitch Trubisky: Reported $3.66 million; After displacement+: -$2.765 million
Mason Cole: Reported $2.556666 million; After displacement+: -$1.661666 million
Chuks Okorafor: Reported $4.333333 million; After displacement: -$3.508333 million
Robert Spillane: Tendered $2.433 million salary; After displacement: -$1.608 million
Marcus Allen: Tendered $2.54 million salary; After displacement: -$1.715 million
James Daniels: Reported $4.166666 million; After displacement: -$3.341666 million
Levi Wallace: Reported $2.5175 million; After displacement*: -$1.672317 million
Montravius Adams: Reported $1.7675 million; After displacement+: -$0.8725 million
Zach Banner: Saved $5 million salary; After displacement: +$4.175 million
Myles Jack: Reported $4.75 million; After displacement*: -$3.90139 million
Joe Schobert: Saved $7.834 million salary; After displacement+: +$6.939 million
Ahkello Witherspoon: Reported $2.5175 million; After displacement+: -$1.6225 million
Gunner Olszewski: Reported $1.5825 million; After displacement+: -$0.6875 million
Genard Avery: Reported $1.0475 million; After displacement+: -$0.1525
Karl Joseph: Reported $895k; not in the top 51: -$0
Miles Boykin: Reported $2.54 million salary; After displacement++: -$0
Terrell Edmunds: Reported $1.1875 million; After displacement+: -$0.2925
Damontae Kazee: Not reported yet

Estimated salary cap space: Approximately $13.0 million

*The salaries displaced by these two contracts were $845,183 (Tre Norwood) and $848,610 (Pressley Harvin)

+A $895k contract was displaced

++Displaced by each other, giving no change to the cap

So where does this number compare to those reported by the major salary cap websites (at the original time of publishing, before any potential updates)?

According to overthecap.com, the Steelers are $11,362,210 under the salary cap. OTC has all of the above reported contracts on the books except they still have Haskins contract. Otherwise our numbers are exactly the same.

Another credible salary cap website is spotrac.com, which has the Steelers at $12,760,319 under the cap. Spotrac has the above contracts, but also has Mikes Boykin’s prorated bonus incorrectly counting for the Steelers instead of it sticking with the Ravens. Spotrac does not have the offseason workouts counting against the salary cap at this time either. Additionally, Spotrac counts the potential dead money hits of players outside the top 51 salaries in their totals.

What about the 2022 rookies?

Now that the 2022 NFL draft is over, it is known that the Steelers stayed with their designated selections. Based on their draft choices, when rookie contracts are signed this offseason they will only be three salaries out of the seven drafted players and 10 undrafted free agents that will land in the top 51. Only Kenny Pickett, George Pickens, and DeMarvin Leal should have a 2022 cap hit that will put them in the top 51. After factoring in displacement, their contracts together will count approximately $2.5 million towards the salary cap based on the rookie pool estimate chart provided by OTC. Since these contracts are not signed yet, they will not be included at this time until the precise dollar amounts are known. Even if taking these amounts into account, the Steelers would still have approximately $10.5 million left in salary cap space.

The Steelers will need as much as an additional $10.8 million come September when they need to account for all 53 players on the roster, sign their practice squad, and have some carryover in order to do business throughout the year as outlined in the following article:

Unless Damontae Kazee has an unexpected salary cap hit for 2022 (he was a veteran salary benefit contract for 2021), the Steelers are in the range of what they need for the 2022 season at this time without freeing up any other money. Even though there could be some dead money in contracts with players not making the 53-man roster, it should be offset even more by larger contracts of players who are waived.

Does something not make sense? Curious about any of the specifics? Leave your questions in the comments below and I will check in and do my best to answer them.

Steelers make a real attempt to find Roethlisberger’s heir with the kid next door: Kenny Pickett

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/02/2022 - 6:00am
Photo by Logan Whitton/Getty Images

Is Kenny Pickett the answer at QB for the Steelers? It’s hard to say, but he became the Steelers’ first real attempt at finding Ben Roethlisberger’s heir apparent.

Looks like it was obviously obvious the whole time.

Months after he was the odds-on favorite to move his locker across the hall over at both Heinz Field and the South Side facilities, the Steelers made Kenny Pickett, the pride of the University of Pittsburgh, their most recent first-round selection when they picked him 20th overall in the 2022 NFL Draft on Thursday night.

