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Should the Steelers pick up Devin Bush's 5th year option?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/28/2022 - 11:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers need to decide whether or not they are going to pick up Devin Bush's 5th year option. Has the ILB shown enough to encourage the Steelers to do this?

After the 2022 NFL Draft is over, the Pittsburgh Steelers have some important decisions to make. One of the biggest will be whether or not they decide to pick up Devin Bush’s 5th year option on his rookie contract. Bush has had an up and down few years with the Steelers, to the point many have described him as a first round bust.

In his rookie season, Bush looked to be living up to the promise he showed coming out of Michigan. The Steelers saw Bush as a the next Ryan Shazier and leader on the defense. Certainly some analysts hailed him as a generational talent and leader.

In that 2019 season Bush recorded some impressive stats: 109 combined tackles, which breaks down as 72 solo tackles and 37 assisted tackles, nine tackles for a loss, two QB hits, two interceptions and four passes defensed. In his sophomore year he looked to be continuing this upward trend until an ACL injury in Week 6 against the Cleveland Browns derailed those plans.

In 2021, Bush returned to action and was not the same player he had been previously, but did fans expected too much? Recovering from an ACL injury takes time, and while some fans compared Bush’s injury to Joe Burrow’s, this is not a fair comparison. A quarterback doesn’t have the same stresses and strains on their knee compared to an inside linebacker. Bush has to constantly sprint, change direction, twist and turn. I doubt he had the trust he needed in his knee. Moreover, it often takes at least a calendar year for a player like Bush to overcome an ACL injury. Certainly, as the year progressed Bush improved his performances and became a more influential part of the defense.

There are many reasons to be optimistic about Bush and the future. First, Bush is still young at 23 years old. There are still many more years of development to come from Bush. Next, the addition of Brian Flores to the coaching staff will help Bush improve and become the linebacker he is capable of being. Flores did a fabulous job with the Patriots linebackers, and he can have the same impact on the Steelers linebackers.

One of the biggest issues last season was the defensive line and their inability to keep the second level clean. Too often last year the opponent’s offensive linemen were able to get to Bush and Joe Schobert. Bush doesn’t have physical size to take on and beat offensive linemen, and nor should he, that’s not his game. With the likely return of Tyson Alualu and possibly Stephon Tuitt, this will lead to improvement in the Steelers defensive line, giving Bush more opportunities to play his game and to show he is the linebacker the Steelers thought he would be when they moved up to draft him. Alualu has the physicality to not only stop the offensive linemen getting to the next level, but is also an excellent run defender, this will benefit Bush.

The acquisition of Myles Jack could also benefit Bush. Many have stated they feel the Steelers need a buck linebacker like Vince Williams; however, with the speed and physicality Jack brings this will help Bush’s game. Although some will disagree with me, it gives the Steelers linebacker pair a similar lineup to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker pair of Lavonte David and Devin White. The Steelers inside linebackers will bring speed, physicality and can wreak havoc on opponents.

Furthermore, Bush has been working hard this offseason to further improve his strength, fitness and conditioning. Videos released online show Bush working hard and looking to be in better shape than last season. A great cause for optimism.

The decision on Bush’s 5th year option must be made by the May 2nd, and his one year option is a projected $10.9 million. If they don’t pick it up, Bush will have the 2022 season to prove to the Steelers, or another team, he is worth the money and a new contract. Sometimes you have to speculate to accumulate, I think Bush has the potential to have a comeback season this year, and because of that I would pick up his 5th y ear option.

What do you think? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the 2022 NFL Draft.

Steelers Vertex: Examining the versatility of Terrell Edmunds

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/28/2022 - 10:39am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

What will the Steelers continue to get by bringing back Terrell Edmunds for 2022?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are heading into the 2022 NFL draft with a viable starter at every position. Admittedly coming up short at strong safety, the Steelers signed Terrell Edmunds to a one-year deal less than a week before the start of the draft. So what about Terrell Edmunds does he bring to the Steelers yet again for 2022? This is the subject for this week’s Steelers Vertex.

Let’s get a quick reminder of where this nerdiness is coming from.

Vertex- a single point where two or more lines cross.

Sometimes to make a great point, it takes two different systems of analysis to come together and build off each other in order to drawl a proper conclusion. In this case, the two methods are statistical analysis and film breakdown. Enter Dave Schofield (the stat geek) and Geoffrey Benedict (the film guru) to come together to prove a single point based on our two lines of thinking.

Here comes the breakdown from two different lines of analysis.

The Stats Line:

Starting 60 regular season games over the last four seasons, Terrell Edmunds brings availability to the Steeler strong safety position. Missing only one game in his career, a meaningless Week 17 matchup in Cleveland at the end of the 2020 season, Edmunds has been the biggest fixture in the Steeler secondary since 2018. Logging over 4,000 regular season snaps in his four years says it all.

But what has Terrell Edmunds done with his time on the field? With five career interceptions, he has had two picks in each season the last two years. Edmunds saw his career high in passes defensed with eight in 2020 and had another six in 2021. Although he has 340 combine tackles in the regular season, Edmunds has been credited with 32 missed tackles in four seasons according to Pro Football Reference. The 2021 saw his highest percentage of missed tackles of 10.1% as he missed 10 tackles while being successful on 89 others.

Although credited with giving up two passing touchdowns in 2021 by Pro Football Reference, Edmunds saw career best in yards per target at 4.2 for 2021. Targeted 53 times, he gave up 30 completions for only 224 yards.

One way in which Edmunds has really helped the Steelers defense over the last four years is the quality of coverage against the tight end position. Many Steelers fans remember Rob Gronkowski going for 168 yards on nine receptions in 2017, or pulling in three touchdown passes in Week 1 of 2015. In the only game Gronkowski has play the Steelers with Terrell Edmunds, he had two receptions for 21 yards in 2018. But more than Gronkowski, the Steelers have only given up 100 yards receiving to a tight end four times since they drafted Terrell Edmunds in the first round of 2018. One of those games was Edmunds’ first start in Week 2 of 2018 against the Kansas City Chiefs. But for the most part, especially when Edmunds is the one responsible for coverage, the Steelers defense against tight ends has greatly improved.

So what else does Edmunds bring to the table? This is a much better question to be answered on the film side of things.

The Film Line:

The number one thing that stands out on film is the variety of alignments where the Steelers use Terrell Edmunds differently. In 2021 with the run defense struggling and plenty of new faces in the secondary, the Steelers leaned even more heavily on Edmunds’ ability to line up everywhere on the field. Edmunds lined up as a deep safety, in the slot, in the box like an extra linebacker, outside as a corner (mostly against jumbo sets) and even up on the defensive line against certain offensive alignments.

One game the Steelers leaned particularly hard on Edmunds’ versatility was in Week 15 of 2021. The Steelers were facing the Titans, a top rushing offense with some high-end receivers. Week 15 was also both Joe Haden and Robert Spillane’s first game back from injury, and they played sparingly.

We’ll start by looking at the alignment Edmunds played the most in 2021, in the box.

Steelers vs. Titans, 1st quarter, 5:11.

Terrell Edmunds is #34, second from the bottom, off the line.

Edmunds is a late addition to the box, and he ends up in a spot the Steelers used him a good bit when Akhello Witherspoon was starting. Witherspoon is the outside corner to the bottom, where Joe Haden usually plays. But while Joe Haden is a phenomenal tackler and run defender, Akhello Witherspoon is most definitely not. With Haden outside, Edmunds was typically called on to be deep help for Haden, but with Witherspoon playing, Edmunds is called on to play the run, defend short routes, screens, and players in the flat like this play.

Edmunds reads the play, covers the tight end in the flat and he’s in position to prevent a first down.

Steelers vs. Titans, 3rd quarter, 11:36.

Terrell Edmunds (#34) is to the right side of the screen, right behind T.J. Watt

On this play Edmunds is lined up like a linebacker. Devin Bush is lined up straight across from the RB like a 4-3 MLB, while Edmunds is in a 4-3 outside linebacker alignment. This is a common spot for Edmunds in 2021. With the Steelers defensive line struggling, he often was used as a 3rd off-ball linebacker in nickel packages.

This is the strength he brings to the role. He stays behind Watt, making it hard for blockers to get to him, and he reads the play, sniffs out the screen, and the Titans lose four yards on the play.

Steelers vs. Titans, 2nd quarter, 8:55.

Terrell Edmunds is #34, farthest to the top of the screen on the line.

Here is Edmunds in one of the rarer snaps when he lined up on the defensive line, and he is blocked by a tight end on this play. His job is to set the edge and force the runner to stay inside where the help defense should be coming for him. Edmunds holds up his end of the deal, and on this play the rest of the defense does too, with Chris Wormley and Henry Mondeaux arriving to finish the play.

Edmunds is not going to have success on any play an offensive lineman or even a better blocking tight end/fullback get to him, he’s not a linebacker. But when he gets a more reasonable matchup, he can absolutely hold his own.

Terrell Edmunds’ second most common alignment was in the slot, where he led the team in slot snaps.

Steelers vs. Titans, 2nd quarter, 5:34.

Terrell Edmunds is the slot defender to the top of the screen.

The Steelers are in a 7-man front and the Titans put two receivers to the offensive right. The Steelers counter by bringing Edmunds up into the slot role to cover veteran receiver Julio Jones. This play is designed to get Jones on either an outside corner that has moved into the slot where they might not navigate the switch release well, or a matchup on a safety who won’t be able to cover Jones on that out-cut.

Edmunds is up to the task though, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill looks off of Jones, his first read, and throws up a prayer into the end zone.

Steelers vs. Titans, 4th quarter, 12:05.

Terrell Edmunds is the slot defender to the top of the screen.

Terrell Edmunds is not a cornerback. You don’t want him in press coverage against a shiftier receiver, and he doesn’t do the best being physical in defending a route like Arthur Maulet (third from bottom). You are more likely to get a penalty asking a safety to do that. What he shows here is his burst to the ball at the receivers cut.

Lastly, Edmunds still played a good portion of snaps in a deep safety alignment.

Steelers vs. Titans, 3rd quarter, 8:45.

Terrell Edmunds is #34, to the far right side of the screen.

Even when he is aligned like a deep safety, and is clearly responsible for that half of the field, Edmunds is still looking to help in the box. Here he again sniffs out a screen and records another tackle for a loss when the Titans thought they had an advantage for a quick tunnel screen.

Steelers vs. Titans, 3rd quarter, 8:54.

Terrell Edmunds is the deep safety to the bottom of the screen.

This is one of those rare plays where straight-line speed actually matters. The Titans see Joe Haden fresh back from injury, showing limited mobility and go deep with a route combo that is commonly used to take Minkah Fitzpatrick out of the play. You see the receiver to the top cutting in at the first down line, and Fitzpatrick is watching that route when he senses the receiver behind him. Fitzpatrick is out of the play, and it’s just Edmunds versus Cody Hollister, a 6’4” athletic depth receiver. Edmunds is up to the challenge and not only stays with the receiver, but closes on him, making the window for Ryan Tannehill very small, and when the QB fails to hit the perfect throw Edmunds gets his hands on the ball to break it up.

The Point:

Terrell Edmunds isn’t going to give you All-Pro coverage from any alignment, and he isn’t a splash play maker. Terrell Edmunds’ strength is being able to play from multiple alignments and give you quality NFL starter-level snaps. He’s not the best player at any position, but he’s one of the better players on the team in any number of roles, allowing the Steelers to counter number advantages, negate mismatches and free up other players to play to their strengths.

The Top 7 prospects, by position, in this year’s draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/28/2022 - 9:30am

Looking at the top tier prospects at each position in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Before the picks start pouring in over the next few days, I wanted to put together a list of the players who, in my opinion, are the top prospects at each position. As a Steelers fan, I like to know where the team’s selections rank among their fellow prospects at their respective positions. It’s a great way to assess value and also get a feel for what position groups are deeper, which ones may be more top heavy, or even which ones are just down right uninspiring.

This iteration of the NFL Draft feels very deep at both Edge Rusher and Wide Receiver, and conversely, quite top heavy at both Offensive and Defensive Tackle. Below, we’ll dive into every position with the exception of the special teamers. Let’s get to it!

QUARTERBACK

1. Malik Willis, Liberty

2. Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati

3. Kenny Pickett, Pitt

4. Matt Corral, Ole Miss

5. Sam Howell, North Carolina

6. Carson Strong, Nevada

7. Bailey Zappe, W. Kentucky

RUNNING BACK

1. Breece Hall, Iowa St.

2. Kenneth Walker III, Michigan St.

3. James Cook, Georgia

4. Dameon Pierce, Florida

5. Karen Williams, Notre Dame

6. Rachaad White, Arizona St.

7. Pierre Strong, South Dakota St.

WIDE RECEIVER

1. Garrett Wilson, Ohio St.

2. Jameson Williams, Alabama

3. Drake London, USC

4. Treylon Burks, Arkansas

5. Chris Olave, Ohio St.

6. Christian Watson, North Dakota St.

7. Jahan Dotson, Penn St.

TIGHT END

1. Trey McBride, Colorado

2. Greg Dulcich, UCLA

3. Jeremy Ruckert, Ohio St.

4. Daniel Bellinger, San Diego St.

5. Jelani Woods, Virginia

6. Isaiah Likely, Coastal Carolina

7. James Mitchell, Virgina Tech

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

1. Ickey Ekwonu, N.C. State

2. Evan Neal, Alabama

3. Charles Cross, Mississippi St.

4. Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa

5. Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan

6. Tyler Smith, Tulsa

7. Abraham Lucas, Washington St.

INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINE

1. Zion Johnson, Boston College

2. Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa

3. Kenyon Green, Texas A&M

4. Jamaree Salyer, Georgia

5. Cam Jurgens, Nebraska

6. Cole Strange, Chattanooga

7. Dylan Parham, Memphis

EDGE RUSHER

1. Aiden Hutchinson, Michigan

2. Travon Walker, Georgia

3. Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon

4. George Karlaftis, Purdue

5. Jermaine Johnson II, Florida St.

6. Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma

7. Arnold Ebiketie, Penn St.

INTERIOR DEFENSIVE LINE

1. Jordan Davis, Georgia

2. Devonta Wyatt, Georgia

3. Travis Jones, UConn

4. Logan Hall, Houston

5. Phidarian Mathis, Alabama

6. DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M

7. Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma

INSIDE LINEBACKER

1. Nakobe Dean, Georgia

2. Devin Lloyd, Utah

3. Quay Walker, Georgia

4. Troy Anderson, Montana St.

5. Chad Muma, Wyoming

6. Leo Chenal, Wisconsin

7. Channing Tindall, Georgia

CORNERBACK

1. Ahmad Gardner, Cincinatti

2. Derek Stingley Jr., LSU

3. Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson

4. Trey McDuffie, Washington

5. Kaiir Elam, Florida

6. Kyler Gordon, Washington

7. Roger McReary, Auburn

SAFETY

1. Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame

2. Daxton Hill, Michigan

3. Jaquan Brisker, Penn St.

4. Nick Cross, Maryland

5. Lewis Cine, Georgia

6. Jalen Pitre, Baylor

7. Kerby Joseph, Illinois

For more analysis on many of the prospects you see listed above, don’t forget to tune into the Steelers Draft Fix podcast with myself and BTSC draft guru Andrew Wilbar. We discuss every position group in depth and even interviewed some of the prospects in this year’s Draft Class. You can catch the latest episode in the player below. Go Steelers!

Mock Draft 5.0: 7 Rounds, 262 Picks, and a new Steelers QB

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/28/2022 - 8:30am
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The Steelers grab a QB in round 1 of my 7-round NFL mock draft. But who else did they take?

We made it! The NFL Draft is finally kicking off tonight in Las Vegas, and nobody is more excited than yours truly. This is my favorite event on the sports calendar every year, as the anticipation, suspense, and hope of each selection create a must-see event for die-hard fans like myself. Tonight, we will finally know how the first round shakes out.

Do not forget, however, that there is more to the draft than just the first round. In fact, I would argue that days two and three are more important than round one. Even in a draft such as this one, where the amount of sure-fire first-round picks seems to be lower than in previous drafts, there are a multitude of high-upside prospects available in rounds two through four. Mel Kiper has stated this for years, and it is true. There may not be much firepower at the top this year, but the depth is still there.

Because of the importance of all selections in the draft, I always extend my final mock draft to a full seven-round projection. This year, the Steelers are currently slated to have seven picks. However, when you combine the “Malik Willis to Pittsburgh” rumors with the “Packers and Chiefs want to trade up for a receiver” rumors, it would seem reasonable to believe Pittsburgh could wind up with more, or fewer, than seven selections when all is said and done.

Personally, if the Steelers love Malik Willis and can trade up with a team by only giving up pick 20 and a 2022 second rounder, I would be okay with it, despite my animosity for trading away precious draft capital. However, if Malik Willis goes higher than I expect, I would love to trade back and acquire more picks in rounds two through five, the range where the strength of this draft lies in.

As always, these mock drafts are a projection of what I am predicting will happen, not what I necessarily want to happen. Trades are projected, like usual.

If you would like a printable version of my top 400 NFL Draft prospect rankings to use as a source while watching the draft, you can access and print the rankings by clicking on the link below. If this feature is helpful in any way, drop a comment about it in the comment section below, and I will create one next year as well.

Click HERE to access Andrew’s 2022 NFL Draft Player Rankings

Here we go, my fellow NFL Draft junkies! The moment of truth has arrived. If you have any thoughts about a selection in this mock draft, be sure to comment down below with your thoughts.

Let’s take a look at my final, seven-round, trade-crazed, 5.0 mock draft for the 2022 NFL Draft cycle.

Round 1

1. Jaguars- Travon Walker | EDGE | Georgia
Other Possibilities: A. Hutchinson, I. Ekwonu
2. Lions- Aidan Hutchinson | EDGE | Michigan
Other Possibilities: T. Walker, M. Willis, K. Thibodeaux
3. Texans- Derek Stingley, Jr. | CB | LSU
Other Possibilities: A. Gardner, K. Thibodeaux, T. Walker
4. Jets- Ikem Ekwonu | OL | North Carolina State
Other Possibilities: A. Gardner, K. Thibodeaux, J. Johnson
5. Giants- Charles Cross | OT | Mississippi State
Other Possibilities: A. Gardner, E. Neal, K. Thibodeaux
6. Panthers- Evan Neal | OT | Alabama
Other Possibilities: I. Ekwonu, C. Cross, K. Pickett, M. Willis
7. Giants- Ahmad Gardner | CB | Cincinnati
Other Possibilities: E. Neal, K. Thibodeaux, J. Johnson
8. Falcons- Kayvon Thibodeaux | EDGE | Oregon
Other Possibilities: D. London, G. Wilson, J. Johnson
**PROJECTED TRADE** (Seahawks receive Eagles 1st and 2nd round picks)
9. Eagles- Jameson Williams | WR | Alabama
Other Possibilities: J. Davis, D. Stingley, T. McDuffie
**PROJECTED TRADE** (49ers trade Deebo Samuel to Jets for picks 10, 38, and 146)
**PROJECTED TRADE** (49ers receive Saints 1st and 3rd round picks and a 2023 3rd round pick)
10. Saints- Garrett Wilson | WR | Ohio State
Other Possibilities: K. Pickett, M. Willis, J. Williams
11. Commanders- Chris Olave | WR | Ohio State
Other Possibilities: D. London, K. Hamilton
**PROJECTED TRADE** (Vikings receive Chargers 1st, 3rd, and 5th round picks)
12. Chargers- Trevor Penning | OT | Northern Iowa
Other Possibilities: J. Davis, C. Olave, D. Lloyd

**PROJECTED TRADE** (Texans receive Steelers 1st round pick and 2023 2nd round pick)
13. Steelers- Malik Willis | QB | Liberty

There is a strong possibility the Steelers will not need to trade up for Willis. In fact, the more I hear, the more I believe he may still be available for the taking at pick 20. However, if the Steelers love Willis as much as the rumors indicate, they will probably not want to take any chances at missing out on him. My instincts have told me not to buy the rumors about the Saints taking a quarterback, but I imagine the Steelers will still try to get ahead of them if Malik Willis is their guy. Trading up five to seven picks also prevents a team at the end of the round from trading up ahead of the Steelers.