Go hard or go home, isn’t that the saying? The Steelers were going to need to try and find Ben Roethlisberger’s replacement in a legitimate fashion sooner or later. Maybe it really will be Mitch Trubisky, the soon-to-be 28-year-old veteran they signed at the onset of free agency, when all is said and done. But, heading into this year’s draft, the chances were always fairly high that Pittsburgh would eventually need to start throwing first-round picks at the position—and not just signing former first-round picks.

Will Pickett be the answer? That remains to be seen, but the Steelers will have to keep asking the quarterback question until they are truly satisfied; the sooner they are, the quicker they can have a real chance of keeping up in the AFC North, a division that figures to be a gauntlet in the quarterback department for many years to come.

It really was fascinating how the tide seemed to shift with quarterbacks in the pre-draft process, starting with the Senior Bowl where Liberty star, Malik Willis, began to emerge as the leader in a supposedly weak quarterback class thanks to Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin’s apparent fascination with him.

But was it all a smokescreen with the Steelers and Willis?

We’ll likely never know the answer to that question, but the perception of this quarterback class being a weak one remained intact on Thursday, as Pickett turned out to be the only one selected in the first round. That’s right, when Pittsburgh’s turn on the clock commenced around 10:30 P.M. EST, the team had the pick of the litter at the quarterback spot.

Again, we’ll never know if the love for Willis was legit or not, but we do know that the Steelers wasted little time in getting Pickett’s name into the hands of the legendary Franco Harris so he could announce it to the world. Therefore, it’s hard to imagine there was any doubt as to who the Steelers truly desired, not just with quarterbacks but with the overall pool of draft prospects still floating around at pick number 20.

Yes, Pickett is a gamble, but what quarterback prospect truly isn’t? Sometimes you have to go for it and risk getting rejected. It’s like the saying goes: If you never ask the question, the answer will always be “no.”

It’s like what former Bills head coach, Marv Levy, once said about losing Super Bowls: “The best way to make sure you don’t lose a Super Bowl is to not go.”

The Steelers could have waited a year or two to try to find their next franchise quarterback—someone who really might be in high school right now—but they decided to address the problem as quickly as possible, and they did so with the college graduate next door.

You have to love the aggression.

Kenny Pickett, the Steelers' most-recent first-round pick.

I guess we should have seen it coming all along.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 05/02/2022 - 4:30am

Get the latest BTSC podcast content in the ‘Podcast Roundup’.

The Pittsburgh Steelers seasons come and go with no real offseason, at least not for those diehard fans. For those fans, the preseason bleeds into the regular season, the regular season into the offseason, free agency and the NFL Draft. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle.

Nonetheless, we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the website but have decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest four podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

With that being said and written, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each show:

The Steelers Power Half Hour: These are a few of our favorite Steelers

Who are your favorite all-time Steelers players? Join the Ohioans as they rank the best, in their opinion, to ever wear the black and gold. Chris Pugh, joe Frost and Paul Yanchek count them down on the Steelers Power Half Hour.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Note
  • Favorite all-time Steelers players
  • and MUCH MORE!
We Run the North: Did the North Run the Draft?

The teams of the AFC North all had varied drafts. Whose was the best of the division? This is the main topic that will be discussed on the newest installation of the BTSC family of podcasts. Join Kevin Tate for a look at the Steelers and their division rivals on “We Run the North”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Note
  • How the North Four fared in the 2022 NFL Draft
  • Special Guest: B-Dirt
  • and MUCH MORE!
The Steelers Sunday Night Q&A: Let the second-guessing commence

It’s another offseason Sunday in 2022 with no NFL football and no games scheduled. However, the Steelers will be on the clock in just a few days and BTSC is continuing a question-and-answer free-for-all from you the loyal fans. This time, join BTSC’s Bryan Anthony Davis and Kyle Chrise as they team up to take questions from the live chat for some good Steelers discussion.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Steelers Draft Analysis
  • Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!
Let’s Ride: Did the Steelers make the right moves in the draft??

Join BTSC’s senior editor the morning flagship show in the Behind the Steel Curtain family of podcasts, as the Steelers added seven players through the 2022 NFL Draft. DId Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin and company make all the right moves.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • The Steelers Draft Analysis
  • The Monday Morning Conversation with Christopher Carter of Lock On Steelers
  • and MUCH MORE!

Be sure to check out this and all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Grading the Steelers 7th round selection of Chris Oladokun

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/01/2022 - 2:30pm
Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have selected South Dakota State QB Chris Oladokun with the 241st selection of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Great news, Steelers Nation. The 2022 NFL Draft is finally upon us. Every rabid football fans version of Christmas in April.

I have been given the distinguished task of trying to apply a letter grade to each Steelers selection.

There are specific criteria necessary when attempting to accurately and fairly grade any draft pick. Only time will reveal the validity of any grade given, but I will utilize certain parameters as I attempt to apply an initial grade for each Steelers draft pick. I base each grade on projected roster fit, potential immediate impact, and assumed draft value. Draft value is achieved by evaluating each players actual selection against their projected draft position, whether that be player rankings or projected round.

The Pittsburgh Steelers selected South Dakota State QB Chris Oladokun with the 241st selection of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Chris Oladokun is a athletic quarterback with good but not great arm talent. He stands 6'2" and weighs around 200 lbs. He ran a 4.68 forty at his pro day, so mobility is not an issue. He utilizes said mobility to extend the play, preferring to look for the big pass play downfield prior to scrambling for extra yards. He is definitely a pass first type quarterback.

Oladokun is a well traveled prospect, having played for three football programs in his collegiate career. He is also 24 years old, thanks to the multiple transfers. While information like scouting reports and pre-draft evaluations were extremely limited for Oladokun, a quick scan of social media revealed a confident young man appreciative for the opportunity.

Based on the criteria mentioned earlier in this article, I give the Steelers seventh round selection of Chris Oladokun an initial draft grade of C.

One NFL Network analysis compared Oladokun to Ravens backup QB Tyler Huntley, who I believe is as good or better than some starting quarterbacks around the league. Apparently the Steelers see his potential, after hosting him for a pre-draft visit, then drafting him with their final selection. I was originally tempted to call Oladokun little more than a camp arm, but his athleticism and arm talent may give him the opportunity to earn a spot on the practice squad, where he can continue to grow as a player, all while helping the Steelers defenders to prepare for all the mobile quarterbacks popping up around the league.

Now we want to hear from the BTSC community and from Steelers Nation. What do you think about the selection and what initial grade would you give it. Please place your vote in the attached poll and share your reasoning in the comment section below.

I am pleased to welcome Chris Oladokun to the Steelers family on behalf of the BTSC staff and community. Go Steelers!

Know your new Steelers enemies after Day 3 of the 2022 Draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/01/2022 - 1:30pm

Get to know the players that were drafted into the AFC North and are now instant rivals of Steeler Nation.

.The third day of the NFL draft brought more Pittsburgh Steelers for Steeler Nation to cheer for like . But with that, it serves up more players to serve as instant rivals to boo. This time around, I am going to enlist scouting report help from Andrew Wilbar (steelerfan11), Ryland B. and SNW (ItzJustNoah). These guys do a phenomenal job with prospects on the BTSC Big Board. Here’s who will oppose Pittsburgh as new members of the AFC North.

Round 4 Pick 108 Cleveland Browns select DT Perrion Winfrey - Oklahoma

I don’t know Perrion from Oprah, but he’s a quick big man who can move.

ePhoto by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

6-foot-4, 290 lbs

Noah: Winfrey looks relatively unspectacular. There are some pros, he’s very mobile for a nose tackle and was used in a lot of stunts at Oklahoma. He’s a good tackler and frequently disrupts runs at the line of scrimmage. However, he doesn’t seem to have a real plan as a pass rusher and he doesn’t have the size or strength to get past bigger offensive lineman. He does have a good hand placement that helps him get home for a sack every now and then, but overall, if he can’t develop more as a pass rusher, he could turn out to be a bust for whoever drafts him.

Round 4 Pick 110 Baltimore Ravens select OT Daniel Faalele - Minnesota

He’s 6’9” and 3-freaking-90!!!! This is akin to a WWE superstar added to the Ravens line.

Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

6‘-9“, 380 lbs

Andrew Wilbar: I was a big fan of Faalele before he decided to return to school for the 2021 season, but some of his issues were exposed on a consistent basis over the past year, both during the season as well as during the week of Senior Bowl practices. Any 6’9”, 380-pound lineman who moves as well as Faalele does is going to draw intrigue, and rightfully so. He is a powerful individual who simply moves defenders in the run game, and it is difficult to move him off his base in pass protection. However, he had serious issues in college with twitchier edge rushers who could get low coming around the edge, and I am not sure how much can be done about that. When you are that size, quick pass rushers who can get low are going to give you fits. I think in Faalele’s scenario, the best thing would be to work on improving his footwork to the absolute best it can get. He cannot change the fact that he is 6’9”, but he can minimize the cons of being that size with better technique. He has the potential to be a dominant right tackle in the NFL, but he is very boom-or-bust.