I am not going into much detail with Willis, as I have spoken about Willis at nauseum during the process. However, if he goes higher than I anticipate, do not be surprised if one of Kyle Hamilton and Jordan Davis falls into the Steelers’ lap at 20. I do not want Hamilton, but the Steelers have shown interest. I think the best move outside of taking Willis would be to try to trade back a few picks and select Andrew Booth, Jr., who has the potential to become a lockdown corner early in his career.

Other Possibilities: K. Hamilton, J. Davis, K. Pickett, A. Booth, D. Ridder

14. Ravens- Jermaine Johnson | EDGE | Florida State
Other Possibilities: T. Penning, D. Hill, J. Davis, T. McDuffie
15. Seahawks*- Jordan Davis | DT | Georgia
Other Possibilities: T. Penning, J. Johnson, K. Thibodeaux, K. Hamilton
16. 49ers*- Kyle Hamilton | S | Notre Dame
Other Possibilities: G. Wilson, D. London, T. McDuffie, Z. Johnson
17. Vikings*- Trent McDuffie | CB | Washington
Other Possibilities: K. Hamilton, D. Hill, D. Stingley
18. Eagles- George Karlaftis | EDGE | Purdue
Other Possibilities: D. Wyatt, D. Hill, K. Hamilton, D. Lloyd, T. McDuffie, J. Davis, K. Gordon, Q. Walker
19. Saints- Tyler Smith | OL | Tulsa
Other Possibilities: K. Pickett, M. Willis, D. London, J. Dotson
20. Texans*- Drake London | WR | USC
Other Possibilities: K. Hamilton, D. Hill, J. Dotson
21. Patriots- Andrew Booth, Jr. | CB | Clemson
Other Possibilities: K. Gordon, J. Dotson, T. Burks, C. Watson, Q. Walker, D. Hill
22. Packers- Treylon Burks | WR | Arkansas
Other Possibilities: J. Dotson, C. Watson, D. London, T. Smith, D. Lloyd
23. Cardinals- Jahan Dotson | WR | Penn State
Other Possibilities: D. Ojabo, K. Elam, A. Booth, Jr., K. Gordon, Z. Johnson
24. Cowboys- Zion Johnson | G | Boston College
Other Possibilities: K. Green, T. Burks, T. Smith, D. Lloyd, N. Dean, G. Karlaftis
25. Bills- Kyler Gordon | CB | Washington
Other Possibilities: A. Booth, Jr., K. Elam, B. Hall, J. Dotson, G. Pickens, Z. Johnson, K. Green
26. Titans- Kenyon Green | G | Texas A&M
Other Possibilities: Z. Johnson, J. Dotson, C. Watson, Q. Walker, D. Lloyd
27. Buccaneers- Perrion Winfrey | DL | Oklahoma
Other Possibilities: T. Jones, D. Wyatt, K. Green
**PROJECTED TRADE** (Packers receive Panthers 5th round pick (149) and 2023 1st round pick)
28. Panthers- Kenny Pickett | QB | Pittsburgh
Other Possibilities: D. Ridder, M. Corral
29. Chiefs- Boye Mafe | EDGE | Minnesota
Other Possibilities: J. Dotson, A. Booth, Jr., K. Gordon
30. Chiefs- George Pickens | WR | Georgia
Other Possibilities: G. Karlaftis, L. Cine, J. Pitre
**PROJECTED TRADE** (Bengals receive Seahawks 2nd (40) and 4th round picks and a 2023 4th round pick)
31. Seahawks- Matt Corral | QB | Ole Miss
Other Possibilities: D. Ridder, K. Elam, B. Raimann
32. Lions- Quay Walker | ILB | Georgia
Other Possibilities: D. Hill, L. Cine, N. Dean, C. Watson, J. Dotson, G. Pickens

Round 2

33. Jaguars- Lewis Cine | S | Georgia
34. Lions- Daxton Hill | S | Michigan
35. Jets- David Ojabo | EDGE | Michigan
36. Giants- Arnold Ebiketie | EDGE | Penn State
37. Texans- Logan Hall | DL | Houston
38. 49ers*- Christian Watson | WR | North Dakota State
39. Bears- Alec Pierce | WR | Cincinnati
40. Bengals*- Kaiir Elam | CB | Florida
41. Seahawks- Devin Lloyd | ILB | Utah
42. Colts- John Metchie III | WR | Alabama
43. Falcons- Desmond Ridder | QB | Cincinnati
44. Browns- Devonte Wyatt | DT | Georgia
45. Ravens- Travis Jones | DT | Connecticut
46. Vikings- Cole Strange | G/C | Chattanooga
47. Commanders- Jaquan Brisker | S | Penn State
48. Bears- Joshua Ezeudu | G | North Carolina
**PROJECTED TRADE** (Saints receive Giants 3rd (67), 4th, and 5th round picks)
49. Giants- Nakobe Dean | ILB | Georgia
50. Chiefs- Jalen Pitre | S | Baylor
51. Seahawks*- Tyler Linderbaum | C | Iowa

52. Steelers- Skyy Moore | WR | Western Michigan

53. Packers- Luke Goedeke | OT/G | Central Michigan
54. Patriots- Troy Andersen | ILB | Montana State
**PROJECTED TRADE** (Cardinals receive Chiefs 2nd (62) and 4th (135) round picks)
55. Chiefs- Roger McCreary | CB | Auburn
56. Cowboys- Nicholas Petit-Frere | OT | Ohio State
57. Bills- Breece Hall | RB | Iowa State
58. Falcons- Calvin Austin III | WR | Memphis
59. Packers- Drake Jackson | EDGE | USC
60. Buccaneers- Dylan Parham | G/C | Memphis
61. 49ers- DeAngelo Malone | EDGE | Western Kentucky
62. Cardinals- Myjai Sanders | EDGE | Cincinnati
63. Bengals- Abraham Lucas | OT | Washington State
64. Broncos- Trey McBride | TE | Colorado State

Round 3

65. Jaguars- Jalen Tolbert | WR | South Alabama
66. Lions- Wan’Dale Robinson | WR | Kentucky
67. Saints*- DeMarvin Leal | DL | Texas A&M
68. Texans- Christian Harris | ILB | Alabama
69. Jets- Channing Tindall | ILB | Georgia
70. Jaguars- Leo Chenal | ILB | Wisconsin
71. Bears- Cameron Jurgens | C | Nebraska
72. Seahawks- Cameron Taylor-Britt | CB | Nebraska
73. Colts- Bernard Raimann | OT | Central Michigan
74. Falcons- James Cook | RB | Georgia
75. Broncos- Chad Muma | ILB | Wyoming
76. Ravens- Darian Kinnard | OT/G | Kentucky
**PROJECTED TRADE** (Vikings receive Buccaneers 3rd round pick and 2023 4th round pick)
77. Buccaneers- Isaiah Spiller | RB | Texas A&M
78. Browns- Khalil Shakir | WR | Boise State
79. Vikings*- Cameron Thomas | DL | San Diego State
80. Texans- Kenneth Walker III | RB | Michigan State
81. Giants- Jamaree Salyer | G | Georgia
82. Falcons- Tariq Woolen | CB | UTSA
83. Eagles- Darrian Beavers | ILB | Cincinnati

84. Steelers- Marcus Jones | CB | Houston

85. Patriots- Romeo Doubs | WR | Nevada
86. Raiders- Daniel Faalele | OT | Minnesota
**PROJECTED TRADE** (Cardinals receive Commanders’ 4th and 2023 4th round pick)
87. Commanders- Sam Howell | QB | North Carolina
88. Cowboys- David Bell | WR | Purdue
89. Bills- Sean Rhyan | G | UCLA
90. Titans- Bo Melton | WR | Rutgers
91. Vikings*- Danny Gray | WR | SMU
92. Packers- Jelani Woods | TE | Virginia
93. 49ers- Marquis Hayes | G | Oklahoma
94. Chiefs- Phidarian Mathis | DT | Alabama
95. Bengals- Matthew Butler | DT | Tennessee
96. Broncos- Nik Bonitto | EDGE | Oklahoma
97. Lions- Zyon McCollum | CB | Sam Houston State
98. 49ers*- Velus Jones, Jr. | WR | Tennessee
99. Browns- Dominique Robinson | EDGE | Miami (OH)
100. Ravens- Chase Lucas | CB | Arizona State
101. Eagles- Nick Cross | S | Maryland
102. Dolphins- Brandon Smith | ILB | Penn State
103. Chiefs- Tyquan Thornton | WR | Baylor
104. Rams- Jordan Stout | P | Penn State
105. 49ers- Alontae Taylor | CB | Tennessee

Round 4

106. Jaguars- Greg Dulcich | TE | UCLA
107. Texans- Zach Tom | OT | Wake Forest
108. Texans- Kerby Joseph | S | Illinois
109. Bengals*- Sam Williams | EDGE | Ole Miss
**PROJECTED TRADE** (Ravens receive Titans 4th and 5th round picks)
110. Titans- Carson Strong | QB | Nevada
111. Jets- Coby Bryant | CB | Cincinnati
112. Saints*- Dane Belton | S | Iowa
113. Cardinals*- Jerome Ford | RB | Cincinnati
114. Falcons- Samore Toure | WR | Nebraska
115. Broncos- DaRon Bland | CB | Fresno State
116. Broncos- Braxton Jones | OT | Southern Utah
117. Jets- Tycen Anderson | S | Toledo
118. Browns- JT Woods | S | Baylor
119. Ravens- Kyle Phillips | WR | UCLA
120. Saints- Ed Ingram | G | LSU
121. Chiefs- Eric Johnson | DT | Missouri State
122. Colts- Spencer Burford | OT/G | UTSA
123. Chargers- Jerreth Sterns | WR | Western Kentucky
124. Eagles- Jalyn Armour-Davis | CB | Alabama
125. Dolphins- Sterling Weatherford | S | Miami (OH)
126. Raiders- Devin Harper | ILB | Oklahoma State
127. Patriots- Thayer Munford | OT/G | Ohio State
128. Ravens- Joey Blount | S | Virginia
129. Cowboys- Adam Anderson | EDGE | Georgia
130. Bills- Isaiah Likely | TE | Coastal Carolina
131. Titans- Luiji Vilain | EDGE | Wake Forest
132. Packers- Isaiah Weston | WR | Northern Iowa
133. Buccaneers- Kellen Diesch | OT | Arizona State
134. 49ers- Brian Robinson, Jr. | RB | Alabama
135. Cardinals*- Martin Emerson | CB | Mississippi State
136. Bengals- Charlie Kolar | TE | Iowa State
137. Panthers- Chris Paul | G | Tulsa

138. Steelers- Max Mitchell | OT | Louisiana

139. Ravens- Jeremy Ruckert | TE | Ohio State
140. Packers- Brian Asamoah II | ILB | Oklahoma
141. Ravens- Chasen Hines | G/C | LSU
142. Rams- Joshua Williams | CB | Fayetteville State
143. Titans- Daniel Bellinger | TE | San Diego State

Round 5

144. Panthers- Justyn Ross | WR | Clemson
145. Broncos- Matt Araiza | P | San Diego State
146. Jets- Hassan Haskins | RB | Michigan
147. Saints*- Bailey Zappe | QB | Western Kentucky
148. Bears- Kingsley Enagbare | DE | South Carolina
149. Packers*- Matt Henningsen | DL | Wisconsin
150. Bears- Tre Turner | WR | Virginia Tech
151. Falcons- Zachary Thomas | OT | San Diego State
152. Seahawks- Ryan Van Denmark | OT | Connecticut
153. Seahawks- Dameon Pierce | RB | Florida
154. Eagles- Matt Waletzko | OT | North Dakota
155. Cowboys- D’Marco Jackson | ILB | Appalachian State
156. Vikings- Pierre Strong, Jr. | RB | South Dakota State
157. Jaguars- Damarri Mathis | CB/S | Pittsburgh
158. Patriots- Joshua Paschal | DL | Kentucky
159. Colts- Bryan Cook | S | Cincinnati
160. Chargers- Rachaad White | RB | Arizona State
161. Saints- Master Teague | RB | Ohio State
162. Eagles- Neil Farrell, Jr. | DT | LSU
163. Jets- Amare Barno | EDGE | Virginia Tech
164. Raiders- Chris Hinton | DT | Michigan
165. Raiders- Tariq Castro-Fields | CB | Penn State
166. Eagles- Jashaun Corbin | RB | Florida State
167. Cowboys- Rasheed Walker | OT | Penn State
168. Bills- Vederian Lowe | OT | Illinois
169. Ravens*- Malcolm Rodriguez | ILB | Oklahoma State
170. Texans- Isaiah Thomas | EDGE | Oklahoma
171. Packers- Cordale Flott | CB | LSU
172. 49ers- Jayden Peevy | DT | Texas A&M
173. Giants- Zachary Carter | DL | Florida
174. Bengals- Kyren Williams | RB | Notre Dame
175. Rams- Lecitus Smith | G | Virginia Tech
176. Cowboys- Cole Kelley | QB | Southeast Louisiana
177. Lions- Sincere McCormick | RB | UTSA
178. Cowboys- Cade Otton | TE | Washington
179. Colts- Decobie Durant | CB | South Carolina State

Round 6

180. Jaguars- Ty Chandler | RB | North Carolina
181. Lions- Kevin Austin, Jr. | WR | Notre Dame
182. Giants- Devin Cochran | OT | Georgia Tech
183. Patriots- Andrew Stueber | OT/G | Michigan
184. Vikings- Derion Kendrick | CB | Clemson
185. Bills- Jack Sanborn | ILB | Wisconsin
186. Bears- Jake Ferguson | TE | Wisconsin
187. 49ers- Mykael Wright | CB | Oregon
188. Jaguars- Dare Rosenthal | OT | Kentucky
189. Commanders- Damone Clark | ILB | LSU
190. Falcons- Noah Elliss | DT | Idaho
191. Vikings- Christopher Allen | EDGE | Alabama
192. Vikings- Jalen Nailor | WR | Michigan State
193. Cowboys- Mario Goodrich | CB | Clemson
194. Saints- Jaquarii Roberson | WR | Wake Forest
195. Chargers- Benjie Franklin | CB | Tarleton State
196. Ravens- Tyreke Smith | EDGE | Ohio State
197. Jaguars- Luke Fortner | G | Kentucky
198. Jaguars- Reggie Roberson, Jr. | WR | SMU
199. Panthers- Jack Jones | CB | Arizona State
200. Patriots- Alex Wright | EDGE | UAB
201. Cardinals- JoJo Domann | ILB | Nebraska
202. Browns- Cade York | K | LSU
203. Bills- Verone McKinley | S | Oregon
204. Titans- Andrew Mevis | K | Iowa State
205. Texans- Joshua Jobe | CB | Alabama
206. Broncos- Chris Oladokun | QB | South Dakota State
207. Texans- Haskell Garrett | DT | Ohio State

208. Steelers- Connor Heyward | FB | Michigan State

209. Bengals- Eiyoma Uwazurike | DT | Iowa State
210. Patriots- Markquese Bell | S | Florida A&M
211. Rams- Myron Cunningham | OT/G | Arkansas
212. Rams- Tyler Badie | RB | Missouri
213. Falcons- Alec Lindstrom | G/C | Boston College
214. Chargers- Tyree Johnson | EDGE | Texas A&M
215. Cardinals- Greg Junior | CB | Ouachita Baptist
216. Colts- Cam’Ron Harris | RB | Miami
217. Lions- Derrick Deese, Jr. | TE | San Jose State
218. Rams- Bubba Bolden | S | Miami
219. Titans- Tyler Vrabel | OT | Boston College
220. 49ers- Bam Olaseni | OT | Utah
221. 49ers- Chig Okonkwo | TE | Maryland

Round 7

222. Jaguars- Kalon Barnes | CB | Baylor
223. Browns- Akayleb Evans | CB | Missouri
224. Dolphins- Owen Carney, Jr. | EDGE | Illinois

225. Steelers- Jesse Luketa | EDGE | Penn State

226. Bengals- Marcel Dabo | CB | Germany
227. Raiders- Jason Poe | G | Mercer
228. Packers- Matt Allen | C | Michigan State
229. Seahawks- Terrel Bernard | LB | Baylor
230. Commanders- Abram Smith | RB | Baylor
231. Bills- Jaylen Watson | CB | Washington State
232. Broncos- Glen Logan | DT | LSU
233. Chiefs- Josh Onujiogu | EDGE | Framingham State
234. Broncos- Erik Ezukanma | WR | Texas Tech
235. Jaguars- Ty Fryfogle | WR | Indiana
236. Chargers- Tayland Humphrey | DT | Lousiana
237. Eagles- Mike Rose | ILB | Iowa State
238. Rams- Cordell Volson | OT | North Dakota State
239. Colts- Zach VanValkenberg | DE | Iowa
240. Commanders- Tony Adams | CB | Illinois

241. Steelers- Isaiah Pola-Mao | S | USC

242. Panthers- Smoke Monday | S | Auburn
243. Chiefs- Mark Robinson | ILB | Ole Miss
244. Cardinals- Quentin Lake | S | UCLA
245. Patriots- Darrell Baker, Jr. | CB | Georgia Southern
246. Browns- Ellis Brooks | ILB | Penn State
247. Dolphins- Jake Camarda | P | Georgia
248. Buccaneers- Savon Scarver | WR | Utah State
249. Packers- Gabe Brkic | K | Oklahoma
250. Vikings- Kyron Johnson | EDGE | Kansas
251. Chiefs- Austin Delucus | OT/G | LSU
252. Bengals- Percy Butler | S | Louisiana
253. Rams- Lucas Krull | TE | Pittsburgh
254. Chargers- Brad Hawkins | S | Michigan
255. Chargers- Gerrit Prince | TE | UAB
256. Cardinals- Dareke Young | WR | Lenoir-Rhyne
257. Cardinals- Faion Hicks | CB | Wisconsin
258. Packers- Leon O’Neal, Jr. | S | Texas A&M
259. Chiefs- Dawson Deaton | C | Texas Tech
260. Chargers- Prince Emili | DL | Penn
261. Buccaneers- Isaiah Graham-Mobley | ILB | Boston College
262. 49ers- Brock Purdy | QB | Iowa State

There you have it, Steelers fans. What are your initial thoughts? Would you be on board with Malik Willis? Do you like the Steelers’ selections on Day 2? Could any of these Day 3 projections be an ideal fit? Who do you think the Steelers select with their picks? Be sure to light up the comment section below with your thoughts on this and all things NFL Draft!

Should the Steelers select a CB in the 2022 NFL Draft?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/28/2022 - 7:15am
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Are the Steelers in need of a true CB1, or is nickel corner the bigger need?

With each Big Board article this spring, the BTSC Big Board crew will be publishing a second article complementary to that respective portion of the big board. This week, we are going over this year’s class of cornerbacks and whether or not the Pittsburgh Steelers will want to draft that position in April.

If you have thoughts as to whether or not the Steelers should draft an cornerback, let us know in the comment section below. Let’s see what our resident draft analysts have to say.

Ryland B.: I believe that cornerback is an extremely underrated draft need for the 2022 Steelers. Sure, the team has a poor record of drafting corners, but they’ve shown solid improvement over the past few years in terms of developing young defensive backs. Pittsburgh is also in a prime spot to add a rookie corner. Levi Wallace, Akhello Witherspoon, and Cam Sutton are all good to decent CB2’s, meaning that there’s a clear need for a CB1, but they won’t have to immediately rush a rookie into the lineup.