Round 4 Pick 119 Baltimore Ravens select CB Jalyn Armour-Davis - Alabama

What’s a Ravens’ draft without rollin’ with the tide? Baltimore needs defensive back help, so this makes sense.

Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

6‘-1“, 192 lbs

2021 stats: GP 11, T 32, TFL 1, S 0, Int 3, PD 4

Noah: Jalyn Armour-Davis may not be as skilled as some of the other guys in this class but I believe that playing for Nick Saban is going to greatly benefit him. He has the length and athleticism to be a really good player. His instincts are great and he is excellent at tracking guys down to make the tackle. However, he’s pretty stiff and you’d like to see him get his hips around a little quicker. He also gives receivers too much room sometimes and overall needs to tighten up his coverage. Being just a one-year starter there are some concerns about his experience and if he’s ready for the NFL yet. Armour-Davis is certainly a project but the reward could definitely be worth a day 3 pick.

Round 4 Pick 124 Cleveland Browns select K Cade York - LSU

I can’t really bust on this too bad. We roasted Cincy last year, but Evan McPherson in Cincy proved everybody wrong.

Photo by Andy Altenburger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Andrew Wilbar: My highest-rated kicker on the board in the 2022 NFL Draft. York was 15/19 from 50-plus the past two seasons.

Round 4 Pick 128 Baltimore Ravens select TE Charlie Kolar - Iowa State

The Ravens typically are strong at TE, but there’s no depth behind Andrews, Good addition.

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

6‘-6“, 260 lbs

2021 Stats: GP 12, Rec 62, Yds 756, TD 6

Necksnation: The first thing that jumps out about Kolar is his size. At 6’6’’ and 260 pounds, he certainly has the frame to succeed in the NFL. He had consistent production as a receiver at Iowa State from his sophomore to senior seasons, and is a capable blocker when he’s not catching passes. His hands are outstanding, and although he isn’t a great athlete, he has value as a red zone threat that he showcased throughout college. His drop rate of 3% makes him a very reliable option to a QB. Kolar is a pretty good blocker, but his height can cause him to lose leverage, which is something that could use work between now and when he makes his pro debut. He isn’t much of a threat after the catch, and he doesn’t create separation so easily, so he functions best when playing against zone and when he doesn’t have to gain many yards after the catch. Kolar projects as a day three pick who can be a decent red zone threat and reliable TE2 in the NFL.

Round 4 Pick 130 Baltimore Ravens select P Jordan Stout - Penn State

Do the Ravens need a punter? Well, Sam Koch is 80 years old, so I guess this works here. Plus, you can afford to bring in a special teamer when a team has six fourth-rounders.

Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

6’-3” 210 lbs

2021 Stats: GP 13, P 67, % 46, Xpm 34, % 94.4, Fgm 16, % 69.6

Skyfire322: Jordan Stout played an integral role in the Nittany Lions special teams. While Stout handled kicking duties at Penn State, he thrived as a punter. So much so that he was a Ray Guy finalist. His long hang time, low return rate, and ability to keep the ball out of the endzone make him an extraordinary player. While that’s all well and good, he does have difficulty with directional punts, which is something you don’t like to see in the NFL. He won’t be drafted as a K, as he had a subpar conversion rate of just 69%, so expect to see him used solely for his punting ability. This is a low-risk, high-reward punter who will have a successful NFL career.

Round 4 Pick 136 Cincinnati Bengals select OT Cordell Volson - North Dakota State

Protection for Joe Burrow was lacking down the stretch. Who Dey think they can protect the franchise?

Photo by Justin Tafoya/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

6’-6”, 319 lbs

SNW: Opinions are all over the place for Volson. I’ve read he’s anywhere from 1st day to day 3 prospect. He played nearly all of his time on the right side, mostly RT but making AP first team All-American his Jr and Sr year, plus 2nd team his sophomore year. The biggest drawback I see as a prospect is that he’s a sixth-year senior and from a small school, which could move him down the board.

Round 4 Pick 139 Baltimore Ravens select TE Isaiah Likely - Coastal Carolina

Obviously, the Ravens wanted to add significantly at many a position. After choosing Charlie Kolar for a backup to Mark Andrews. The Birdies do it again with Likely, more of a pass catcher than a blocker.

Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Jeremy Betz: Likely is the the epitome of today’s hybrid players at the TE position. He moves well, relying on speed, size, and fluidity to win down the field. Comps favorably to Noah Fant when he came out of Iowa, although Likely is a tad slower. Teams looking for a mismatch in the passing game could look to Likely on Day 2 of the Draft. He’s too big for corners and too fast for LBs, but he will likely (had to do it) struggle as a blocker at the next level and will need development in that area. Get him in an NFL weight room while maximizing his receiving talent early, and Likely could become a high-end playmaker relatively early in his career.

Round 4 Pick 141 Baltimore Ravens select CB Damarion Williams - Houston

There are a slew of receivers in the AFC North that need covered, Just like the tight end position, Eric DeCosta double-downs again on corners in Round 4.

Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NFL Draft Bible: Williams is a feisty competitor whose size and skillset projects him as a nickel in the NFL. Williams has an array of athletic traits including quick feet, buttery hips, and overachieving play strength. His smaller size and lack of height and overall length can be a liability at times, forcing him to play inside the numbers. His best role will be as a rotational piece in sub-packages where his quickness can help cover slot receivers in short-yardage areas.

Round 5 Pick 156 Cleveland Browns select RB Jerome Ford - Cincinnati

Staying in state, Ford gives the Browns good depth behind Nick Chubb.

Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

5-foot-10 1/2, 210 lbs

Andrew Wilbar: Ford reminds me in many ways of Javonte Williams last year. He hits the hole with great quickness, and his blend of speed and power give him high upside as a workhorse back in the NFL. What I also like about Ford is his leg drive. He has outstanding lower body strength, and he keeps those legs churning after contact, trying to get every possible yard out of each carry and occasionally carrying defenders with him. My biggest knock on him is in pass protection. He doesn’t have great awareness as a pass protector, and there are times when I watch him on tape and feel as if he didn’t give his best effort. Another issue, albeit a teachable issue, is that he can be too patient running routes out of the backfield. While he has the hands to be an efficient receiver out of the backfield, there were several instances on tape where Desmond Ridder wanted to dump the ball off to Ford only for Ford not to have turned around yet and not be ready for the ball. In the end, I think Ford overcomes these issues and develops into a nice NFL running back.

Round 5 Pick 166 Cincinnati Bengals select S Tycen Anderson - Toledo

Again, Cincy addressing the secondary. They are getting stronger there.

Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

6’-2”, 210 lbs

2021 Stats: GP 10, T 44,TFL 2, Sacks 1, Int 0, PD 2, FF 1

Andrew Wilbar: Anderson is an athletic safety with a high ceiling but adding more weight may help him when coming downhill to defend the run, as he lacks ideal functional strength for the position. Anderson has good closing speed, and he closes open throwing windows in a hurry, but he struggles to finish tackles against a vast majority of running backs and tight ends because of his lack of strength. Having a better understanding of tackling angles would help him as well. Nonetheless, his production and talent make him worthy of a mid-round selection. He will just need time to fully develop.

Round 5 Pick 196 Baltimore Ravens select RB Tyler Badie - Missouri

How many running backs does this team need?

Photo by Rick Ulreich/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

5’-9”, 194 lbs

2021 Stats: GP 12, Att 268, Yds 1612, Ave 6.0, TD 14, Rec 54, Yds 330, Ave 6.1, TD 4.

Andrew Wilbar: Don’t let the size fool you. Badie is a very durable back who was a true bell cow for the Tigers’ offense. Despite taking a beating in several big games down the stretch, he withheld the beating and recorded several huge performances down the stretch, accumulating 574 yards on 102 carries over the final three games. His low center of gravity allows him to withstand contact, and he has quick feet than allow him to make tacklers miss in the open field. However, I do not see him as an every-down back. He reminds me a lot of Devin Singletary coming out of college in that he is a small, durable running back who lacks the size or top-end speed to ever become anything special against NFL athletes. Nonetheless, he could absolutely be a nice number two running back in a system that allows him to run outside the tackles and make an impact as a receiver on third downs.

Round 6 Pick 202 Cleveland Browns select TE Michael Woods II - Oklahoma

Pass catching is lacking by the lake. This could help.

Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

NFL Draft Bible: High cut wideout with great length and good speed. Woods is an above-average route runner who tracks the football well in the air and picks up yards after the catch. His hands are below average as he can suffer from drops and lose in the air against smaller defenders. Woods projects as a backup receiver who fits the Z position well. He can develop into a low-level starter and third option for a passing attack. His willingness and effort as a blocker should translate to him being serviceable on special teams.