The Steelers are in a conference where they have to play the Chiefs, Bills, and Bengals (twice a year), meaning that having an excellent secondary is paramount to countering such elite offenses. I think the first round is an great place to take a rookie corner like Andrew Booth or Kaiir Elam if the Steelers don’t like the quarterbacks available. It’s a deep class at the position, meaning that the some talent could be found in the middle rounds as well.

Andrew Wilbar: This is another position I can almost guarantee the Steelers add someone at. Andrew Booth, Jr. is my guy in the first round if the Steelers cannot land Malik Willis, and from what I have heard, his stock is beginning to drop. This could allow the Steelers to move back a few picks and still secure him. On day two, Marcus Jones could be in play if he happens to slip to round three. He, along with Jack Jones and Dacobie Durant, could be in play in the middle rounds if the Steelers see nickel corner as a bigger need than boundary corner. Later on day three, keep an eye on Darrell Baker, Jr. and Greg Junior, two of my favorite late-round sleepers. Germany’s Marcel Dabo would be an interesting selection in the later rounds as well.

There are plenty of corners for the Steelers to look at, but not every corner fits what the Steelers need. It will be interesting to see how the Steelers decide to attack it.

Do you think the Steelers should acquire an cornerback this offseason? If so, when and how should they do it? Let us know your thoughts by voting in the poll and commenting down below.

It’s easy to get caught up on all things NFL Draft, even if you start paying attention late

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/28/2022 - 6:00am
Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Don’t feel like getting into the annual NFL Draft until a month or so before the event? Don’t worry, I’m like that, too, and it seems to work out just fine each and every spring.

As you may or may not know, I have a very strict “don’t give a darn” policy when it comes to the first few months of NFL Draft coverage.

I say “first few months” knowing full well that some folks never stop covering, studying and paying attention to the draft. But for the sake of argument, let’s say the average Steelers fan doesn’t start focusing on the next draft and its prospects until after Pittsburgh's season is over, which, on average, is about the middle of January. This is when talk of who the Steelers should take and what position they should focus on begins to ramp up. The same can be said for fan interest in mock drafts.

If that’s right after the Steelers season ends for most fans, you can add another 10 weeks or so for yours truly.

Yep, I don’t start paying attention to anything draft-related until late March or early April. This is when I begin to dig deep into the big boards, the individual positions, the mock drafts and the specific areas Pittsburgh might try to address with a premium pick.

This might not sound like much fun if you’re someone who really, really loves the draft, but for someone who enjoys himself some NFL Playoffs, Super Bowl hype and even a little break from football, it’s ideal.

It’s also fairly effective, at least when it comes to making educated guesses and having conversations about specific prospects.

For example, I know that Garrett Wilson is currently at or near the top of the list of receiver prospects for the 2022 NFL Draft. However, if not for a torn ACL suffered in the National Championship Game, Alabama’s Jameson Williams might be head-and-shoulders above any receiver in this year’s class. Instead, he’s ranked near the bottom of those projected to go in the first round and may not get drafted until a little later.

I have quickly fallen for Kyle Hamilton, the star safety from Notre Dame, but have come to realize that he’ll likely be selected way before Pittsburgh’s turn at 20...unless a bunch of teams skip over him because of his 4.59 40 time at the Combine.

Wouldn’t that be something?

That would be like the time Rod Woodson slid to the 10th spot in 1987. Of course, if Hamilton’s slow 40 time causes him to have a hard time transitioning to the next level as it did for Jarvis Jones after the Steelers selected him in 2013, well, that could be a problem.

I know Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and Derek Stingley are two cornerbacks the Steelers will have no shot at drafting, while Washington’s Trent McDuffie and/or Clemson’s Andrew Booth could be there for the taking.

Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning may actually be there at 20, but even if he is, is he strictly a right tackle? Furthermore, does he fit the Steelers' blocking schemes? I don’t honestly know the answers to these questions, but I do know people are asking them.

How about Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum? At first, I thought he was just a folk hero who played a prestigious Steelers position—center—and had a cool name that Yinzers were drawn to. However, after studying Linderbaum, I was blown away by how well-thought-of he was in the collegiate ranks. That is until I realized that he may be overrated due to his short arms.

Now, I don’t know what to make of Linderbaum, but at least I know that much, which is way more than what I knew in March.

Oh well, I could go on and on about the things I’ve learned after finally beginning my research of the 2022 NFL Draft, but I believe I’ve given you just enough of an idea of what I know.

I believe that was my point.

2022 NFL Draft: TV schedule, start time, more

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/28/2022 - 5:30am
Photo by Duane Prokop/Getty Images

All the information to watch or listen to the 2022 NFL Draft over a variety of platforms.

The NFL draft is finally getting it’s time in Las Vegas. After getting a wonderful view of Roger Goodell‘s basement as he announced picks with all the draftees in their respective homes in 2020 when the draft was originally scheduled in Nevada, the stage is set in Vegas this year. Look on the bright side, at least it isn’t in Cleveland like in 2021.

The 2022 draft looks to be business as usual for the Pittsburgh Steelers , but with not having a franchise quarterback expected to start the season under head coach Mike Tomlin, it makes predicting what direction the Steelers will go even more difficult. With so much uncertainty starting with the very first pick, there are so many different ways the draft could fall this year.

So you don’t miss any of the action, listed below is the schedule for this year’s NFL draft, which rounds will be drafted when, and the various place you can watch or listen to the draft.

2021 NFL Draft Schedule TV: ABC, NFL Network, ESPN, ESPN Deportes Online: Fubo (Click HERE to create a Fubo Account and stream the entire draft), Sling TV, YouTube TV, Direct TV stream, Hulu with live TV
ESPN app or ESPN+: Click HERE to watch LIVE! Radio (Nationally): SiriusXM, Westwood One, ESPN Radio
Radio (Locally): Steelers Nation Radio— Viewers can listen anywhere in the world online via Steelers.com or on the Steelers Official Mobile App. Thursday April 28, 2022

8 PM EST Round 1 (picks 1-32)

Behind The Steel Curtain will be doing a live broadcast on the BTSC Radio YouTube channel following the Steelers first selection. Make sure you subscribe to the channel HERE and turn on notifications to be alerted to the live broadcasts. There will also be a breaking news podcast on our audio platforms immediately following the selection.

Friday April 29, 2022

7 PM EST Rounds 2 & 3 (picks 33- 105)

Behind The Steel Curtain will be doing live broadcasts on the BTSC Radio YouTube channel Friday night for a recap and breakdown after each pick. Make sure you subscribe to the channel HERE and turn on notifications to be alerted to the live broadcasts. There will also be a breaking news podcast on our audio platforms immediately following each selection.

Saturday April 30, 2022

12 PM EST Rounds 4 through 7 (picks 106- 262)

Behind The Steel Curtain will be doing a live broadcast on the BTSC Radio YouTube channel following each pick. Make sure you subscribe to the channel HERE and turn on notifications to be alerted to the live broadcast. Just like the first two days, there will also be a breaking news podcast on our audio platforms immediately following each selection.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 04/28/2022 - 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 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 and typed, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each show.

The War Room: Ranking & Tiering 80 Steelers Draft Prospects

At this particular juncture, the Steelers are set to leave Vegas with seven new players and even more when it comes to undrafted free agents. Check out BTSC’s Aussie perspective and stay a while with Matt Peverell in The Steelers War Room. Join Matty P. for his solo show as he looks at possible future Steelers and examines the ins-and-outs of the Steelers dollars and “sense” situation when it comes to personnel. This week, Matty examines, ranks and tiers 80 top college players who could be on the black-and-gold radar.

Rundown of the show:

  • Ranking & Tiering 75 Steeler Draft Prospects
  • Much More

Check out the BTSC’s Aussie perspective and stay a while with Matty in The Steelers War Room.

The Steelers Curtain Call: Putting the draft hype on hiatus as the big night nears

It’s the show where Michael Beck and Geoffrey Benedict break down a black and gold off-season full of change in the manner in which they examine the enemy. Scenarios, questions and more will be pondered on the latest episode of the BTSC family of podcasts. This time around, Geoff and Shannon welcome Mark Bergin of Bleav in Steelers to talk all prospects associated with the Steelers as we prepare for the 2022 NFL Draft.

  • News and Notes
  • NCAA players that could advance to the pros as a Steeler
  • Special Guest: Mark Bergin of Bleav in Steelers

Michael and Geoffrey walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-Gold.

The Steelers Stat Geek: What positions go in which rounds in the NFL Draft?

With the draft looming, it’s interesting to know just what round and how many players from each position were drafted by NFL teams in the last 10 years. We know that Round 1 is the QB destination, but what about other position groups? Thank goodness for the Stat Geek to break it all “dahn”. This is just one of the topics that will be discussed by Dave Schofield on the Thursday episode of the AM podcast lineup, “The Steelers Stat Geek”. Join BTSC’s Editor as he pulls out the Steelers slide rule and geeks out only like he can.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Position vs. Round
  • and more geeky numbers!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Top 5 Pittsburgh Steelers undrafted players, 1965-1979

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/27/2022 - 3:30pm
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Who are some of the Steelers best players who went undrafted during the Steel Curtain era?

As the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the 2022 NFL draft, there is a lot of focus on who they will be selecting throughout the three days. While these players are the ones expected to contribute the most throughout their career, sometimes it’s a player who wasn’t selected in the draft that can really make a difference in pushing a franchise to the next level

Knowing the importance of getting quality backups and special teams players beyond the draft, occasionally a superstar will emerge who didn’t get their name called from the stage to start their career. For this reason, let’s look at the top five players who went undrafted but began their careers with the Pittsburgh Steelers between the years 1965 and 1979. To make the process easier, players are only considered for the list if their first NFL regular season game was for the Steelers, even if they were picked up by another franchise first but never saw game action.

Unlike in the 2000s, the Steelers did not find many quality players who were undrafted. In case you missed the previous installments of 2000-present and 1980-1979, they can be seen here:

5. Jim Clack (1971-1977) Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Undrafted out of Wake Forest, Jim Clack was reserve interior offensive lineman for his first four seasons before starting three years at guard for the Steelers. Winning two Super Bowls, Clack started in both games. After seven seasons with the Steelers, Clack was traded to the New York Giants where he was there starting center through 1981. Clack was the player who started off by snapping the ball in the famous “Miracle at the Meadowlands” before the handoff was fumbled and returned by Herman Edwards.

4. John Banaszak (1975-1981) Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Undrafted out of Eastern Michigan, John Banaszak was active duty with the United States Marine Corps from 1969 to 1971 before going to college. After four more years of reserve status with the Marines while playing collegiately, Banaszak joined the Steelers in 1975 and became a starter on the Steelers defensive line in 1978. Winning three Super Bowls with the Steelers, he played his entire NFL career in Pittsburgh through the 1981 season and had 22.5 sacks. Banaszak finished his playing career with three seasons in the USFL.

3. Glen Edwards (1971-1977) Photo by James Flores /Getty Images

Glenn Edwards joined the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1971 after going undrafted out of Florida A&M. The Steelers starting free safety from 1973 to 1977, Edwards won two Super Bowls with the Steelers, the second of which he had an interception in the end zone as time expired. Edwards had 25 interceptions in the regular season with the Steelers, two of which he returned for touchdowns. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl in 1975 and 1976. With a reputation around the NFL as a dirty player, Edwards was traded to the San Diego Chargers in 1978. After four years with the Chargers, he played one season in the USFL with the Tampa Bay Bandits.

2. Sam Davis (1967-1979) Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Undrafted out of Allen University in South Carolina in 1967, Sam Davis took over the starting offensive guard position in 1970. He held the role of starter through 1979 in all but one season due to injury where the aforementioned Jim clack filled in. Davis was a part of all four of the Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl teams in the 70s despite missing one of the games due to injury. Davis played a total of 13 seasons of the NFL, all with the Steelers.

1. Donnie Shell (1974-1987) Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The greatest undrafted free agent in Pittsburgh Steelers history, Donnie Shell would have still been on the top of the list for the 1980s, by far, had he not started his career in 1974. Undrafted out of South Carolina State, Shell was a five-time Pro Bowler and three time first-team All-Pro as well as a four-time Super Bowl champion. Shell finished his career with 51 regular season interceptions and was finally inducted into the Pro football Hall of Fame as part of the 2020 class, something that was way past due.

BTSC Top Ten: Chris Boswell rounds out the Top 5 Steelers of 2021, who will be #6?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/27/2022 - 2:30pm
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Vote for your choice for the most valuable Steelers in 2021.

As the Steelers continue through free agency and are building their 2022 roster, it is a good time to take a look back at 2021 again and rank the top ten Steelers players of the season. There are a good number of players who played well, and a lot who didn’t.

Chris Boswell has been a staple on the Steelers roster for the last seven seasons, with the exception of the disappointing 2018 season Boswell has been as reliable a kicker as a team could hope for.

In the last three seasons, Boswell has missed only one of his 48 field goals under 40 yards (97.9% success rate) and ranks 7th in scoring despite ranking 19th in extra point attempts and 11th in field goal attempts. He ranks third in percentage of field goals made among kickers with at least 20 attempts over those three seasons, making him one of the top kickers in the NFL.

Boswell doesn’t get the recognition league-wide that he deserves, largely because he plays in the same division as Justin Tucker, who is making a case for being the best kicker in NFL history.

Boswell’s value to the Steelers is unquestionable, particularly since he kicked three game winning field goals in 2021, and the Steelers tie with Detroit involved Boswell scoring the last 6 points of the game, and sadly two fumbles in overtime kept him from having a shot to win another one.

Best Steelers of 2021:
1. T.J. Watt
2. Cameron Heyward
3. Najee Harris
4. Minkah Fitzpatrick
5. Chris Boswell

With Boswell off the list, we add linebacker Joe Schobert to our list of ten candidates for the 6th most important Steeler of 2021.

Let’s take a quick look at the candidates:
Bold = led Steelers in stat, * = led NFL in stat

Chase Claypool: Claypool’s 2021 season was considered a drop-off from his rookie season, but statistically that was only true in touchdowns scored, one of the most volatile stats for receivers. Claypool’s second season saw him improve slightly in yards per game, yards per target, broken tackles and drops. While the entire passing game was less efficient in 2021, Chase Claypool saw the least decline in efficiency.
Stat line: 105 targets, 59 receptions, 860 yards, 2 TDs.

Kevin Dotson: Dotson only appeared in 9 games for the Steelers, and it showed. With rookies starting on either side of him, Dotson was the anchor of the line, and that line was improving before he was hurt. The Steelers recorded 5 straight 100+ yard rushing games, a streak that ended with Dotson’s injury. That span of time involved the only two wins the Steelers recorded where their opponent scored 20 or more points.

Terrell Edmunds: Edmunds was labeled a reach when he was drafted, and while he has played in all but one game since then, and started all but 5, Edmunds has been more known for his weaknesses than his strengths. Edmunds has put in the work, improved every season, and in 2021 had his best coverage season, ranking in the top 20 in passer rating against when targeted, while still being a key player against the run for the Steelers.
Stat line: 2 interceptions, 6 passes defended, 1 sack, 8 tackles for a loss, 63 solo tackles.

Pat Freiermuth: The rookie tight end had a great first year, showing up as a quality blocker and dynamic receiving threat, his 7 TDs on 79 targets shows his ability to produce points in the red zone, and only Najee Harris was targeted more than 25 times while posting a higher catch rate than Freiermuth’s 75.9%. While his overall numbers weren’t stunning, the young man provided a massive upgrade at the position in just his first season.
Stat line: 79 targets, 60 receptions, 497 yards, 7 TDs.

Joe Haden: The veteran cornerback missed 5 games, but was still the Steelers best cornerback over the course of the season, and the Steelers defense continues to be a much better defense when he plays and the Steelers continue to win far more of their games with him than when he is out.
Stat line: 0 interceptions, 6 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 26 solo tackles.

Alex Highsmith: In his second year, Highsmith stepped into a starting role in 2021. In that role Highsmith recorded only 6 sacks but continued to show he is a sound defensive player who is strong in all phases of the game. While we look forward to Highsmith growing further into his role in 2022, his play in 2021 was definitely above the line.
Stat line: 6 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 46 solo tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, 15 QB hits.

Diontae Johnson: The Steelers leading receiver made his first playoff appearance and recorded the first 1000 yard receiving season since 2018. While his efficiency numbers were not good, it wasn’t just Johnson, the entire passing offense was bad.
Stat line: 169 targets, 107 receptions, 8 receiving TDs.

Ben Roethlisberger: The Steelers quarterback was a shell of his former self, and yet it is hard to believe that the team would have made the improbable run to the playoffs without him. Similar to Jerome Bettis being a major reason the 2005 Steelers won the Super Bowl while he was a backup, Ben Roethlisberger’s importance to the 2021 Steelers likely is more than his ability to still play the game.
Stat line: 3,740 passing yards, 22 passing TDs, 10 interceptions.

Joe Schobert: Schobert joined the Steelers via a trade from the Jacksonville Jaguars, and he helped hold down the inside linebacker position for the Steelers. He ended up second on the team in tackles, while playing the 5th most snaps on the Steelers defense. While not a long-term solution to the Steelers linebacker needs, Schobert was a solid player for the one season he was on the team.
Stat Line: 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, 70 solo tackles, 6 passes defended, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 QB hit.

Chris Wormley: Chris Wormley was put into a much bigger role than he had played before in 2021, when injuries moved him from the #4 defensive lineman on the team to #2. In that increased role Wormley nearly doubled the previous highest snap count of his career, and his production more than doubled. While Wormley was part of the defensive struggles in run defense, he was a major asset in pass defense, ending up third on the team in sacks and 4th in pressures.
Stat line: 7 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 3 passes defended, 51 total tackles, 6 tackles for a loss, 10 QB hits.

Now it is up to you to make your selection. Who should be rated the sixth-best Steeler of 2021, and who should come back to compete for 7th?

QB rankings, areas of need, total points and more: SIS’ Nathan Cooper talks Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/27/2022 - 12:45pm
Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Before Thursday’s Draft, read what Cooper, a senior football scouting analyst for Sports Info Solutions, has to say about Pittsburgh’s draft plan and his favorite prospects.

As the day of the NFL Draft finally approaches, it’s a truly rewarding moment for all of us: fans, front office personnel, reporters and especially scouts.

Experts have been poring over the film of some 20-year-olds for almost a year (sometimes even more) and finally get to see their diligent work and days scouring tape come to life. Chatting with a draft analyst truly opens one’s eyes to the amount of time and detail attributed to each prospect — there’s nobody with better perspective.

If you’re a real die-hard here at Behind the Steel Curtain, you might recall a Q&A we ran last April about who Sports Info Solutions’ Nathan Cooper thought was in play for the Steelers at Pick #24 and beyond. The interview was so well-received that we brought it back for another year!

You can access all of the outstanding, meticulous work that Nathan and the rest of the SIS football team have put together regarding this year’s draft here, including big board rankings, in-depth team looks and prospect reports. The site will continue to be updated with prudent information; I could not recommend highly enough poking around to deepen your Steelers and NFL nerdiness.

To learn more about SIS’ grading process, Nathan’s thoughts on top quarterbacks/receivers/late-round targets, some first-round sleepers and much more, read on below.

Question: Could you explain a little bit more about SIS’ Sonar Depth and Total Points metrics?

The Sonar Depth chart, probably one of the cooler features that we have. Obviously, you can’t get something like that in the book. It’s all interactive. It’s based on the depth charts that we accumulate and set up in our own system. And based on the depth chart, and who the starter is, at every position, it pulls out the total points per game for that player from last year. And based on what that that number is, you have sort of five tiers. You have a top tier and then obviously a bottom tier and a couple spots in between there. And it’s more of like a visualization type of tool to show you like, hey, these positions were really good last year, or these positions, they could go either way, or this position was really bad; we can use this as an upgrade. [It’s] not specifically a “team needs” type of thing.