Round 6 Pick 223 Cleveland Browns select DE Isaiah Thomas - Oklahoma

I know the Browns are fairly strong on defense but I didn’t realize that Cleveland needed a point guard.

Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

6‘-5”, 266 lbs

2021 stats: GP 12, T 38, TFL 10.5, S 7, INT 0, PD 3, FR 1, FF 3

Andrew Wilbar: Thomas has done a good job filling out his lengthy frame, weighing in at over 265 pounds. He is likely a 4-3 defensive end in the NFL, as he has become more comfortable playing with his hand in the dirt. His ability to create leverage by using his long arms correctly has tremendously aided in his ability to create consistent penetration. However, he lacks lower body strength and can get pushed off the ball rather easily at times. He also plays too upright as a run defender, and he struggles to disengage from offensive linemen on occasion. He has the tools to develop into a decent starter in the future, but he is far from a finished product.

Round 7 Pick 246 Cleveland Browns select OG Dawson Deaton - Texas Tech

Whoever ends up at quarterback in Cleveland to start the season, they are going to need protection. Deaton could compete for a spot.

Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

6’-6”, 310 lbs

Noah: Deaton has a thick upper half and uses it to his advantage. His raw strength allows him to be a brick wall in pass sets and bully guys in the run game. He isn’t the most mobile guy in the world but he moves to the second level well. Deaton doesn’t get beat on power alone but more creative defensive tackles will be able to get past him. I would say there’s definitely more pros than cons in his game but he has potential if he’s in a good situation.

Round 7 Pick 252 Cincinnati Bengals select DE Jeffrey Gunter - Coastal Carolina

At this point, depth is depth.

Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

NFL Draft Bible: Average sized edge defender with below average explosiveness and power. Gunter sets a strong edge, using his length and is best on an inside move. He plays high and has slow, indecisive hands, preventing him from beating blockers. Gunter projects as a depth defensive end who is best with his hand in the dirt. Processing faster could allow him to play an early down role as a run defender.

What do you think of the players who are going to be new to the division? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers and the 2022 NFL Draft.

All you need to know about the Steelers’ Day 3 draft picks

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/01/2022 - 1:00pm
Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers selected six players on the third day of the 2022 NFL Draft. Here is all the coverage on their Day 3 picks.

The Pittsburgh Steelers made some bold, and strong, statements in the 2022 NFL Draft with their four picks on Day 3. Many of the picks were highly criticized by the fan base, but this doesn’t seem to bother Mike Tomlin or Kevin Colbert.

The Steelers added more offensive weapons, and a defender, on their roster on the third day of the draft, and they seemed to check almost all of the positional boxes of need which existed heading into the draft.

When was all said and done, here were the draft picks of all three days:

Round 1

Pick No. 20 / Overall: 20 — Kenny Pickett, QB, University of Pittsburgh

Round 2

Pick No. 20 / Overall: 52 — George Pickens, WR, University of Georgia

Round 3

Pick No. 20 / Overall: 84 — DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M

Round 4

Pick No. 33 / Overall: 138 (Comp) — Calvin Austin III, WR, Memphis

Round 5

No Pick

Round 6

Pick No. 30 / Overall: 208 (via KC) — Connor Heyward, TE/RB, Michigan State

Round 7

Pick No. 4 / Overall: 225 (via NYJ) — Mark Robinson, LB, Ole Miss

Pick No. 20 / Overall: 241 — Chris Oladokun, QB, South Dakota State

With that said, be sure to check out all of our coverage on the Day 3 selections here in this stream, and be sure to check back so you don’t miss a thing on all of our draft coverage as the Pittsburgh Steelers now get to know the players selected in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Grading the Steelers 7th round selection of Mark Robinson

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/01/2022 - 12:00pm
Photo by Chris McDill/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have selected Ole Miss LB Mark Robinson with the 225th selection of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Great news, Steelers Nation. The 2022 NFL Draft is finally upon us. Every rabid football fans version of Christmas in April.

I have been given the distinguished task of trying to apply a letter grade to each Steelers selection.

There are specific criteria necessary when attempting to accurately and fairly grade any draft pick. Only time will reveal the validity of any grade given, but I will utilize certain parameters as I attempt to apply an initial grade for each Steelers draft pick. I base each grade on projected roster fit, potential immediate impact, and assumed draft value. Draft value is achieved by evaluating each players actual selection against their projected draft position, whether that be player rankings or projected round.