It’s not a perfect science. Obviously, it doesn’t take into account like injuries or young guys that maybe he was a rookie last year. And that’s not factoring in snap counts and things like that. But it’s an awesome tool to kind of get an idea of the strengths and weaknesses of your your current team.

Q: What is the difference between total points and EPA (expected points added)? For example, why is John Leglue’s total points almost the same as Minkah Fitzpatrick’s?

With EPA, a really good play is going to be positive; a really bad play is going to be negative. And that sort of happens on every single play. With total points, we basically take every single data point that we collect, and it sort of works off of the EPA framework. And it is more like a proprietary player value metric, essentially. So you’re saying how many points this guy brings, how many points this guy is against your team or something like that. So if you think of it in baseball, like the WAR (wins above replacement) metric, it’s kind of along those lines except for football.

Whenever you look at total points, if you click on quarterbacks, quarterbacks are going to be by far and away your your top total point-getters. Usually, you’re going to be in the 100s there, and then you’ll work down. Your offensive lineman, your solid defensive players, those guys could be in the 40s, 50s, 60s, but it kind of works down from there. How football is nowadays is a very passing-centric league. Your offensive line is going to be solid, and especially if they’re good pass-blockers.

Your receivers can go either way. It’s going to take into account your depth of target and things like that. If you’re not always getting thrown the ball 30 yards down the field, if you’re just dinking and dunking, you’re not gonna really have a high total points number because we feel like a lot of a lot of receivers can do something like that.

But yeah, safeties, it’s tough. If you look at a guy like Trevon Diggs, who last year had 11 interceptions, his total points number actually isn’t very high. Because if you take those away, you can see all the time that he was getting beat aside from that. So it kind of goes back and forth a little bit there and obviously, helps the passing game. And that’s why you see the quarterback so high, and the rest of it’s kind of mediocre in essence.

Q: In free agency, the Steelers signed interior offensive linemen James Daniels and Mason Cole, but Sonar Depth still views the team’s guards/centers as a weakness. Should they still try to bolster the IOL?

For me, I think especially with offensive line, you can never have too many of them. So I think trying to get another, versatile guy. Obviously, Mason Cole [and] James Daniels [are] two versatile guys that can kind of play that center and guard position. But I don’t think it’s out of the realm to go out and get another one of those guys as well. I think there’s some guys that you can go get this year. I mean, overall, James Daniels, 25 total points last year; Mason Cole, only eight. How the sonar chart works is taking that and looking at it on a per-game basis. And whenever you just look at the rest of the league, they’re a little bit lower, but again, you kind of have to take everything else with it as well, not just strictly like, ‘Hey, here’s total points.’ You gotta look at some snap count percentages and how he was used and things like that as well. So if you’re just strictly looking at that number, it’s a little bit below league average, but I think those are two solid pickups. But again, I’m not against going out and getting another guy in the draft this year.

Q: What are some areas that you think the Steelers should try to reinforce?

Obviously. quarterback is one of them. We won’t get into that too much just yet, but I don’t hate going out and getting another receiver. Losing JuJu (Smith-Schuster), trying to build that up for whoever the quarterback is going to be. I think going out and getting another another receiver — maybe it’s an Alec Pierce from Cincinnati, I think is a good guy. A long, fast athletic guy [that] can play on the outside, can play on the inside, catches really well. Big, wide catch radius. It could possibly be a Josh Johnson out of Tulsa, too. A guy who we see as more like maybe a number four type of receiver, but probably more of a slot player. Maybe can play the outside on occasion but [a] sudden route runner who I think would be really good kind of opposite of like a Diontae Johnson in Pittsburgh.

But besides that as well, corners and edges to me are probably two of the deeper positions in this in this class or this whole class. So I’m definitely not against trying to go out and help the corner room and maybe get another edge behind (T.J.) Watt and (Alex) Highsmith.

Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images Arkansas’ Treylon Burks has seen his stock drop since running a 4.55 40-yard dash. Even then, Cooper feels his dynamic playmaking and spectacular hands would be a terrific fit on the Steelers.

Q: What are some names that Steelers fans should monitor for the first round?

If you’re looking at receiver, I think there’s a there’s a ton of really good receivers in this top mix. It’s probably going to happen to where Garrett Wilson is probably gone, Jameson Williams is probably gone. But some guys that you can look at [are] Treylon Burks if he falls to this spot, I think would be a great pickup. Big, athletic guy; not the burner a lot of these other guys are, but just his effectiveness when the ball comes his way. He’s almost always catching the ball. A guy like that.

Jahan Dotson out of Penn State, keeping it in Pennsylvania. Another versatile guy. Really good hands, really good route-running ability, can kind of play him on the outside or inside.

And then obviously, we’ve got to go back to the quarterback position. I think that’s something in terms of Malik Willis being tossed out there or Kenny Pickett being tossed out there. I think those guys have to be in the mix in the first round.

Q: If you had to choose one of the players you mentioned to be the pick at #20, who’s your guy?

The quarterback position is is interesting. In terms of Willis and Pickett, they’re our two highest-rated guys, but we don’t have them as like a solid starter-level grade. I mean, I don’t trust trying to go get one of those guys and feel good about it, and your first couple of seasons, those guys need to sit. I don’t know if Pittsburgh is the right spot to go get a guy and really sit for a while.

So if you’re looking at one of those receivers, I like Treylon Burks if he’s falling to 20. You’re really trying to go get a solid receiver for whoever that quarterback is going to be. He’s our number one receiver on our board. And those other guys were really good, but you have a chance to go get a guy like Treylon Burks at 20, I think that’s really going to help that offense. For us, I think the offense was a little bit lacking last year [chuckles]. So I think trying to bolster that up would be a huge help in Pittsburgh.

Q: Is it realistic to expect the Steelers to trade up into the top 15 or top 10?

I think it is. If you’re trying to go for the quarterback, I think you almost have to, unfortunately, because I think that’s just how it works. Almost any year, the quarterbacks are going to be the sought-after position. And in this year, where there isn’t a clear-cut number one or number two, who are going to go in the top three or four picks. With the upside that Malik Willis has, I think it’s tempting.

But then on the flip side, it’s very hard to get enough value whenever you trade up. You’re almost always going to get more value from trading down. So I mean, if you feel like Malik Willis is the guy, and you’re gonna go up and get it, for quarterbacks, you almost throw everything out the window. If he’s the guy that you think he can be coming into the system, then I think you’d have to do it.

But if you’re not really 100% sure, I don’t think you try to do something like that. Let the board fall out, fall the that way you see it in front of you. Because I think there is going to be a lot of talent that’s still going to be around at that Number 20 spot, whether it is a receiver or a corner or an edge or one of these other positions,

Q: Does it matter in what order the Steelers should address their positions of need?

This is one of the years that there are some good players at the top, but it’s very heavy on day two. So I think if you go for the best player at any of those positions on day one, whoever kind of falls to 20 out of those spots, take that guy, and then sort of work through the rest of those positions on day two. I think day two is where the meat of a lot of the the draft class is; there are so many good prospects in that second- and third-round range that, they’re definitely a step below those first-round guys. But I think those guys can come in and compete for a lot of different teams and a lot of different schemes within their first couple of seasons.

Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images 2022 will mark Kevin Colbert’s last draft as general manager of the Steelers. Despite it being his swan song, Cooper doesn’t envision Colbert being overly assertive.

Q: Given that his is Kevin Colbert’s last draft, are you expecting him to be more aggressive to really make a mark on the franchise for years to come?

It’s in a tough spot. You’re at Number 20. It’s not like you’re in the top 10 where you can really go in nab one of these top guys unless you are making a trade up. But again, unless it’s for a quarterback that you really feel is the guy, I think you just have to let the board shake out. It’s a very deep draft. There’s a lot of good players throughout the entire seven rounds. You’re gonna be able to find a lot of really good undrafted guys as well.

I don’t think this is the draft to be super aggressive. Especially in Pittsburgh’s eyes, I think you let it shake out. They’re in a spot that, whether it’s it’s the first round or day two, I think they’re gonna get a lot of good players that can come in and help right away and then be guys that are competing for starting spots in year two.

Q: Can you walk through how you ranked the top three quarterbacks?

Malik Willis is our number one guy. We have Willis, then Pickett and then Matt Corral. Those are our top three guys — our only three guys in our top 101. And Malik Willis [is] our top guy at Number 42 overall. So like I said earlier, not many quarterbacks who we really feel are solid starters who can come in, hop in right away, like we’ve seen the last couple of years.

We have the same grade on Willis and Pickett. In terms of breaking that tie, Pickett is probably the guy who can come in and maybe play a little bit sooner. But Willis probably has more upside. He’s obviously way more athletic [and] has a crazy arm. But in terms of what we can see as projection, looking down the road, Willis probably has a little bit more upside than the rest of these guys.

Q: Desmond Ridder was SIS’ sixth-ranked quarterback. Why was he positioned so low with so many analysts gushing over him?

I think some of it to me is a little bit of technique. I think the footwork isn’t really there for me. He’s not completely accurate, doesn’t completely follow through all the time. His ball sort of sails a little bit. Doesn’t have the NFL arm strength I don’t think. There’s a few guys in this class who lack a little bit of arm, but then there’s also a few guys who have the ridiculous arm like Willis or a (Carson) Strong. I don’t know if Ridder has the NFL type of arm. And then the release a little bit as well.

Looking at these technical aspects, it’s not consistent. Obviously, whether it’s a pitcher in baseball, a quarterback in football with your release and your follow-through and all these things, you want to see consistency with that. So, we still see him as maybe a circumstantial type of starter. But there’s a lot to work with, especially technically, in his game.

Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images Houston corner Marcus Jones is poised to be a mid-round pick. Cooper believes the Steelers should have their eye on Jones as they look to add to their cornerback room.

Q: Are there any other names that you think would be a good fit for the Steelers in the later (second, third, fourth) rounds?

Go back to offensive line. One guy that’s a little intriguing for me: Zach Tom out of Wake Forest. Probably not second round, maybe you can see him late third, early on day three. We have him as more of a versatile type of guy. He can fit more like that left tackle role, but also can play center. He has experience at both; you don’t see too many guys who have the versatility of a tackle and a center. But he’s one of those guys [that] obviously needs to get a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger. You can see that in the anchor a little bit, he’ll get pushed back and doesn’t have a ton of leg drive in the run game. But very rangy, moves really well out in space. You can pull him, you can do a little bit of everything with him. Reads and reacts really well to rushers and uses good hands as well. So, I think he’s one guy that that would be intriguing and kind of fit as a good depth option and developmental piece for those guys.

And then you look at the corner spot, trying to get some depth there. Two Houston guys at corner: Damarion Williams, we have as a 6.5 (grade), could very well work into maybe a starter type of player. Good reactive athleticism and ball skills.

But I really like his teammate, Marcus Jones. Really fun to watch. More of a slot type of guy. We have him ranked a little bit lower just because he’s obviously a little bit smaller. You have to kind of pigeonhole him in the slot. But a guy who can even kind of work back into the safety role. Very quick, very twitchy, can stay with just about any type of receiver, whether it’s a tight end, a back, a wide receiver, and nonstop pursuit. He’s a guy who’s going to fly from one side of the field to the other to try to stop the ball. So he’s definitely a fun guy to watch. And that’s not mentioning his is return ability as well. Very dynamic player, very twitchy player. Two guys there that I think would really benefit coming in and learning behind some of the guys that the Steelers have in that corner room.

Q: Every year, it feels like we have surprise players sneak into the first round. Who could be players that go higher than expected in 2022?

One guy I really like is Tyler Smith out of Tulsa, the left tackle. I rated him really high. He’s one of those guys who is very raw; he has all the traits that you want. But when you watch him, he’ll just have his hands down by his side or the footwork isn’t completely there. He’s not great out in space. But when he gets his hands on you, he does not let go, and he’ll put you in the ground. I can definitely see someone, whether it is in the back half of the first round, or someone trading up from the second round to get back into the first round, to get a guy like that. Has all the traits you want to look for. But it is going to be a work-in-progress. But I feel like by year two, you him get a year of development. I think by year two, he’s gonna be a guy that could possibly be starting. But there’s a lot to work a lot to work with. There’s a lot to improve there as well. 12 holding penalties this year is definitely concerning. But that comes with the the rawness and things like that as well. So he’s one guy that I would love to have to be able to be able to mold, and I could definitely see a team hopping into take a guy like that.

David Ojabo could be a guy where, obviously, we’re talking about him as being a top-10 guy, then he gets hurt. To me, I could see a team take him, you know, 30, 31, 32, basically, because of the fifth-year option. He’s basically going to be redshirting anyway, so why not take him at the back into the first round if you’re a team who has the availability to put him and stash him at basically as a redshirt and then possibly get four more years out of him? If you wait and get him outside, then you’re probably looking at only three years with him. I could see somebody taking him. Obviously, traits are ridiculous. The athleticism [is] definitely there. But taking him in the first round, when he probably wasn’t going to play much anyway, you allow him to sit there, learn, get healthy, and then now you have four years of him beyond this year.

Q: A few years from now, who are some players that we’ll retroactively declare were taken too low?

I’d probably go Kyle Hamilton. There’s a very good chance that he falls down to that eight-to-12 range. He’s just so athletic. You don’t see guys who are 6-foot-4, 220 who have the athleticism that he does, the speed that he does, the range that he does. You just don’t see that. I think a lot of people are counting him out because of the speed. For one, if you watch the Combine, the 40 (yard dash), he almost veered off the entire lane. I mean, that obviously cost him a little bit. But if you just watch him on the film, I don’t think the speed is an issue at all. So I think there’s going to be a lot of teams — anywhere from like two to 10 — who, if they pass on him, I think could very well be a little bit upset that they did, because there’s just not many guys like that who you see on a year-to-year basis.

If the Steelers feel strongly about a QB in the 2022 NFL Draft, they should take him

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/27/2022 - 11:30am
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The time might be now for the Steelers to draft their quarterback since you get no points for waiting.

There’s one thing that remains quite clear as the 2022 NFL Draft fast approaches: The quarterback class is a polarizing one.

Yes, sir, these quarterbacks certainly have their champions, but they also have their detractors (or, haters, in social media speak).

It’s quite the year to have a quarterback class that lacks one or two sure-fire candidates like Peyton Manning or Joe Burrow (probably, anyway), especially since this is the first time in nearly two decades that the Steelers could really use a new quarterback. That’s right, unless Mitch Trubisky or Mason Rudolph takes the football from the just-retired Ben Roethlisberger and immediately runs (or passes) with it, the Steelers are going to need to make a major commitment and draft a prospective franchise quarterback in the not-so-distant future.

Just not this year.

At least that’s been the popular sentiment for the past few months heading into the draft.

Just continue to build your foundation and fortify your roster now and go after your quarterback next year. Ah, yes, that very popular quarterback class of 2023, a class that will include Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Alabama’s Bryce Young, among others.

That’s when you pull the trigger: 2023.

But why not pull the trigger now? There are no guarantees about next year’s class of quarterbacks. Heck, it wasn’t long ago that UNC’s Sam Howell was projected to be taken fairly high in the 2022 NFL Draft. That was before Howell played the 2021 season for the Tar Heels and turned enough folks off that he’s now a borderline first-round pick heading into Thursday evening.

Remember when Sam Darnold was the toast of the 2018 NFL Draft for many months (maybe even years) leading up to the event? Darnold was ultimately joined by Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson and became part of what was considered to be a strong class of quarterbacks. Here we are today, and only Allen and Jackson have had what would be considered to be accomplished careers. Meanwhile, Mayfield is currently looking for a new home, Darnold is under-performing for his second NFL team, and Josh Rosen, who has had stints with five organizations, is currently a free agent.

That brings me back to the 2022 crop of quarterbacks, a group that includes Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett, Matt Corral, Desmond Ridder and Howell. I’d say at least three of those guys will be picked in the first round.

How do the Steelers feel about the group as a whole? Maybe that’s immaterial if they feel strongly about one player in particular. What if that quarterback is available when Pittsburgh’s time on the clock begins on Thursday night? Do they take him, or do they wait until 2023 to find their man?

I say they take him and sprint up to the podium to do so. This isn’t about drafting a quarterback just because you think you need one. This is about trusting in yourself and your abilities to develop a prospect you feel strongly about into the player you need him to be to lead your franchise into the future. That’s the ultimate goal. As cliched as it is to say, a team is nothing without a franchise quarterback. Even the strongest foundation in the world is probably not going to get you where you need to go if you’re structurally unsound at the very top of the roster. Even better, a really good quarterback can cover up a lot of cracks and smooth over some rocky pavement.

Should they trade up for someone like Willis, who they’re reportedly very smitten with? Sure, why not? If you’re worried about draft value, let me tell you that this won’t matter if Willis changes the fortunes of the Steelers franchise sooner rather than later. Does anyone remember what the Steelers traded away to move up in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft in order to select Troy Polamalu?

I do not know, nor do I care.

The Steelers are the only ones who will have to live with their decision on drafting or not drafting a quarterback this year. They can’t worry about outside noise, including the fans and media. They can’t concern themselves with reactions or grades.

They just have to get their man, which just so happens to be THE MAN in professional football.

People love to talk about the 1983 quarterback class, and rightfully so. But Todd Blackledge and Tony Eason were also part of that crop of quarterbacks drafted in the first round.

The Steelers don’t have to draft the entire 2022 quarterback class. They only have to draft one person. Will it be a risk? Sure, but it’s always going to be a risk no matter when and which passer they select. If their man is sitting there for the taking on Thursday night, that’s something they can control right now. Who knows what slot they’ll be drafting in next spring and which quarterback or quarterbacks will even be there?

The sooner the Steelers find their next franchise quarterback, the sooner they can restart their journey as NFL contenders.

And the sooner we can all stop focusing on future quarterback classes.

3 Steelers draft crushes heading into the big event

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/27/2022 - 10:30am
Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Let's take a quick second look at my Top 3 draft crushes in the 2022 NFL Draft.

We are all guilty. Every rabid football fan and armchair talent evaluator develops draft crushes during the pre-draft process. Players that each one of us as individuals wholeheartedly believe would be perfect fits for our favorite team. Often we feel and believe in our opinions on a deeply personal level. It can also be extremely disappointing when the Steelers obviously don't share in our obsessions.

Or maybe it's just me.

The 2022 NFL Draft is hours away. After far too many evaluations read and film watched, I have once again found myself with numerous draft crushes, which happens every year. There are multiple players at various positions which are intriguing, but a few that really stand out as potentially perfect fits for the Steelers’ system and culture.

I have written articles about each of my draft crushes at different stages of the offseason. I wrote first about my defensive draft crush, Wyoming ILB Chad Muma, immediately after his impressive performance during Senior Bowl week. Then I waxed poetically about my favorite offensive draft crush, Western Michigan WR Skyy Moore, during the 2022 NFL Combine festivities. Finally, I penned a wish list of sorts expressing my desire for the Steelers to consider another talented pass catcher, Cincinnati WR Alec Pierce, after his pro day.

With the whole pre-draft evaluation period over, I like to reexamine my articles and evaluations to see if my initial impressions of each prospect have changed over time, or if they remain the same. My opinions on each of these young men, and my desire to see each wearing black and gold, has only grown stronger.

Chad Muma had an excellent week of practices leading up to the Senior Bowl, then ended up the leading tackler in the game. His performance obviously caught the eye of any remaining scouts who may have been sleeping on the professional potential of the 2021 3rd team All-American from Wyoming.

Muma graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering, but his intelligence isn't just limited to the classroom. He is a student of the game, combining above average athleticism with an exceptional feel for the position. His leadership was evident during Senior Bowl week, as he was seen assisting out of position teammates with their assignments on multiple occasions.

After posting a 4.63 forty, 40" vertical, and 27 bench press reps at 6'3" and 240 lbs., scoring a 9.74 Relative Athletic Score overall at the Combine, Muma definitely didn't rest on his laurels. He trained hard to improve his 20-yard shuttle and three cone drill times which he was disappointed with during Combine testing, and improved both substantially enough after running them again at his pro day. If he would have posted his pro day times at the combine, he would have had the best times for his position at the Combine for both.

That's the type of determination and dedication to personal improvement elite level players are made of. Quite impressive from a 22 year old young man. The more I learn about Chad Muma, the more there is to like.

Western Michigan WR Skyy Moore had been given a 3rd Round grade on the majority of draft projections leading up to the Combine. His exceptional Combine performance, coupled with his impressive game film, have him shooting up draft boards into late first to early second round range.

More and more evaluators are starting to recognize the athleticism, explosiveness, and intensity I have recognized since late in the 2021 collegiate season.

Mel Kiper calls Skyy Moore "the most underrated player in this draft at any position." Kiper has had as many as six receivers being selected in the first round of his mock drafts, but has suggested he wouldn't be surprised if Moore, who he projects going in the second round, outperforms a lot of the receivers taken ahead of him.

Moore is only 5'10" and 191 lbs., substantially smaller than some of the other lengthy prospects in this class, but he actually has a similar wingspan and larger hands than many of them. Moore is a ‘yinzer’, who grew up admiring former Steelers great Antonio Brown, particularly his ravenous work ethic. That is exactly who Moore reminds me of, which actually makes perfect sense.

He also shares similarities with current NFL standout Deebo Samuel. Both young men are blessed with a powerful build, and a low center of gravity. Like Samuel, Moore breaks plenty of tackles and picks up an inordinate amount of yards after the catch. Moore should be an immediate contributor out of the slot as a rookie, but similar to the aforementioned Antonio Brown, I believe he has the talent and tenacity to eventually excel on the outside as well.

Based on all of the above criteria, I believe Moore is another perfect prospect for Pittsburgh.

Wide receiver became a huge draft need for the Steelers after they lost three of their top five receivers early in free agency. An underwhelming and extraordinarily expensive group of available receivers in free agency has only exaggerated the situation. The Steelers would be wise to double dip at the position in an abnormally deep draft class.

Cincinnati receiver Alec Pierce has been garnering plenty of attention as a possible great value selection in the late third to early fourth round. Blessed with excellent length and solid deep speed, he has splash play potential. Pierce excels at high pointing the football, a trait that has been missing in the Steel City for as long as I can remember. Thanks to his wingspan and 40"+ vertical, Pierce has a ridiculous catch radius.

An under discussed byproduct of this year's deep class at receiver, a prospect like Pierce could still be left on the board early in Day 3. A receiver with the mentality and physicality of a linebacker, Pierce displays these attributes regularly with his superior blocking.

If the Steelers agree with my assessments, and are blessed enough to acquire any of the three in the 2022 NFL Draft, you can be sure I will be celebrating the Steelers good fortune.

Steelers 7-Round Mock Drafts: Dreams vs. Reality

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/27/2022 - 9:30am
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Taking a look at dream scenarios, as well as realistic approaches to the Steelers 2022 NFL Draft.

Every year, I do a dreams vs. reality mock draft comparison. One mock draft is what I would consider the perfect draft scenario for the Steelers, while the other is what I think will actually happen. This year, I am combining that article with another article I do every year: the mock draft simulator comparison.

Today, I will be doing one mock draft from each of the six main simulators: The Draft Network, Pro Football Network, NFL Mock Draft Database, Pro Football Focus, Walk the Mock, and Fanspeak. We will look at the results from each and determine which mocks are pure dreams, and which ones could actually happen. I will also add my “perfect scenario” mock draft to the mix, which I shared on this week’s episode of the Steelers Draft Fix podcast with Jeremy Betz. Be sure to check it out this Tuesday.

This article is supposed to be fun, but you will need to use your imagination on some of these. If you have your own perfect scenario for the Steelers, be sure to share it in the comment section below.

Let’s get to the mocks!

Andrew’s Dream Mock Draft

I agree with Shannon White in that the Steelers should entertain a Diontae Johnson trade, considering how high the value of proven wide receivers currently is. With the way the Steelers draft receivers, they could easily replace him, and they could likely get an early day two pick in the process. Here is what my ideal draft would look like.

1:20- Malik Willis | QB | Liberty
**TRADE Diontae Johnson to the New York Jets for pick 38**
2:38- Andrew Booth, Jr. | CB | Clemson
2:52- Skyy Moore | WR | Western Michigan
**TRADE pick 84 to the San Francisco 49ers for picks 105, 171, and a 2023 5th round pick**
3:105- Tyquan Thornton | WR | Baylor
4:138- Dare Rosenthal | OT | Kentucky
5:171- Damone Clark | ILB | LSU
6:208- Jesse Luketa | EDGE | Penn State
7:225- Eyioma Uwazurike | DL | Iowa State
7:241- Isaiah Pola-Mao | S | USC

UDFA: Darrell Baker, Jr. | CB | Georgia Southern
UDFA: Tyrese Robinson | G | Oklahoma
UDFA: Joshua Ezeudu | G | North Carolina
UDFA: Greg Junior | CB | Ouachita Baptist
UDFA: Quentin Lake | S | UCLA

The Draft Network

I have never been a huge fan of TDN’s rankings, but it provides realistic projections as to who could be available when a given team is on the clock. I did not pay to have trading capabilities, which means the Steelers only have their current seven picks in this simulation. Here are the results.

For those who do not have a way to zoom in on the selections, the picks in this mock are as follows: Charles Cross, Roger McCreary, Alec Pierce, Daniel Bellinger, Eyioma Uwazurike, Bailey Zappe, and Luiji Vilain. The only unrealistic picks in this mock are Cross and Zappe. I do not see Cross getting outside the top 15 picks, and Zappe is firmly in the mix to be the sixth quarterback off the board and a late day-two pick. Other than that, this mock seemed fairly realistic.

Pro Football Network

Pro Football Network’s simulator is probably my favorite one, because it not only allows you to propose trades for free, but it also sends trade offers to you. In this mock, I made one trade, sending picks 20 and 138 to the Chiefs for picks 29 and 50. As it pertains to the actual selections, PFN has Tyler Smith listed as a tackle, but I expect him to move inside to guard. While guard is not necessarily a huge team need, the value may be too good to pass up if he falls to pick 50. Let’s see the full results for the Steelers.

NFL Mock Draft Database

I like the free trades on NFL Mock Draft Database, but it is easy to manipulate the system, as you can usually trade down one spot at a time in the first round, regardless of who you are trading with, and pick up at least a fourth-round pick each time you do it. I did three trades, all of which were small trade-backs in round 1. Here are the full results.

Traded pick 20 to NE for picks 21, 127, and 170
Traded pick 21 to GB for picks 22 and 132
Traded pick 22 to DAL for picks 24, 129, and 193

Walk The Mock

Walk The Mock has several impressive new features that make it a much more interesting simulator. The rankings are a little questionable, and the free trade feature does not exactly improve the realism of it, but it is a fun simulator to use. I would definitely put this one in the “dream” category, though.

Pro Football Focus

While I highly dislike PFF’s simulator as a whole, I do like the fact that you can involve players in trades. In this mock, I traded Diontae Johnson to the New York Jets for the 38th selection, and I also moved back twice in the first round while sliding back once in the second. Here are the full results.

Fanspeak

Fanspeak has Zach Tom listed as a center, but I have him listed as a tackle in my own rankings. There are no free trades on Fanspeak either, so we are just rolling with the seven picks the Steelers currently have. Let’s see how it played out.

Which mock draft simulation was your favorite? Which one do you think is most realistic? What would be your dream scenario for the Steelers? Let us know your thoughts on this by voting on the poll and commenting down below, and stay tuned to BTSC for all the news and notes leading up to the NFL Draft!

3 final thoughts as the Steelers plunge into the draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/27/2022 - 8:30am
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL world is about to descend on Las Vegas for the 2022 NFL Draft, and here are some final thought on the Steelers as they prepare for the three day event.

After months of writing about it, reading about it and talking about it, the 2022 NFL Draft has finally arrived. We can all stop playing pretend-general manager and put away our mock draft simulators until next year. It’s time to sit back with our fingers crossed while Kevin Colbert and company get down to business.

Before it all kicks off, I wanted to share some final thoughts as we plunge into the greatest non-sporting sporting event known to man. Here are 3 thoughts on the draft, and on the offseason that has preceded it, for the Steelers.

1. Kevin Colbert nailed his final free agency period

Take a look at the following lineups. The first is Pittsburgh’s starting personnel for their final game of the 2021 season in the Wild Card contest at Kansas City:

OFFENSE: Roethlisberger (QB), Harris (RB), Claypool (WR), Johnson (WR), Smith-Schuster (WR), Freiermuth (TE), Hassenauer (C), Turner (G), Leglue (G), Moore (T), Okorafor (T)

DEFENSE: Heyward (DT), Wormley (DE), Adams (DE), Schobert (LB), Bush (LB), Watt (OLB), Highsmith (OLB), Haden (CB), Witherspoon (CB), Edmunds (S), Fitzpatrick (S)

The next one is what the Steelers look like today, just days before the draft. The names in italics represent players they have added or resigned since the beginning of free agency in March:

*OFFENSE: Trubisky (QB), Harris (RB), Claypool (WR), Johnson (WR), Freiermuth (TE), Gentry (TE), Cole (C), Daniels (G), Dotson (G), Moore (T), Okorafor (T)

*There are two tight ends because I expect the Steelers to base largely out of 12-personnel.

DEFENSE: Alualu (DT), Heyward (DE), Tuitt/Adams (DE), Jack (LB), Bush (LB), Watt (OLB), Highsmith (OLB), Wallace (CB), Witherspoon (CB), Edmunds (S), Fitzpatrick (S)

That’s eight projected starters who were either signed or resigned during free agency. A ninth, Gunner Olszewski, is expected to replace Ray-Ray McCloud as the team’s punt and kick returner. Assuming Stephon Tuitt returns, none are backups masquerading as starters, as J.C. Hassenauer, Kendrick Green, Chris Wormley and Montravius Adams were last season. And, the signings of Mitchell Trubisky, Mason Cole, James Daniels, Myles Jack, Levi Wallace and Olszewski all represent upgrades from the players they are replacing from the 2021 lineup. It’s quite an improvement.

The credit for these moves belongs to Colbert. Colbert did a wonderful job of using Pittsburgh’s rare abundance of salary cap space to fill needs with solid players on team-friendly contracts that don’t hamstring them for years to come. It was an impressive final foray into free agency for the veteran general manager, who will step away from the job after the draft. If Colbert aces the draft the way he aced free agency, it will represent a masterful closing statement for a man whose tenure in Pittsburgh makes a strong argument for Hall of Fame consideration.

2. Patience is a virtue

While Colbert did a stellar job of plugging holes in free agency, that doesn’t mean the Steelers are a complete football team. There are areas where Pittsburgh is thin, and others where they have future concerns. So, while this is not a draft like 2021, where the Steelers needed starter-ready talent, it is one where they must find players who can provide solid depth now and become starters down the road.

Cornerback, safety, inside linebacker, outside linebacker, defensive line, offensive line, quarterback and wide receiver are all areas that can be addressed. Late in the draft, they could even add a third tight end or a versatile running back. There’s not a position group on offense or defense they shouldn’t consider at some point.

Most draft analysts have remarked that while this draft is devoid of superstar talent at the top, it’s a deep draft, with quality players available into the middle rounds. In other words, it’s a great draft for teams like the Steelers who are looking to build depth with players they don’t need to press into starting roles right away.

There’s been a lot of talk about Pittsburgh moving up to select a quarterback. Some have speculated they will try to get in front of Seattle in Round 1 to take Malik Willis. Others have said they could move up in the 2nd for Desmond Ridder. Normally, I favor an aggressive approach. I believe if a team loves a particular player, like Mike Tomlin is said to love Willis, they should explore every option in trying to acquire him. But the resources they’d have to spend to make such a move are too expensive. In this draft, where the quarterbacks look ordinary, and where the depth means the Steelers can acquire quality players in almost every round, the smart move is to stand pat, trust their big board and let the draft come to them.

3. The top pick should be...

This is the third draft for which I’ve been a staff writer at BTSC. In each of the first two, I wrote an article on my preferred top pick for the Steelers.

In 2020, they didn’t have a 1st Round pick, so their initial selection came in Round 2. The Steelers were picking 49th overall and I narrowed my focus to three players — LSU guard/center Lloyd Cushenberry, Southern Illinois safety Jeremy Chinn and Penn State wide receiver K.J. Hamler. Cushenberry and Chinn have become excellent pros while Hamler has been slowed by injuries. Chase Claypool, whom the Steelers drafted three picks after Denver took Hamler, looks like a better overall receiver. But, if I could re-draft for the Steelers, Chinn would be my preference.

Last year, I was all-in on the running backs. I oscillated between Najee Harris and Travis Etienne before opting for Etienne. Both were available when the Steelers selected. Harris had a stellar rookie campaign in Pittsburgh while Etienne suffered a Lisfranc injury in preseason and missed the entire year. Harris was the better choice in the short term, and should be in the long term as well.

Which brings us to this year. With no glaring need to fill, the pool of candidates from which the Steelers could choose in Round 1 is large. Initially, I had about a dozen players on my list, but for the sake of brevity, I’ve cut it in half. The first three are players who will likely be gone by the time the Steelers pick, but if they aren’t, Pittsburgh should run to the podium to select. The second three are players who will more realistically be around at 1:20.

One note about how I arrived at these players. When evaluating talent, the important question to ask isn’t “How good was he in college?” It’s “How good could he be in Pittsburgh?” To answer that question, another must be asked: “What, specifically, would the Steelers need him to do?” Success in the pros is as much about scheme fit as it is about ability. These guys, for me, are the best combination of the two.

Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

The Pittsburgh offense is shaping up as a diverse unit that can attack a defense in a variety of ways. It now has a mobile quarterback, a fleet of big receivers, a precise route-runner in Diontae Johnson, and a bell-cow running back. It’s missing just one thing: a home run hitter.

That’s what attracted me to Hamler and Etienne. Each possesses an explosiveness I believe the Steelers need in order to get more sudden on offense. By “sudden” I mean a player who poses a threat to take the football to the house any time it’s in his hands. The Steelers have fast players but no one who is particularly dangerous.

Jameson Williams is that player. Prior to the ACL injury he suffered in the national championship game against Georgia, Williams was projected to run a sub-4.3 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. Unlike some players whose sprint speed doesn’t translate to the field, Williams plays as fast as his 40 time indicates. His ability to stretch the field both horizontally and vertically and to make defenders miss in space would add an element the Steelers have lacked since Antonio Brown departed.

The injury makes Williams a risk. But the game-changing speed and elusiveness he possesses is too enticing to ignore.

Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

Hamilton was once projected as a Top 5 pick but is now being mocked somewhere in the teens. It’s not inconceivable he could fall to the Steelers. At 6’4” 220lbs., he’s built like Chinn, but with better range. He has a high football IQ and excellent instincts. Hamilton would be an extraordinary box safety with coverage skills to boot. He and Minkah Fitzpatrick would form a safety duo for the ages.

Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

While I don’t think the Steelers should trade up for Willis, I believe they should take him if he slides. He’s the one quarterback in this draft who seems a perfect fit for what they want to do on offense. With Trubisky in the fold, they could bring him along slowly without having to force him into action before he’s ready. That’s the luxury they’ve created by filling so many voids in free agency.

Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia

I’ve written about Wyatt previously. You can read below why I think he’d be a great fit along the defensive line.

Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

The Steelers rarely draft tackles in Round 1, and rarely take players from non-Power 5 schools. But Penning, at 6’7-325, is a huge, athletic prospect who was described as someone “with a level of disgust for anyone lining up against him who seeks out violent block-finishes when possible.” That sounds perfect for a Steelers’ team trying to get more physical up front.

Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

Burks is a 6’2” 225lbs. Swiss Army knife who can line up out wide, in the slot or at running back. His versatility is ideal for Matt Canada, who could use him in a variety of roles. For those who may be having Jaylen Samuels flashbacks, Burks is not Samuels. He’s a receiver by trade and a running back by form. In that sense, he’s more Samuel, as in Deebo, than Samuels. Burks doesn’t have elite speed but is a big-play threat with the ball in his hands. He’s a very different player than Jameson, but both possess the “suddenness” this Pittsburgh offense needs.

There you have it — my short list for the first pick. No matter who the Steelers take, it promises to be an exciting couple of days for fans of the Black and Gold. Let’s Go Steelers!

Steelers 2022 NFL Draft Big Board: CB Rankings

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/27/2022 - 7:15am
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Our resident NFL Draft analysts give in-depth scouting reports and rankings for every draftable cornerback.

We’re back! The BTSC Big Board crew has returned for a second consecutive season! Between now and April, numerous BTSC draft analysts will give you stats, grades, and in-depth scouting reports for over 300 prospects in this year’s class. Just like last year, we will be doing these rankings by position until the week of the draft, when we finalize the overall rankings and release our all-positions-combined big board.

For our final positional rankings article, we’ll be looking at this year’s class of cornerbacks. The Steelers have a solid top 3 at the position on their roster right now in Akhello Witherspoon, Levi Wallace, and Cam Sutton, but there definitely seems to be some room for improvement. It’s an underrated need in this draft, and a deep class at the position this year furthers the chances of the Steelers bringing in a corner at some point in the 2022 NFL Draft.

The analysis is a collaborative effort of Ryland, myself, K.T. Smith, Jeremy Betz, Shannon White, skyfire322, Noah_E., and NecksNation, while the stats are compiled by SNW via Sports Reference. Proofreading was done by our newest big board contributor, DoomzoneFF.

If you have any thoughts on these cornerback prospects and their potential fit with the Steelers, be sure to share them in the comment section below.

Let’s get to the Big Board!

1. Ahmad Gardner | Cincinnati | 6‘-2“, 188 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 4
2021 stats: GP 13, T 40, TFL 5, S 3, Int 3, PD 4.

Andrew Wilbar: “Sauce” Gardner, if I remember correctly, has not given up a receiving touchdown in his entire Cincinnati career, and he is only surrendering about 20 receiving yards per game in 2021. The 6’2”, 200 pound junior from Detroit would be the number one corner in some drafts, but because of the strength of the position this year, Gardner might slide further than what he really should. He is similar to Booth in that he is your typical man press corner. In other words, Steelers fans, he was what Justin Layne could have been in the right situation and right system, but I digress. Gardner does a great job bumping receivers off their route at the line of scrimmage and forcing them to re-route. He gets good position and does a fantastic job forcing receivers to the outside. If he can develop better skills in zone, he could become a valuable asset for any team. Until then, the team that drafts him will want to play a healthy amount of man coverage. That is how they will get the most out of him early on.

Necksnation: Not only does Sauce Gardner have one of the best nicknames in this year’s draft, he could be the best defensive player from the class when it’s all said and done. Gardner is a physical corner, and he will gladly do whatever is asked of him on the football field. He possesses great length and athleticism, and these physical traits show up on his tape, where he showed the ability to clamp receivers in press as well as track them step for step in man. That said, he may be even better in zone, where his great instincts and aggressive nature pay off. His stats are ridiculous: in 33 games played at Cincinnati, he didn’t allow a single touchdown, and he’s given up one reception in the red zone since 2019. Because he was so dominant, he was rarely targeted, but he made a decent amount of plays on the ball with limited opportunities, registering three interceptions in every season that he played at Cincinnati. In addition, Gardner displays great competitive toughness when defending the run. He is an enthusiastic and aggressive tackler, and he made a number of highlight reel plays in run defense in 2021, including 5 TFL. Gardner has everything that you could ask for in a cornerback prospect, and he should hear his name called in the top 10 on draft night, where he’ll make an NFL team’s fanbase very happy.