The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Ole Miss LB Mark Robinson with the 225th selection of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Seventh round selections are by definition longshots. Athletic prospects with interesting or intriguing potential. Oftentimes they are extremely raw, as they enter the NFL without a established position, or attempting the dreaded position switch at the highest level.

Mark Robinson, the Steelers newest linebacker, meets all of that criteria. Robinson's path to the NFL has been full of twists and turns. After starting his college football odyssey as a unrated running back recruit, he transferred twice before making a position switch to linebacker as a walk on for the Ole Miss Rebels. He capitalized on his lone standout season at linebacker in 2021 to catapult himself into draft consideration. An impressive story of perseverance and determination.

Robinson possesses exceptional athleticism. He has solid speed, posting a 4.65 forty at his pro day, and explosiveness. He drives through ball carriers, with an obvious zest for contact. At a shade under 6' and 230 lbs. of well put together muscle, evidenced by his unbelievable 34 reps on the bench press, Robinson is a heavy hitter against the running game. However, he is understandably extremely raw in pass coverage due to his inexperience.

Based on the criteria mentioned earlier in this article, I give the Steelers seventh round selection of Mark Robinson an initial draft grade of C+.

Teams often select intriguing prospects in the seventh round who would possibly go undrafted, but they don't want to have to compete against the other franchises in a bidding war to get them signed. Although Robinson faces another steep up hill climb to make the Steelers roster at a rather deep position, the Steelers thought him worthy of the selection. Special teams would appear to be his only avenue to a roster spot, but the practice squad is a more realistic destination for the tough and talented young man.

Now we want to hear from the BTSC community and from Steelers Nation. What do you think about the selection and what initial grade would you give it. Please place your vote in the attached poll and share your reasoning in the comment section below.

I am pleased to welcome Mark Robinson to the Steelers family on behalf of the BTSC staff and community. Go Steelers!

Stock Report: Stock rising, and falling, after Day 3 of the draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/01/2022 - 11:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Draft is officially over, and after Saturday’s selections, four more names were added to the Steelers roster. How does it affect the stock of the team’s current personnel? Let’s take a look.

Craziest NFL Draft I’ve ever witnessed. No question about it. The trades, the waiting games, the whacked out picks. Everything about it was an absolute edge-of-your-seat experience that kept me engaged at every turn.

I know, I know, I’m a nerd. But seriously, from Houston taking Derek Stingley Jr. at pick 3 to the Steelers taking Kenny Pickett at 20 instead of Malik Willis, then Willis not even going until ROUND THREE... Crazy! That’s just scratching the surface of a wild three days.

For the Steelers, Day 3 brought a quartet of intriguing talents ready to fight for roster spots and make their mark on the league. Starting with Memphis wide receiver (WR) Calvin Austin III in Round 4, the team double dipped at the position to give the offense some good depth. In Round 6, the Steelers managed to snap up Cam Heyward’s younger brother, Connor, from Michigan State, a versatile offensive weapon for Matt Canada to tinker with. Then, with their two picks in Round 7, they brought in a couple of developmental prospects in Linebacker Mark Robinson from Ole Miss and South Dakota State Quarterback Chris Oladokun.

Let’s take a look at who benefits from these selections and who’s feeling a little more heat than they were a day ago.

Stock Up: Cam Heyward

First it was the Edmunds brothers (Terrell and Trey), then the Davis siblings (Carlos and Khalil), and then the Steelers added FB Derek Watt to pair with T.J. to create their third pair of sibling teammates. The 6th Round selection of Connor Heyward now makes an unprecedented FOUR pairs of brothers on the Steelers roster as we speak.

For Big Cam Heyward, this has to be a dream come true, and he probable had a real hand in making this pick happen. With his brother in town for the next few years, it seems all the more likely that Cam will finish his career as a Pittsburgh Steeler, if that wasn’t a big probability already. Not to mention that he’s going to enjoy coming to work just a little bit more now, and that is good news for the Steelers and their fans. If Cam Heyward is having fun, the Steelers defense is better for it.

Stock Down: Miles Boykin

The Steelers claimed the Baltimore castoff just a week ago, but it already feels like he’s on the outside looking in when it comes to a roster spot after the team added a second WR in the draft. Both George Pickens (Rd. 2) and Calvin Austin III (Rd. 4) have big-time playmaking potential, and Boykin has yet to show he can provide that going into his 4th NFL season.