2. Andrew Booth, Jr. | Clemson | 6‘-0“, 195 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 8
2021 stats: GP 11, T 37, TFL 3, S 0, Int 3, PD 5.

Andrew Wilbar: In my summer breakdown on Booth, I talked about his standout play in limited action in 2020. With Derion Kendrick transferring to Georgia, Booth became the face of Clemson’s secondary in 2021, and he lived up to the billing. While 3 tackles for loss, 5 passes defended, and 1 interception may not seem like insane stats for 10 games, he was consistently sound in coverage, bumping receivers off their route at the line of scrimmage and blanketing them downfield one-on-one. From an athletic standpoint, Booth is right up there with Derek Stingley and Ahmad Gardner. He has the size, the speed, the instincts, and the agility requisite from a press man corner. While turnover production is still a work in progress, he has not exactly had a ton of prime opportunities to force them. He is still developing his zone coverage skills, but Booth has the potential to become a top-tier corner in the NFL if drafted by the right team.

3. Derek Stingley, Jr. | LSU | 6‘-1“, 195 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 12
2021 stats: GP 3, T 8, TFL 3.5, S 0, Int 0, PD 0, FF 1.
2019 stats: GP 15, T 38, TFL 1, S 0, Int 6, PD 15, FR 1.

Necksnation: If you only look at Stingley’s freshman season, he’d seem like a lock to be taken in the top 5, but things haven’t gone quite as smoothly for him since then. It started in 2020, where he missed three games and saw his production decline a bit from his outstanding 2019 campaign. Then, he suffered a Lisfranc injury three weeks into the season, and didn’t return for the rest of the year. As a result, his draft stock has been volatile throughout the past few months, but he seems to be trending in the right direction as we get closer to draft day. The team that takes him will do so with the hope that he becomes the player he looked like in 2019, and if he does, he’ll look like a steal. And even though he hasn’t looked quite as good since that season, there’s still a lot to like about Stingley. His ball skills are fantastic, and even when he isn’t hauling in interceptions, he often finds ways to make plays on the ball. He allowed an impressive completion percentage of 39.2 across 125 targets at LSU, and he hauled in a whopping 6 interceptions as a freshman. Additionally, Stingley won’t turn 21 until June, making him one of the younger players in the class. Between his age, athleticism (9.2 RAS score), and production ceiling, Stingley has incredible potential, and despite his recent decline in production and injury history, he is absolutely worth gambling on in the top 15.

Andrew Wilbar: Stingley’s freshman campaign was unforgettable, recording six interceptions and fifteen passes defended. However, not much has happened since then. In the odd 2020 season, Stingley had five passes defended in seven games but failed to record an interception. In 2021, Stingley played in three games before missing the rest of the season with a foot injury, forcing one fumble and zero interceptions in those three games. While we can look at the 2019 tape and clearly see that he was the best defender in that game, one cannot dismiss the questions that come with a season of less production followed by a season shortened by an injury. We will see what can be gleaned by the medical testing at the combine to know if there are any long-term concerns, but the biggest concern is the dip in production. He has the skills to be an elite corner. We just have not seen him play at an elite level since LSU’s National Championship Game victory. Questions about his love for the game have risen during the pre-draft process, but it is difficult to tell how much it will affect his draft stock.

4. Trent McDuffie | Washington | 5‘-11“, 195 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 34
2021 stats: GP 11, T 35, TFL 4, S 1, Int 0, PD 6.

Ryland B.: McDuffie lacks the length of the other top corners in this class, but there’s still a lot to like. He has good speed for the position (4.44 40 time) and great agility. McDuffie has a smooth backpedal into coverage, incredibly quick feet, and can flip his hips well. The Washington corner is a quick reactor and very aware in zone coverage, which is his strength, but he still looked incredibly tight in man coverage. What surprised me is how active McDuffie is in the run game. He takes on blocks, isn’t afraid to make tackles, and is quick to diagnose run plays and sprint over to the action. He was even occasionally used to blitz gaps with varying success. McDuffies lack of great size, as well as production, worries me about his fit on the outside in the NFL. But his technique, physicality, and athleticism give McDuffie elite potential in the slot.

5. Roger McCreary | Auburn | 6‘-0“, 190 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 40
2021 stats: GP 12, T 49, TFL 2, S 1, Int 2, PD 14, FR 1.

Ryland B.: McCreary had to go up against some incredibly talented receivers in the SEC, and he largely held his own. He’s a good athlete for the position, with enough long speed to keep up with most receivers and decent reactive quickness. He looked the best in man coverage, where his athleticism and physicality really shone, but he’s a solid zone defender as well. Part of me wonders if that physicality could be an issue at the next level, as some of McCreary’s technique could be called a hold at the next level. He can be just a little too grabby. Overall though, there’s a lot to like about McCreary, whose impressive effort, physicality, ball skills, and general athleticism should certainly make him worth a pick in the first few rounds of the draft.

6. Kaiir Elam | Florida | 6‘-2“, 196 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 43
2021 stats: GP 10, T 29, TFL 1.5, S 0, Int 1, PD 5.

Andrew Wilbar: Elam is a lengthy cornerback who possesses solid athleticism and tremendous instincts. Primarily a zone corner, Elam displays solid situational awareness and fantastic start-and-stop quickness. This ability to change direction on a dime allows him to break on the ball quickly in zone and to match up well against twitchy, undersized receivers in man. Although he seems to be most comfortable in zone, he has proven that he has the necessary athleticism to play doses of man coverage as well. The downside? He sometimes loses awareness of where his zone is, dropping back too far and giving the receiver too much room to work with underneath. As you all are well aware by now, I prefer man corners over zone corners, which is why I am not the biggest Elam fan. However, the upside is high if he is put in a position to make plays on the ball.

7. Marcus Jones | Houston | 5‘-8“, 185 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 55
2021 stats: GP 13, T 47, TFL 1, S 0, Int 5, PD 13, FF 1.

Andrew Wilbar: Size will most definitely limit Jones to the slot in the NFL, but his closing speed and feistiness make him an interesting day two pick, regardless of his size. Versatility is the other big part of his game, as he can play a little free safety as well as return kicks and punts. I also love how smoothly Jones can flip his hips in coverage. His footwork is clean, and his backpedal looks incredibly natural. He has not provided much value as a blitzer thus far into his playing career, recording zero sacks in four seasons; however, his ability to make plays on the ball was on full display in 2021, as he recorded 5 interceptions and 13 passes defended in 11 games. If you are looking for an NFL comparison, look no further than former Steeler Mike Hilton, at least from an athletic standpoint. Hilton is definitely a better blitzer than Jones is, but Jones has the upper hand when it comes to ability in coverage. He is still raw and learning the nuances of the position, but the upside is through the roof if he is developed properly.

8. Kyler Gordon | Washington | 6‘-0“, 200 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 62
2021 stats: GP 13, T 45, TFL 2, S 0, Int 2, PD 7, FF 1.

Ryland B.: Washington has turned into a defensive back factory over the past few years, and Gordon, along with teammate Trent McDuffie, should further that trend. Gordon is a big, physical corner with good athleticism. He’s a very smooth mover with a great backpedal in bail technique, where he played the most. Gordon’s reaction time and quickness is pretty solid and he’s a willing run defender and high-effort player. He has special teams experience as well. Gordon is a good option for a team in need of a solid outside corner.

9. Tariq Woolen | UTSA | 6‘-4“, 205 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 79
2021 stats: GP 9, T 25, TFL 2.5, S 0, Int 1, PD 5.

Necksnation: Woolen has appealing physical traits, but is incredibly raw and will be quite a project for the team that drafts him. He converted from receiver to cornerback in 2020, and it shows on his tape, as he was burnt numerous times in man. In zone, his instincts are okay, but could use a bit of work, as he sometimes misreads his assignments. As a former receiver, Woolen does have impressive ball skills, but he sometimes struggles to make plays on the ball while simultaneously covering the receiver. He is certainly an aggressive defender while the ball is in the air, and he’s willing to make hits to jar the ball loose and get his hands in the way to prevent a completion, but this can be a double edged sword, and he gave up a few big plays because of this aggression. Additionally, I have some concerns about his competitive toughness. He often appeared unwilling to make tackles and defend the run, and while this may be partially due to his lack of experience at the position, it’s something that he’ll need to figure out in the NFL. On the bright side, his athletic upside is tremendous. Standing 6’4” and running a 4.26 40 yard dash, he absolutely has the physical tools to succeed, but his tape doesn’t back up his measurables yet. He seems like a good guy to take a flier on early in day 3, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable selecting him before then due to how much development he still needs.

10. Alontae Taylor | Tennessee | 6‘-0“, 193 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 87
2021 stats: GP 12, T 60, TFL 1, S 0, Int 2, PD 6, FF 1.

Andrew Wilbar: Taylor’s 40 time was one of the most pleasant surprises at the combine, as his speed looked suspect on tape. At the Senior Bowl, though, Tennessee teammate Velus Jones, Jr. dominated him in reps, burning him over the top and beating him deep on multiple occasions. Despite his sub-4.4 40 time, I still have concerns about his ability to play a high volume of man coverage, as his inability to get good position against receivers at the line of scrimmage should be concerning. In a defense that plays a lot of cover 2 and cover 3, Taylor could certainly find a starting role, but he will not be a fit for everyone.

11. Cameron Taylor-Britt | Nebraska | 6‘-0“, 197 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 95
2021 stats: GP 12, T 51, TFL 3, S 1, Int 1, PD 11.

Andrew Wilbar: Talk about a guy who consistently got in passing lanes and broke up passes in 2021. Taylor-Britt, despite decent athleticism, is probably best suited as a zone corner, as his instincts and fluidity would give him the upper hand. If he wants to make it as a zone corner, however, he must take better tackling angles. At Nebraska, he struggled to bring down opposing receivers after the catch due to that issue, and it is not an issue that will simply subside in the NFL. He has good straight-line speed, but his start-and-stop quickness when mirroring a receiver in man coverage leaves a lot to be desired. Overall, I like Taylor-Britt’s chances of developing into a start if put in the right situation. He just has several technical issues that developed into bad habits at the collegiate level. If he can break those habits, he will become a solid CB2.

12. Damarri Mathis | Pittsburgh | 5‘-11“, 195 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 111
2021 stats: GP 12, T 43, TFL 0, S 0, Int 2, PD 5.

Andrew Wilbar: Mathis is an aggressive corner who is a little handsy at times. In fact, I remember the TV analyst of the Pitt/Clemson game mentioning that, when talking to people at Pitt, he realized the importance of officiating relative to the team’s success. He was apparently told that the way the refs officiate the game is huge for them, largely due to the aggressive style they play. There are times when Mathis may have gotten away with a little bit of grabbing, but overall, he has good awareness in man coverage, and he knows when to turn around and make a play on the ball. He is also plenty athletic, displaying the size, speed, and versatility to play both corner and safety at a high level. He is still somewhat raw technically, but if you want a guy in the middle rounds who has the tools to develop into a star corner, Mathis is your guy.

13. Martin Emerson | Mississippi State | 6‘-0“, 195 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 113
2021 stats: GP 12, T 49, TFL 3, S 0, Int 0, PD 3.

Noah: Emerson has gone under the radar during the entire draft process. He’s a lengthy corner and he has great footwork. He flips his hips well and has good patience, so you won’t see him over pursue very often. He does a good job mirroring receivers in man coverage and has good discipline in zone. There are some big red flags though, especially when it comes to ball skills. While Emerson was a great cover corner during his time at Mississippi State, he only has 1 career interception, and his inability to track the ball shows. His long speed is good enough but he lacks good change of direction, which could potentially limit him in his ability to cover certain routes like quick outs and zigs. There’s a lot to like but there are also things that could steer a team away. He may not be a first round guy but he hasn’t gotten the attention he deserves.

14. Zyon McCollum | Sam Houston State | 6‘-4“, 220 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 114
2021 stats: GP 12, T 50, TFL 2, S 0, Int 3, PD 5.

Necksnation: McCollum had a solid career at Sam Houston State, and is one of the most athletically gifted players in the class, but he looks like a substantial project right now. He is certainly a playmaker, as he registered 13 interceptions and a whopping 54 pass breakups in 56 games in college, but it’s worth noting that he played against mediocre competition in the FCS. He spent most of his time on the field as an outside corner, and that’s where he’ll likely play in the NFL, although he’ll need a good amount of development. A certain area of improvement for him is his tackling, where he was inconsistent and missed many attempts as a result of poor form. He is aggressive and willing to do dirty work, but he needs to work on his technique in order to be a viable tackler. He plays decently well in press, which suits his aggressive play style well, but he did get burnt a few times. Zone appears to be where he plays best, as he has good instincts and is able to use his athleticism to make plays on the ball. Overall, McCollum has fantastic athleticism, and has a perfect 10 Relative Athletic Score, but has plenty of work to do if he wants to succeed in the NFL. However, his upside is absolutely worth taking a gamble on, and I won’t be surprised if he is selected in the fourth or fifth round.

15. Isaac Taylor-Stuart | USC | 6‘-2“, 200 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 116
2021 stats: GP 11, T 39, TFL 0, S 0, Int 1, PD 3.

Andrew Wilbar: Taylor-Stuart is an aggressive press-man corner who has the size and speed to become a dominant outside corner. I do, however, have a few minor concerns with his game. He can run stride for stride with just about any receiver in man coverage, but when he is on an island by himself, he lacks eye discipline, which causes him to look back toward the ball. If the ball happens to already be in the air, he will panic and grab the receiver to make sure he doesn’t get burned at the last moment. This lack of confidence in coverage led to some crucial pass interference penalties at the collegiate level, but it seems to be a fixable issue once he gains more confidence as a corner. The other issue I am worried about is his performance against bigger wide receivers. One of the games I watched of him was against Stanford, whose top two wide receivers are both 6’4” or taller. He got pushed around at the line of scrimmage too often, and he struggled to get good position at the beginning of the route. This is a little concerning from a 6’2”, 200-pound corner who is big enough to hold his own on the outside, although part of the issue may be due to him playing on the back of his heels too much. Taylor-Stuart looks the part of an NFL cornerback, but there are still some inconsistencies he will need to work through at the beginning of his career.

16. Jack Jones | Arizona State | 5‘-10“, 175 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 117
2021 stats: GP 11, T 41, TFL 2.5, S 1, Int 3, PD 6, FF 3.

Andrew Wilbar: Jones was a five-star athlete coming out of high school who had committed to USC. After a breakout 2017 season, Jones’ was declared ineligible to participate in football for academic reasons. It did not end there, however. During the summer of 2018, Jones was arrested for burglary, and his football career was in jeopardy. To make a long story short, Jones transferred to Arizona State, got his life into some sort of order, and actually made the Dean’s List for the 2020 spring semester. He has matured greatly during his time at Arizona State and has now regained his footage as a draft prospect. After a year of solid production followed by an impressive combine performance, he is more than worthy of a mid-round selection. He would provide schematic versatility to any team in need of a slot corner.

17. Coby Bryant | Cincinnati | 5‘-11“, 198 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 127
2021 stats: GP 14, T 44, TFL 1.5, S 0, Int 2, PD 11, FF 2.

Noah: Coby Bryant was the definition of lockdown this year for the Bearcats. He may not have had the career that his teammate Sauce Gardner did, but he was the Jim Thorpe Award winner for a reason. Bryant displays good footwork and his 9 interceptions in 4 years are evidence of his ball skills. He’s a smart player and has good athleticism despite being a tad slow at times. Bryant does a good job of watching the feet and not biting on fakes. He does have relatively short arms creating some inconsistency when wrapping up. Due to his lack of quickness Bryant has struggled when he’s covering routes that force him to move laterally across the field. He has the mental toughness and physical tools to be a very good player, but he needs to put it all together. He has the potential to be the steal of the draft if he can clean up some of the holes in his game.

18. Tariq Castro-Fields | Penn State | 6‘-0“, 198 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 133
2021 stats: GP 12, T 33, TFL 0, S 0, Int 0, PD 6.

Jeremy Betz: I love “TCS” in this class. He has all the tools you look for in a potential No. 1 CB, and plays a physical brand of football that makes him a solid man coverage corner. He does need some refinement from a technique standpoint, but all the athletic traits are there. He has 4.3 speed and on tape you see a strong ability to close on the football and run with speedy receivers on the outside. I project him as mainly an outside press corner in the NFL, where he can make an immediate impact on special teams while working into the CB rotation fairly early in his career.

19. Jalyn Armour-Davis | Alabama | 6‘-1“, 192 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 136
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.

20. Decobie Durant | South Carolina State | 5‘-11“, 175 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 144
2021 stats: GP 11, T 35, TFL 4, S 0, Int 3, PD 12, FR 1.

Andrew Wilbar: Durant brings an intriguing blend of ball skills and instincts at the cornerback position. Measuring in at only 5’10”, 180 pounds at the combine, Durant is almost certainly going to be a nickel corner at the next level. His hip fluidity and speed are both evident on tape, and his ability to close on the ball quickly is what got him in position to grab several of his interceptions during his four-year career with the Bulldogs. He has limited experience coming on the blitz but has shown potential in that area, although there is no production to back that claim. The concern lies in that he gives too much leeway to receivers on underneath routes, allowing them to create yardage after the catch if they turn upfield quick enough. Level of competition is another valid concern scouts will have, but if he can tighten up his spacing in coverage, I think he possesses starting upside at nickel corner.

21. Joshua Williams | Fayetteville State | 6‘-3“, 197 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 147
2021 stats: GP 9, T 31, TFL 0, S 0, Int 3, PD 6.

Andrew Wilbar: Williams was largely an unknown commodity just a few short months ago. However, after an impressive week at the Senior Bowl, the Williams bandwagon began to gain steam. Now, he is likely a mid-round pick who could have the opportunity to start early in his career. His lack of speed will limit him to primarily zone concepts, but I love the energy he plays with. You can tell that he is passionate about the game just by how he carries himself on the field. Not only does Williams have the ball skills scouts love, but his fluidity and instincts partially make up for his lack of speed. I would not consider him a corner with CB1 upside, but if he is allowed to play a heavy dose of cover-3, he could become a reliable CB2.

22. Chase Lucas | Arizona State | 6‘-0“, 185 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 175
2021 stats: GP 10, T 34, TFL 1, S 0, Int 0, PD 6.

Andrew Wilbar: I am not the biggest fan of Lucas, but he is a name that seems to be soaring up on draft boards. He has not recorded an interception since 2019, but he has become more consistent in coverage overall, displaying requisite athleticism and awareness for the position. Lucas has experience playing on the outside, but in the NFL, I do not think he has the size to hold up long-term. If he can take advantage of more errant throws by the quarterback by turning them into interceptions, he could make his presence felt as a slot corner for years to come.

23. Darrell Baker, Jr. | Georgia Southern | 6‘-1“, 200 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 178
2021 stats: GP 9, T 32, TFL 2, S 0, Int 0, PD 8, FF 1.

Andrew Wilbar: Baker is relatively new to the position, but he looks the part of an NFL cornerback. Not only does he have adequate size, but at his pro day, he recorded a 4.43 in the 40, a 41 ½” vertical, a 135” broad jump, and a 7.07 in the 3-cone drill. The athleticism is off the charts, and it is evident when you watch him on the field. He has incredible explosiveness in hips, and his fluidity when moving laterally is second to none for someone as new to the position as he is. The turnover production has not yet arrived, but Baker does have the ability to create splash plays, having played receiver in high school. Jeremy and I had the pleasure of interviewing him for the Steelers Draft Fix, and we both came away impressed with his confidence and demeanor. You can check out the full interview below.

24. Gregory Junior | Ouachita Baptist | 6‘-0“, 190 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 182
2021 stats: GP 11, T 46, TFL 3, S 0, Int 0, PD 7.