Even if Boykin were to keep it close in the upcoming position battle with these guys, the Steelers are more likely to hang onto a guy they spent draft capital on than a guy they picked up off of waivers. I am rooting for Boykin to hit his potential and fast, but realistically he has an uphill climb to make the final roster in August.

Stock Up: Matt Canada

The Steelers have done basically everything they could to give Matt Canada what he needs from a personnel perspective to run his offense without hindrance in 2022. The team boasts weapons galore in new draft picks and young talent already on the roster, ready to make their mark if Canada can put it all together. If he does, Matt Canada could oversee an explosive unit capable of helping taking this team to the playoffs in 2022.

Stock Down: Matt Canada

The Steelers have done basically everything they could to give Matt Canada what he needs from a personnel perspective to run his offense without hindrance in 2022. The team boasts weapons galore in new draft picks and young talent already on the roster, ready to make their mark if Canada can put it all together. If he can’t, Matt Canada will likely find himself on his way out the door with a pink slip and an NFL coaching future in serious doubt.

In all seriousness, Matt Canada’s stock is quite the fluid situation. A real Thunderbolt ride, for you Kennywood fans. Canada’s offense sits precariously at the precipice of hope in 2022 after a draft haul focused on loading up with the necessary weapons and personnel to prove whether his system can work at the NFL level or not. Where it goes from here is up to Canada. No pressure!

There you have it, Steelers Nation. Have thoughts? Who am I kidding, of course you do. Let’s hear them in the comments below. Don’t forget to stick with BTSC in the coming days and weeks to learn everything about the newest additions to your Pittsburgh Steelers.

Grading the Steelers 6th round pick of Connor Heyward

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 05/01/2022 - 10:00am
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have selected MSU RB/TE Connor Heyward with the 208th selection of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Great news, Steelers Nation. The 2022 NFL Draft is finally upon us. Every rabid football fans version of Christmas in April.

I have been given the distinguished task of trying to apply a letter grade to each Steelers selection.

There are specific criteria necessary when attempting to accurately and fairly grade any draft pick. Only time will reveal the validity of any grade given, but I will utilize certain parameters as I attempt to apply an initial grade for each Steelers draft pick. I base each grade on projected roster fit, potential immediate impact, and assumed draft value. Draft value is achieved by evaluating each players actual selection against their projected draft position, whether that be player rankings or projected round.

The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Michigan State RB/FB/TE Connor Heyward with the 208th selection of the 2022 NFL Draft.

The question wasn't if the Steelers would select Cameron Heyward's little brother in the 2022 NFL Draft, only when. Connor Heyward's projections were all over the place, ranging from fifth round pick to undrafted free agent. The uncertainty makes total sense, because it is anybody's guess as to where Connor Heyward's future in the NFL will be position wise. Is he a running back, fullback, or undersized tight end? The answer maybe all three, because he can, and has, played all three in his collegiate career with the Spartans.

Connor Heyward doesn't possess a prototypical physique or exceptional athleticism, but he has somehow found a way to be a very effective football player. He is undersized for a NFL tight end, measuring 5' 11" and 233 lbs., but he sacrificed the opportunity to play his preferred fullback position to fill a huge need for the Spartans at tight end. Incredibly enough, he did an admirable job. Heyward proved to be a team first player.

Like his more famous father and older brother, Connor Heyward is as tough as they come. He will do whatever necessary to get the job done on the field. He ran a 4.72 forty, but he is basically a one speed power player. He is surprisingly nimble for his rather beefy build. Also similar to his aforementioned kin, Connor is a hardnosed junkyard dog, or is it hardheaded.

Connor Heyward should be an immediate contributor on special teams, but could also be utilized as a fullback or move tight end in heavy packages. The Steelers already have Derek Watt at fullback, so I expect Connor Heyward to most likely be TE3 on the depth chart if he makes the final roster. He could also be a practice squad candidate otherwise.

Based on the criteria mentioned earlier in this article, I give the Steelers sixth round selection of Connor Heyward an initial draft grade of B.

First and foremost, Connor Heyward is a Pittsburgh Steelers type player. His versatility is his best attribute, and that's an ability that Mike Tomlin values immensely. He is willing and able to do the dirty work necessary for any contending team. He could prove to be a good value selection if he proves capable of performing his versatile all around game at the NFL level.

Now we want to hear from the BTSC community and from Steelers Nation. What do you think about the selection and what initial grade would you give it. Please place your vote in the attached poll and share your reasoning in the comment section below.

I am pleased to welcome Connor Heyward to the Steelers family on behalf of the BTSC staff and community. Go Steelers!

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