Andrew Wilbar: Junior is a good athlete who provided lockdown coverage capabilities on low-level college ball. At 5 ‘11 7/10”, 203, Junior recorded a 4.46 40, 18 bench reps, 39.5” vertical, 4.17 short shuttle, and 6.97 in the 3-cone drill. He has the versatility to play inside or out, and when it’s all said and done, he may actually be best suited for an outside role. He has some feistiness in him, has active hands at the LOS, and bumps receivers off their route. I would like to see him take better tackling angles, but he looks the part of an NFL corner. The only issue is that his success came against poor competition.

25. Cordale Flott | LSU | 6‘-1“, 165 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 187
2021 stats: GP 11, T 40, TFL 1, S 0, Int 1, PD 3, FF 1.

Noah: I had never heard of Cordale Flott until just a few days ago, but his tape surprised me. Physically, he’s your prototypical boundary corner, tall, fast with long arms, but his skill set doesn’t exactly reflect that. His footwork is a thing of beauty and his movement is very fluid. His hip mobility is some of the best I’ve seen and he makes up ground quickly, in part because he is so light on his feet. At LSU’s pro day he ran a 4.4 flat and that speed shows on tape. In addition to all of this, Flott is willing to take on blockers and is impressive as a run defender. His frame is a bit slender and he tends to have a bit of a quick trigger, over responding to route fakes. He’s never going to be a true number 1 shutdown corner, but in my eyes, he is the perfect slot guy and in the right situation he could flourish.

26. DaRon Bland | Fresno State | 6‘-1“, 202 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 196
2021 stats: GP 13, T 45, TFL 1, S 0, Int 2, PD 5, FF 1.

Ryland B.: Bland is a very physical corner with good athleticism. What really stood out to me was his effort in the run game and ferocity when taking on blocks and in pursuit. There’s still some technical aspects that need to be worked on in that area but there’s a lot to like about Bland in run support. In coverage, Bland shows good speed and solid awareness in zone. However, he can be a little too grabby. He didn’t exactly have the highest level of competition in college, either.

27. Mykael Wright | CB | Oregon | 5’-11”, 182 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 203
2021 stats: GP 13, T 65, TFL 4, S 0, Int 1, PD, 4, FF 1.

Ryland B.: Wright is an athletic yet undersized cornerback. He’s very feisty and physical in coverage with the ability to make a play on the ball. He has very good speed and quickness and found some success as a returner for Oregon. Wright’s biggest issue is his lack of size, and he will have a harder time with stronger and taller receivers at the NFL level. However, his competitiveness is not an issue. Wright could be a very good option as a special teamer and potential slot corner.

28. Akayleb Evans | Missouri | 6‘-2“, 188 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 204
2021 stats: GP 11, T 28, TFL 1, S 0, Int 1, PD 6, FF 2.

Jeremy Betz: You want size? Check. You want athleticism and fluidity? Check. You want experience? That’s all you’re missing with Evans, one of the best athletes in this class. Elite length helps him stick to receivers in man coverage and he has great range when working in zone. An incomplete player, but one with a lot of upside as an early Day 3 pick, Akayleb Evans has the kind of potential that gets scouting departments and coaches excited.

29. Mario Goodrich | Clemson | 6‘-0“, 190 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 205
2021 stats: GP 11, T 42, TFL 0, S 0, Int 2, PD 15, FF 1.

Andrew Wilbar: Goodrich is not a guy I see ever becoming a number one corner, but in a system that uses primarily zone concepts, he could develop into a solid number two corner. He possesses the instincts necessary to break on the ball quickly and get into passing lanes, and he is not afraid to get physical with receivers down the field. However, he weighed in at a slight 176 pounds at the combine, which brings up concerns about how durable he will be as a boundary corner. The other issue that limits his ceiling is his lack of elite ball skills. He will never be a corner who racks up interceptions, and the team that drafts him will need to go in with that expectation. Nonetheless, he provides enough upside to warrant a day-three selection.

30. Marcel Dabo | Germany Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 211

Andrew Wilbar: Dabo is a draft prospect from Germany who displays eye-popping athleticism. When given a chance to display his abilities at his pro day, Dabo ran a 4.48 in the 40, jumped 40 inches in the vertical, and leaped 128 inches in the broad jump. At 6’0”, 190 pounds, Dabo has the size to be a boundary corner. He has excellent hand-eye coordination, and he has incredibly smooth hips. I believe that those two traits give him tremendous upside at the next level in the department of splash plays. There will definitely be a learning curve, but as a late-round draft pick, Dabo will give you more upside than just about any other available option you will have.

31. T.J. Carter | TCU | 5‘-11“, 193 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 217
2021 stats: GP 10, T 63, TFL 0, S 0, Int 1, PD 1.

Andrew Wilbar: Carter is a Memphis transfer who may have been selected higher if he had entered the draft last year. He struggled to make a huge impact with TCU, and he followed it up with disappointing numbers at the combine. For someone who had so much success as a freshman and sophomore, it was disappointing to see the drop-off in production, although part of the problem could be due to a season-ending injury he sustained back in 2019. At TCU, Carter saw most of his playing time at safety, but I think his best chance to have success will come by moving back to cornerback. However, he may be best suited at nickel rather than the outside, as ability to defend the run at a high level combined with his physicality in coverage makes him a more logical fit inside. Inconsistency and poor athletic testing will cause him to fall to the later rounds of the draft, but if used properly, he has the potential to become a nice depth corner.

32. Tre Avery | Rutgers | 5‘-11“, 190 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 224
2021 stats: GP 12, T 37, TFL 1.5, S 0, Int 1, PD 5.

Andrew Wilbar: Tre Avery is an intriguing slot option late in the draft. Measuring in at nearly 5 ‘10 1/2”, 181 pounds, Avery recorded a 4.45 in the 40, 16 bench reps, a 38” vertical, a 4.01 in the short shuttle, and a 6.76 in the 3-cone drill at his pro day. His arm length is under that 30-inch threshold, but he’s going to be playing almost exclusively in the slot, so I do not see that as a deal-breaker. His best game may have been in Rutgers’ loss to Michigan, as he recorded two passes defended while displaying ability in both man and zone concepts. He does lack awareness at times, and it is visible on the field specifically on in-breaking routes by the opposing receiver. He anticipates the deep ball too often and often fails to adjust quick enough to make up for his misread. Nonetheless, I would consider a talent like Avery more than worth a selection late on day three.

33. Faion Hicks | Wisconsin | 5‘-10“, 192 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 227
2021 stats: GP 11, T 28, TFL 0, S 0, Int 0, PD 8.

Andrew Wilbar: Hicks does not bring much to the table when it comes to creating turnovers, but he is a schematically versatile corner who likely projects best as a slot corner at the next level. In man coverage, Hicks displays good aggression while maintaining enough discipline to avoid constant penalties. Another way teams may try using Hicks is as a kick returner. If he can provide value on special teams early on, I expect an NFL team to take a chance on him and let him hang around for a couple years. Age is working against him, however, as he is already 24 years old. Although Hicks will never be an elite corner, he has a chance to make contributions in year one as a nickel corner and special teamer. I expect him to be taken somewhere in the middle of day three.

34. Tony Adams | Illinois | 6‘-0“, 200 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 235
2021 stats: GP 12, T 63, TFL 3.5, S 1, Int 1, PD 5.

Andrew Wilbar: Last year, Illinois produced a solid late-round prospect in Nate Hobbs, who started in nine games for the Las Vegas Raiders last season. Perhaps a trend is beginning, because the Illini have yet another intriguing day-three prospect at corner: Tony Adams. At 5 ‘11 ½”, 203, Adams impressed scouts with a 4.47 40, 4.06 short shuttle, 6.98 3-cone drill, 41 ½” vertical, and 130” broad jump at his pro day. Adams needs to do a better job of forcing receivers to the outside when in press man, but overall, his game is pretty clean. The downside is that most of his production came against weaker opponents, leading one to believe that he may not be a true difference maker when it matters most. Nonetheless, if you like to bet on upside in the later rounds like I do, Adams is someone to keep an eye on.

35. Derion Kendrick | Georgia | 6‘-0“, 190 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 250
2021 stats: GP 15, T 41, TFL 2, S 0, Int 4, PD 3.

Ryland B.: Kendrick transferred from Clemson to Georgia for the 2021 season where he became a member of the best defense in the country. His athleticism is evident on tape, but despite his experience Kendrick is still quite raw. He has the speed and physicality to excel in man coverage but his reaction time could use some improvement, although he does seem to possess the requisite quickness. He also doesn’t seem extremely comfortable yet in zone coverage, where his eye discipline isn’t great yet and he can get turned around at times. Still, there’s plenty of moments on tape where Kendrick’s technical warts disappear and he plays up to his potential. However, his ceiling may be limited after Kendrick ran an incredibly disappointing 4.75 40 at the combine. He looks much faster in-game and seemingly only got burnt by the best receivers, but such poor numbers are a definite red flag. Still, I like to think Kendrick could offer good value in the later rounds. His experience as a returner is a plus as well.

36. Shaun Jolly | Appalachian State | 5‘-9“, 175 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 251
2021 stats: GP 8, T 26, TFL 1, S 0, Int 1, PD 5.

Andrew Wilbar: Jolly is a versatile corner who will likely settle in at nickel cornerback in the NFL. While the overall body of work may not look impressive on paper, Jolly quietly did a nice job in coverage both in 2020 as well as 2021, but his best year was, by far, 2019. As a sophomore, Jolly played in 14 games, recorded 3.5 tackles for loss, 8 passes defended, and 5 interceptions. However, there are times when I felt Appalachian State played Jolly too far off the line of scrimmage, as he struggled to defend bigger receivers when covering from behind the receiver’s body. His lack of size may also hinder him from ever becoming a top-notch tackler, but if he is allowed to play exclusively in the slot, he could be a legitimate late-round value for a team in need of a new slot corner.

37. Sam Webb | Missouri Western | 6‘-2“, 195 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 270
2021 stats: GP 10, T 30, TFL 0, S 0, Int 0, PD 6, FF 2, FR 1.

Ryland B.: From what I saw of Webb, he’s an incredibly physical corner with good size and a solid athletic profile. He flips his hips with ease and generally looks fairly fluid in coverage although he’s far too grabby at the top of the route. His long speed isn’t great but Webb is a fantastic, high-effort closer on deep routes and in the run game. He’s still fairly raw in some aspects and his level of competition was far from elite, but Webb shows some upside as a late-round, small-school pickup.

38. Kalon Barnes | Baylor | 6‘-0“, 186 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 273
2021 stats: GP 9, T 23, TFL 0, S 0, Int 1, PD 5.

Ryland B.: When researching Barnes, his 4.23 second 40-time was the first thing that really caught my eye. Incredibly close to the combine record, Barnes shouldn’t have any issues running alongside NFL receivers. However, the NFL is much more than a track meet. Barnes has poor backpedal technique, often looking too stiff and upright. He also can react late, and while his athleticism generally makes up for it, there will be much less margin for error at the next level. Barnes isn’t the most physical and could improve his ball skills as well. He’s an incredibly raw prospect, but his elite athleticism and good effort on the field make him an intriguing late round option.

39. Chris Steele | USC | 6‘-1“, 190 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 276
2021 stats: GP 11, T 33, TFL 2, S 1, Int 2, PD 3, FF 1.

Ryland B.: Steele is a lanky corner with solid measurables. He’s a natural athlete who is a fairly smooth mover. Steele plays an aggressive brand of coverage, always right up in the receiver’s face with a physical presence. It’s a double-edged sword, as Steele has good mirroring ability, but his tight coverage can result in him being susceptible to quicker receivers as Steele doesn’t leave himself much room to react. His physicality could also result in some penalties. Steele can be a bit late to flip his hips as well. He’s a solid prospect but a lot of his technique still needs refinement.

40. DaMarcus Fields | Texas Tech | 6‘-0“, 200 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 277
2021 stats: GP 12, T 50, TFL 4, S 0, Int 0, PD 9.

Ryland B.: Fields is a thickly built corner who played on the outside for Texas Tech. He seems to have good long speed but lacks a smooth backpedal and great quickness. He’s very hit and miss in zone coverage when it comes to both taking care of assignments and keeping an eye on the quarterback. Fields has good awareness when the ball is in the air but he is not a good catcher of the football. He does have solid closing speed and is a willing and sound tackler. Fields could be a good fit on the outside but I worry about his lack of great agility.

41. Jaylen Watson | Washington State | 6‘-3“, 204 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 282
2021 stats: GP 12, T 31, TFL 1, S 0, Int 2, PD 3, FR 4.

Ryland B.: Watson has good speed but slow feet, which limits his reaction time and overall agility. He can hang with receivers in man coverage for the most part but is best on linear routes with not a lot of change of direction (to be fair this can be said about a lot of cornerbacks). In zone he displays decent movement skills but can look uncertain at times. He’s not the most willing tackler in run support and can struggle with more physical receivers. Watson is definitely a more developmental prospect.

42. Josh Jobe | Alabama | 6‘-1“, 192 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 288
2021 stats: GP 12, T 38, TFL 1, S 0, Int 2, PD 4.

Andrew Wilbar: Jobe has been one of the more consistent corners in college football over the past couple years. However, he was unable to ever reach a special level in the three years he had a prominent role, and he seemed to take a step back in 2021 when put into the CB1 role. When it comes to Jobe as a prospect, his ball skills are not thoroughly impressive, but when he gets good position from the get-go, he knows how to get into passing lanes and swat away passes. Unfortunately, he seems to lack the athleticism to play heavy doses of man coverage. His instincts are also poor, leading one to believe that a transition to safety may be the best career move for him. That is the belief of Lance Zierlein, who wrote an interesting scouting report on Jobe. You can check it out here.

43. Raleigh Texada | Baylor | 5‘-10“, 188 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 292
2021 stats: GP 13, T 34, TFL 2, S 1, Int 0, PD 3, FR 1, FF 1.

Andrew Wilbar: Texada is a solid straight-line athlete who possesses adequate size for a slot corner. Quickness and agility are both integral parts of his play style, as he is most comfortable in man coverage despite his lack of physicality. Do not think that he is incapable of playing zone, however, as he displays a smooth backpedal and good discipline in “eyes-on” defensive looks too. There are other times, however, when he loses focus in coverage and allows a receiver to slip by him and get open over the top. There is enough athletic upside to justify selecting him on day three, but his lack of size and ball production limit his overall ceiling as a prospect.

44. Benjie Franklin | Tarleton State | 6‘-0“, 185 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 293
2021 stats: GP 9, T 36, TFL 0, S 0, Int 3, PD 6.

Andrew Wilbar: Franklin is an undersized corner who, despite good athleticism, will be limited to the slot in the NFL. Franklin’s combination of quickness and speed is absolutely fantastic, but he never had the opportunity to display those capabilities on a nationally known stage. However, he was the big standout at the Tarleton State pro day, running a 4.32 in the 40 and a 6.81 in the 3-cone drill. The big concern is play style. Franklin’s athletic profile screams man coverage, but he seriously lacks the physicality to play close to the line in the NFL. His best chance is to add a few pounds and provide value on special teams in year one. If he sticks, he could potentially develop into a starting nickel or dime backer once he has a year or two under his belt.

45. Christian Holmes | Oklahoma State | 6‘-1“, 185 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 294
2021 stats: GP 13, T 36, TFL 0, S 0, Int 2, PD 7.

Andrew Wilbar: Holmes is best in off-man and zone concepts, as he is not the most dynamic athlete. I like his consistency in coverage, as he rarely allows receivers to beat him deep and create chunk yardage. On the down side, he is not one who you can expect to create many turnovers. In five years of college football, Holmes has recorded 28 passes defended but only 3 interceptions. Part of this could be due to the fact that he lacks elite closing speed, but I have also noticed that he does not break on the ball extremely well. I definitely think the upside is limited here, but considering the impact he made on Oklahoma State’s excellent defense in 2021, he should be worthy of late-round consideration.

BEST OF THE REST 46. Dallis Flowers | Pittsburg State | 6‘-2“, 190 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 264
2021 stats: GP 11, T 21, TFL 1.5, S 3, Int 4, PD 6. 47. Josh Thompson | Texas | 6‘-0“, 194 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 281
2021 stats: GP 9, T 34, TFL 1, S 0, Int 1, PD 2, FR 1. 48. Montaric Brown | Arkansas | 6‘-0“, 190 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 289
2021 stats: GP 13, T 54, TFL 1, S 0, Int 5, PD 6, FR 1, FF 1. 49. Vincent Gray | Michigan | 6‘-2“, 192 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 304
2021 stats: GP 13, T 46, TFL 3.5, S 1, Int 0, PD 7, FF 1. 50. Xavior Williams | Iowa | 5‘-11“, 192 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 330
2021 stats: GP 2, T 3, TFL 0, S 0, Int 0, PD 0.
2019 stats: GP 15, T 50, TFL .5, S 0, Int 1, PD 13, FR 2. 51. Shabari Davis | Southeast Missouri State | 6‘-0“, 193 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 331
2021 stats: GP 9, T 21, TFL 1, S 0, Int 1, PD 4. 52. Denzel Williams | Villanova | 5‘-10“, 190 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 332
2021 stats: GP 11, T 16, TFL 0, S 0, Int 2, PD 7, FR 2. 53. Tyrell Ford | Waterloo | 6‘-0“, 200 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 333
2021 stats: GP, T 23.5, TFL 0, S 0, Int 4, PD 2. 54. Freddie McGee III | Illinois | 5‘-8“, 175 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 334
2021 stats: GP 13, T 17, TFL 0, S 0, Int 0, PD 4. 55. Josh Blackwell | Duke | 6‘-0“, 175 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 335
2021 stats: GP 11, T 35, TFL 1, S 0, Int 0, PD 7. 56. Kyler McMichael | North Carolina | 6‘-0“, 210 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 351
2021 stats: GP 9, T 18, TFL 0, S 0, Int 1, PD 1. 57. Malik Grate | Campbell | 6‘-0“, 180 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 352
2021 stats: GP 11, T 35, TFL 0, S 0, Int 2, PD 10, FR 1. 58. Zyon Gilbert | Florida Atlantic | 6‘-1“, 182 lbs Andrew’s Overall Ranking: 380
2021 stats: GP 12, T 50, TFL 2, S 1, Int 2, PD 10, FF 1.

Which cornerbacks in this class intrigue you the most? Which receiver do you think makes the most sense for the Steelers? Who is your favorite sleeper? Be sure to share your thoughts on this big board and all things NFL Draft in the comment section below!

A History of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the NFL Draft, Part 9: Defensive Backs

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/27/2022 - 6:00am
Fact: Ike Taylor’s favorite game is peek-a-boo. This was why he was always waving his hand in front of his face after making a play. | Photo by Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images

Should the Steelers draft a DB? How has it gone in the past?

And we’re back for the final part of this tour through the Pittsburgh Steelers draft history. Previous parts can be found here:

Part 1: Overview
Part 2: What colleges do the Steelers prefer?
Part 3: What colleges did Noll, Cowher, and Tomlin prefer?
Part 4: Positions by coach — backfield
Part 5: Positions by coach — pass catchers
Part 6: Positions by coach — offensive line
Part 7: Positions by coach — defensive line
Part 8: Positions by coach — linebackers

In this closedown edition, defensive backs. Just like rest of the defense, the secondary is hard to discern in the early years because two-way players are often listed only for their offensive roll. Moreover, the passing game is so much more developed in today’s NFL, which makes the defensive backfield more complicated. Old-time corners and safeties got more interceptions because they could play more physically, and because quarterbacks were less precise. But then again, teams passed 15-20 times per game, instead of 35-40, so coverage players didn’t DO as much.

Good news: what we’re most interested in here are decisions made by Chuck Noll (1969-91), Bill Cowher (1992-2006), and Mike Tomlin (2007-present). Let’s get to them.

Defensive Backs I think I see the problem, Gary: when you get an interception, DON’T just pass the ball back. Run with it!

The stone-age Steelers drafted a total of 24 players who were listed as defensive backs, though two-way play means that a lot of excellent DBs were probably drafted as receivers or backs. Legendary Steeler (and a favorite of this author) “Bullet” Bill Dudley is a great example. Dudley was NFL MVP in 1946, after leading the NFL in rushing AND interceptions AND punt return average (also he was the team’s primary punter and passer). How do we want to categorize “the greatest 60 minute man”? I have no idea, but he’s listed as an offensive back. That happened plenty.

So how about those who were DBs first. Before Chuck Noll’s tenure began, the Steelers’ best defensive back was undrafted, Hall of Famer Jack Butler. So we can’t count him. Overall, the team drafted four first round DBs in the early years — though there were seven DBs who would be first rounders today (i.e. they were picked at #32 overall or earlier). The highest choice was #1 overall in 1956, Gary Glick, a “left defensive halfback” from Colorado State. Glick has to be the team’s all time worst defensive backfield draft choice, as he only lasted three seasons in town, snagging four interceptions, while also doing part-time work as kicker. It’s worth noting that Hall of Famers Lenny Moore, Forrest Gregg, and Sam Huff would be picked up later in this draft.

And just to put a little extra salt in the wound, the Steelers also had the #5 choice that year, by which time all three HOFers were still there. Instead Pittsburgh grabbed another DB, the team’s second highest all time choice, Art Davis from Mississippi State, who lasted one season, and recorded no defensive stats. Good lord.

In fairness, Bob Gage also came with a top-10 pick, #6 overall in 1949. While Gage also only played two seasons of football, he made the most of it, recording nine interceptions and seven fumble recoveries, as well as a remarkable 14.9 punt return average on 30 returns. He also managed to bust off a 97 yard run on the offense, still the Steelers team record. So it wasn’t all bad news. Too bad they couldn’t hang onto him.

Chuck Noll and the Secondary Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images I know Joe Green and Jack Lambert are the “scary” Steelers from the 70s, but man, I wouldn’t mess with Mel Blount either.

In his 23 years at the helm, Chuck Noll drafted 57 defensive backs, but only four in the first round (10 in the top three). That means most of the picks came in lower spots, but it doesn’t mean that there weren’t diamonds in those drafts.

Noll’s highest choice was 10th overall, spent in 1987 on a safety from Purdue who Noll converted to cornerback because of his Olympic quality speed: a certain Rod Woodson. Woodson admittedly took a couple years to really get the CB position, but then went onto to be one of the greatest corners of all time — the only active player chosen for the NFL’s 75th anniversary team in 1994 (when he was less than 10 years into his 17 year career). Woodson retired, after six All Pro selections and one Defensive Player of the Year award, as the third all time interceptor in NFL history with the most interception return touchdowns of all time. So, you know, that’s got to be in the running for Noll’s best pick.

But I’m going for a 1970 third round pick from Southern University, Mel Blount. Woodson and Blount were both named to the NFL’s 75th anniversary and 100th anniversary teams, both were DPOY, both led the NFL in interceptions (Blount with a team record 11 picks in 1975), and both won titles (Blount, of course, won four in Pittsburgh, while Woodson won his with some purple team from Maryland). The reasons I’m going with Blount are (1) that he played his whole remarkable career in Pittsburgh, and (2) he was so physically, athletically, and intellectually overpowering that the NFL changed the rules to account for him. I know Blount wasn’t the only dominant defensive back of the era, but the modern “live ball” passing rules are generally thought of as “the Mel Blount” rules, and the game simply hasn’t been the same since. I can’t think of another time that the rules had to be changed because of one player’s dominance in any sport, except maybe the three-second rule in basketball, to give teams a fighting chance against Wilt Chamberlain.

That’s how good Mel Blount was. Oh, and after the rules kicked in, Blount made three more Pro Bowls, one first team All Pro, and two second team All Pro squads, and took home two more rings. In other words, he could beat you with an advantage, and he could beat you with a disadvantage. And he was a third rounder. Wow.

P.S. Shout out to another position switch from Noll’s later years, UCLA linebacker Carnell Lake, who Noll drafted in the 2nd round and made into a safety (then started him as a rookie!). Lake was a four time Pro Bowler and one time All Pro (at cornerback, no less) and only missed six games in ten years with the Steelers. And a quick hat-tip a couple of late round guys who ought to be remembered better still: Dwayne Woodruff (6th round, 1979) and Mike Wagner (11th round, 1971). I’d love to see a late pick this week with either of those guys’ careers.

Bill Cowher and the Secondary Set Number: X82894 TK1 R5 F3 I know this shot is hard to see, but it’s one of my all time favorite plays. Look up Polamalu’s 2009 season opener vs the Titans sometime. Absurd.

Coach Cowher chose 21 defensive backs over the years, with three first round picks on the back end. Cowher’s highest selection is undoubtedly his best: #16 overall for USC strong safety Troy Polamalu. One of the most unique and game-changing players in the history of the game, Troy was a four time All Pro, two time champion, and 2010 Defensive Player of the Year. I don’t need to tell most of you about Polamalu’s extraordinary career, but just to dot the I, it’s impossible to imagine the NFL changing rules to reduce his game-wrecking dominance because he did things you simply couldn’t take away. How could you legislate fingernail-off-the-turf interceptions or knowing the snap count better than the center? Troy was a singular player, and we were lucky to watch him here.

Cowher’s best round for drafting DBs wasn’t the first round, though, which included mixed-bag players Deon Figures (1993) and Chad Scott (1997). Instead, the fourth round was the Chin’s sweet spot — the only two fourth round DBs he drafted were Deshea Townsend (1998) and Ike Taylor (2003), the outside coverage men in Super Bowl XL, and part of the rotation in XLIII as well. (Taylor, of course, also started SB XLV.)

What’s Cowher’s worst draft pick in the secondary? Maybe Figures, who only lasted four years in town and was only a one-year starter, after occupying the 23rd overall slot in 1993. Also in the discussion: 2003 second rounder (#38 overall) Ricardo Colclough, who also lasted four seasons in town, logging zero starts and one interception. Yikes.

Mike Tomlin and the Secondary Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images William Gay may still be dancing after this pick 6 in 2015.

Coach Tomlin has a much spottier relationship with the defensive backfield. This is odd, since Tomlin has a pedigree as secondary coach for the legendary 2002 Buccaneers. Moreover, Tomlin’s Steelers have been so good at identifying talent at wide receiver (MT’s other position of specialty); it feels like they ought to be better at drafting corners and safeties. But they’re not.

Note: I say “drafting” instead of “developing” because Tomlin has actually been quite good at developing DBs he didn’t draft. Ike Taylor had famously been benched in Bill Cowher’s final year as coach; Tomlin re-inserted him into the lineup, coached him up, and got one of the better cover corners of the era. Ryan Clark was brought in to be a placeholder before 2006 draftee (and psycho) Anthony Smith was ready to take over; Tomlin jettisoned Smith, kept Clark, and got nearly a decade of team leadership out of him. Joe Haden and Minkah Fitzpatrick were talented guys who have had Pro Bowls (and in Minkah’s case, All Pro selections) in this defense. Steven Nelson and Ahkello Witherspoon looked good in Pittsburgh too. And then there’s UDFA slot man Mike Hilton, who shined in Pittsburgh, but (obviously) wasn’t drafted here.

It’s baffling. But it’s definitely real. Tomlin has drafted 23 defensive backs over the years, with 13 of those in the first four rounds. The best of that bunch, by a HUGE margin, is Terrell Edmunds (1st round, #28, 2018), who most believed was over-drafted. Edmunds wasn’t the highest selection, though; that distinction belongs to Artie Burns (1st round, #25, 2016), who wasn’t terrible as a rookie, but lost his wings by year three, lost his job by year four, and is now a rotational backup in some other city.

Some of this, I suppose is bad luck. You’d have been forgiven for optimism about Burns after one year, for example; no one could have predicted he’d regress. Same with Cortez Allen (4th/2011). Senquez Golson (2nd/2015) was a big-play stud in college, who was never healthy, so that’s not exactly a scouting issue either. And Keenan Lewis (3rd/2009) did eventually turn the corner, but took aggravatingly long to get there — making his big leap when it was too late for the Steelers to afford an extension.

But then there’s also Doran Grant (4th/2015) who got exactly three helmets in one season before his football career was over, Shamarko Thomas (4th/2013), who started two games in four years after the Steelers traded up to draft him, and Curtis Brown (3rd/2011), who lasted three years, recording zero starts, zero picks, and one pass defensed. Who was the worst DB draft choice of the era? Yes. These.

Tomlin’s best secondary pick is almost certainly 2007 fifth rounder William Gay, who started 86 games (plus seven more in the postseason) in a 10 year Steelers career. Gay only actually snagged 11 interceptions as a Steeler, but returned a staggering FIVE of them for touchdowns, including a league leading three in 2015 — the second highest total for single-season pick-6 returns in NFL history. Edmunds has been a stabilizing force at strong safety, and 2021 rookie Tre Norwood (7th/2021) looks promising, but Gay is my pick for the best of this time.

Thanks goodness free agency and trades can happen too. This secondary has been very good for the last couple years, but it certainly wasn’t draft-grown.

You may not realize this, but XFL head coach Rod Woodson once played for the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers.

What did this all add up to? Well, if a no-lose prospect falls to the Steelers this year at #20 — someone like Kyle Hamilton or Sauce Gardner — I hope the Steelers take him. Mike Tomlin and company can certainly put talented DBs in position to succeed But if the team reaches for a defensive back in the first couple rounds, look out.

Then again, both Noll and Cowher traded into the 10s for their highest DB, and got Hall of Famers in the process (Woodson and Polamalu). If Kevin Colbert trades into the teens for a rock star, maybe lightning will strike a third time. Time will tell.

Summation

In the end, if you’re betting on the Steelers draft, the past can tell us some things, but certainly not everything.

The average first round pick under Chuck Noll was either a running back, a defensive lineman, or a DB (he took four of each in round 1); his average second rounder was another DL (five picks); and in the third round, a WR (five). What would that look like? Maybe Trent McDuffie in the first, Travis Jones in round two, and Romeo Doubs in the third? You could do worse, for sure.

The average first round pick under Bill Cowher was a WR (four picks); a linebacker in round 2 (four); an offensive tackle in round three (five). Treylon Burks or Chris Olave in round one, Chad Muma in round two, and maybe Bernard Raimann in round three? I suppose I’d take that too.

And the average first round pick under Mike Tomlin was a linebacker (six first rounders); and the average second and third rounders being WRs (four in the second, six in the third). Does that mean we can expect Devin Lloyd or Nakobe Dean in round one? Skyy Moore and John Metchie in rounds two and three? That doesn’t sound so bad either.

Whatever the case, the Steelers front office is FAR from perfect, but they hit more than they miss. We’ll see. The free agency period this year has been outstanding. Maybe the draft will be too. Go Steelers.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/27/2022 - 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 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 and typed, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each broadcasted episode.

The Steelers Draft Fix: Rumors, Ideal Scenarios, and Draft Locks

There’s going to be a ton of noise all the way up until the Steelers make their latest selection in the NFL Draft. Join Jeremy Betz and Andrew Wilbar as they sift through the rumors, the best and worst possibilities and what they think to be locks. All of this and more on BTSC’s Steelers Draft Fix.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Rumors, Ideal Scenarios, and Draft Locks
  • and MUCH MORE!
The Scho Bro Show: The evolution of the Steelers 2022 draft

This will be just one of the subjects that will be discussed in the latest installment of the BTSC family of podcasts, The Scho Bro Show with BTSC Editor Dave Schofield and his older brother Rich.

As always, it sure is a good time to get on the airwaves and discuss the black-and-gold. On this show, Dave and Big Bro Scho break down all things Steelers, still talk stats, and also answer questions from fans!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • The evolution of the Steelers draft from their playoff exit to now

Dave and Rich walk you through everything you need to know regarding the black-and-gold.

Let’s Ride Wednesday: What does a successful Steelers draft look like?

There are so many scenarios possible for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2022 NFL Draft. But what would a successful draft look like? This is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the morning flagship show in the BTSC family of podcasts, “Let’s Ride” with BTSC Senior Editor Jeff Hartman. Join Jeff for this and more on the Wednesday episode of “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • The makings of a successful draft
  • The Mail Bag
  • 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

Steelers Burning Questions: 2022 NFL Draft Edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/26/2022 - 2:30pm
Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

Time to talk about all things Steelers as the organization prepares for the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft.

Christmas in April is just around the corner, we are getting close to the 2022 NFL Draft people! It’s been an interesting offseason, to say the least. The Pittsburgh Steelers have spent money in Free Agency and haven’t even had to tap into restructures to do so. Of course, the big topic at hand this year is the quarterback position, it’s been a minute since that has been an actual thing. Sure, we as fans have kicked the thought around for a few years but now it’s staring us right in our black-and-gold faces.

Kevin Colbert and Head Coach Mike Tomlin, along with the rest of the scouting department, have been in attendance at most of this year’s quarterback Pro Days. Along with having interviews, meetings and visits with the majority of the top quarterbacks. This certainly means they are doing their due diligence, but there seems to be a forgotten piece as of late, Mitch Trubisky.

So I’ll ask, do you think Mitch Trubisky can be the next franchise quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers?

Looking at the attention the position is getting, do you think the brass feel Mitch Trubisky is that guy?

Thoughts: I understand the necessary work put into the most important position on the football field. If I’m being honest with myself, the chances the former Tar Heel is “that guy” aren’t very good. The franchise quarterback isn’t easily found, just ask around. Still though I feel Trubisky could be a diamond in the rough, a player that has been given another shot and will run with it...maybe literally. The Steelers aren’t perfect but I feel they got this right. Just remember they also had contact with the South Dakota State quarterback Chris Oladokun? Doing their due diligence doesn’t mean the Steelers are set at drafting a quarterback in the first or second round? Maybe the future is already on the team.

In the recent past the Steelers have drafted a couple of prospects from the same school. Here is that list:

2021 Texas A&M - Dan Moore Jr. and Buddy Johnson

2020 Maryland - Anthony McFarland and Antoine Brooks

2019 Michigan - Devin Bush and Zach Gentry

2018 Oklahoma State - Mason Rudolph and James Washington

2017 Tennessee - Cameron Sutton and Joshua Dobbs

As you can see, that’s five years in a row!

Will that trend continue in 2022, and if so what school do you think the Steelers will draft two prospects from?

Thoughts: That’s an interesting trend as of late, to say the least. The schools which first come to mind are Georgia and Cincinnati, both schools have multiple combinations that could benefit the team, but I’m going back to the Wolverine well and say Michigan. Daxton Hill and Hassan Reddick just feel right.

My true hope is that the Steelers double dip at Northern Iowa with Trevor Penning OT and Isaiah Weston WR.

Who are your draft crushes and have the Steelers had any contact with them during the draft process?

Thoughts: Some will say I am infatuated with two players, Trevor Penning OT Northern Iowa and Velus Jones Jr. WR Tennessee. I’ll admit I love both of these players, but the one prospect I truly want the Steelers to draft is Jermaine Johnson Jr. EDGE from Florida State. I know we have starters at that position but that young man is just reaching the height at what he can achieve. A dangerous pass rusher that already is solid and great against the run.

Other players I also like are Jameson Williams and Treylon Burks. Both receivers are effective in their own individual styles. Williams has speed and take it to the house speed from anywhere on the field. Showed a willingness to do the dirty work as a possession guy once John Metchie went down. Burks has that A.J. Brown style in him that allows his size and physicality to work as a possession guy. The former Razorback isn’t limited to the underneath stuff though, his ability to make tough catches down the field also allows for some big plays.

Are there any prospects you don’t want the Steelers to draft?

Thoughts: This falls back in line with the first set of questions. As a huge Tar Heel fan I really do not like Sam Howell for the Steelers. It has nothing to do with his personality or his toughness as a football player. Both of those qualities surely make some love the guy, but I just do not see him as a long term starter at the next level. I saw instances of locking onto his first read and he doesn’t possess arm strength to all levels of the field.

As always, interested in your feedback and GO STEELERS!

Could Travis Jones be the Steelers best option in Round 2?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/26/2022 - 12:45pm
Travis Jones at the NFL Combine 2022. | Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Travis Jones out of the University of Connecticut is one the standout defensive linemen at this year’s draft. The Steelers would do well to keep their eye on if he falls to them in Round 2.

The ‘will he, won’t he’ saga continues with Stephon Tuitt asking if he will he play in 2022 or not. Will Tyson Alualu at 35 continue to be able to play at the highest level after his season ending injury last season? As Steelers’ fans saw last season, the backups are good as backups but not good starters when it comes to run defense. That’s why the Steelers are likely to draft a defensive lineman in this draft.

Furthermore, consider this— the Steelers love building for the future through the draft. They have an aging defensive line as well. With the talent in this year’s draft, the Steelers could get a top player not only for now but for the future. While Devonte Wyatt and Jordan Davis appear to be the best options, there may still be excellent value in the second round as it is highly likely Jordan Davis will be taken before the Steelers pick at 20 and Wyatt is a wildcard based on an arrest from two years ago.

In my opinion, the best option in this year’s second round on the defensive line is Travis Jones out of the University of Connecticut. He’s 6’4 , 325 lbs, and a physical hulk of a man. Now while UConn is a smaller school, Jones turned down other options to stay home as he’s from New Haven. He was also the standout player on the UConn roster for all his three years playing for the Huskies. Consider also his performance at the Senior Bowl, both in practice and in the game, he out fought and mauled big school offensive lineman. Jones was one of the stars of the Senior Bowl.

Now I know having a draft crush may be a mistake, as when you have one they tend to end up in brown and orange or purple or black and that hideous tiger print. However, Jones is someone I have been a fan of since the beginning of this draft process. The more I watch his tape, the more effective I think he would be in black and gold.

Travis Jones’ stats show good progression throughout his time at the University of Connecticut. In his freshman year, Jones could not be ignored by the coaches as he started 10 of 12 games recording 46 total tackles, 5.5 for a loss, and 0.5 sacks. In his sophomore year there was no slump, he started 11 of 12 games and again was a standout: 40 tackles, 6 for a loss, 3.5 sacks and 4 passes defensed. It was during his sophomore year that he became much more effective at rushing the passer. In 2020, UConn didn’t play due to the Covid pandemic however in 2021, Jones was back. His 2021 stats again showed progression: 48 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks. Jones was the one shining light on a pretty bad defense, not only did his play shine through but also his football intelligence.

Travis Jones has a great skillset to become a starter in the NFL in the future. He is primarily a nose tackle, who can play along the defensive line, he has a powerful rumbling playing style, which allow him to man-handle, bull rush, and throw defenders out of the way. Furthermore, his anchor and upper body power allow for excellent gap control. His gap control in the middle is excellent, which is something that would benefit the Steelers.

What makes Jones an even more attractive prospect for the Steelers is the fact that he is an excellent run defender. Given how poor the run defense was last year, someone like Jones could help improve that and eradicate the opposition’s ability to move the ball at will on the ground. Jones is a great run-plugger who helps snuff out run plays before they have time to develop.

Travis Jones draft stock continues to rise, and if he is there at pick 52 I honestly believe the Steelers should run to the podium to take him even though they didn’t have any representation at his Pro Day. Jones could be someone who is a long-term star for the Steelers defensive line and could be the start of a future generation of talent.

Whether it is Travis Jones or someone else, there is so much defensive line talent in this year’s draft I honestly believe the Steelers should take someone who could make an impact like Jordan Davis, Demarvin Leal, Devonte Wyatt, Travis Jones, Perrion Winfrey, or Phidarian Mathis. Whether or not the Steelers agree will have to wait until the conclusion of the 2022 NFL draft.

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