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Steelers Draft Scenario 4.0: The Steelers take a dynamic defender in Round 1

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/28/2021 - 3:30pm
Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In the latest 2021 NFL Draft scenario, the Steelers improve their defense with their top pick.

With the 2021 NFL Draft just days away, it is time to start doing what all NFL teams are doing at this time in their draft prep. Teams are going through an endless amount of scenarios trying to decipher what they will do if the draft falls a certain way.

For the Pittsburgh Steelers, they have any number of directions they could go in the upcoming selection process, so it is time to start running the scenarios leading up to the big event!

Check out previous scenarios below:

For clarification, as well as consistency, I am using FanSpeak’s mock draft simulator. It also should be noted there are never any fictitious trades in these scenarios.

1: R1P1 QB Trevor Lawrence - Jacksonville Jaguars

2: R1P2 QB Zach Wilson - New York Jets

3: R1P3 QB Justin Fields - San Francisco 49ers

4: R1P4 OT Rashawn Slater - Atlanta Falcons

5: R1P5 WR Ja’Marr Chase - Cincinnati Bengals

6: R1P6 WR DeVonta Smith - Miami Dolphins

7: R1P7 OT Penei Sewell - Detroit Lions

8: R1P8 WR Jaylen Waddle - Carolina Panthers

9: R1P9 CB Caleb Farley - Denver Broncos

10: R1P10 EDGE Azeez Ojulari - Dallas Cowboys

11: R1P11 EDGE Kwity Paye - New York Giants

12: R1P12 CB Jaycee Horn - Philadelphia Eagles

13: R1P13 LB Micah Parsons - LA Chargers

14: R1P14 TE Kyle Pitts - Minnesota Vikings

15: R1P15 WR Kadarius Toney - New England Patriots

16: R1P16 G Alijah Vera-Tucker - Arizona Cardinals

17: R1P17 DL Christian Barmore - Las Vegas Raiders

18: R1P18 OT Alex Leatherwood - Miami Dolphins

19: R1P19 OT Christian Darrisaw - Washington Football Team

20: R1P20 QB Trey Lance - Chicago Bears

21: R1P21 OT Teven Jenkins - Indianapolis Colts

22: R1P22 CB Asante Samuel Jr. - Tennessee Titans

23: R1P23 CB Greg Newsome - New York Jets

This fourth scenario is a situation where the Steelers have options at No. 24. Zaven Collins of Tulsa is available, and so are all three of the big name running backs. However, there are those Steelers fans who believe strongly in narratives surrounding the draft process. One of the most talked about narratives are whether or not the Steelers have Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert at a specific Pro Day workout.

In this case, neither were at Tulsa to watch Collins, but both were at Notre Dame to watch the Fighting Irish’s workout. Not that I believe the Steelers wouldn’t take a player based on whether Tomlin and Colbert were at the Pro Day, but the history speaks for itself.

With that said, the Steelers’ decide to take Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (JOK).

As you can see, several key players many black and gold fans want the team to draft are off the board. The run on offensive tackles has players like Teven Jenkins and Christian Darrisaw gone, several cornerbacks have also been selected, but there was plenty of talent to choose from at No. 24.

Trying to put myself in Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin’s position, I wanted to truly adopt the Best Player Available (BPA) approach.

I believe JOK can be a Swiss Army Knife of sorts for the Steelers in his rookie year. Not only playing the inside linebacker role, but also rushing the passer from time to time. JOK’s college tape shows a playmaker in the truest sense of the word, and him being injected into the lineup will only make an already good defense even better.

With JOK as the first round pick, the Steelers would likely approach the offensive side of the ball on Day 2 of the draft, mainly looking at center, offensive tackle and running back.

This is just the one of many NFL Draft scenarios I’ll be doing, every time finding a new prospect/approach which could dictate who the Steelers might select in the first found of the 2021 NFL Draft.

What do you think of the pick, given who was still available when it was the Steelers’ pick? Let us know in the comment section, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft.

Podcast: Previewing the Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 NFL Draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/28/2021 - 3:00pm

The 2021 NFL Draft is so close to becoming a reality. Join the Steelers Pregame Show as they preview the festivities.

All the talk and speculation of who will be the next newly-minted Pittsburgh Steeler is about to end when the Steelers take to the podium with the 24th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft on Thursday Evening. Who will it be? With all of the excitement, BTSC dusted off the Steelers Pregame Show with a special draft edition. Join Bryan Anthony Davis and Coach Kevin Smith as they preview the first round of the NFL Draft as it pertains to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Is Tommy Tremble a tight end prospect the Steelers need in the 2021 NFL Draft?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/28/2021 - 2:15pm
Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For teams who are looking for a mid-round TE in the 2021 NFL Draft, Tommy Tremble might be a prospect to keep an eye on.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of many NFL organizations who could be looking at a tight end in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. However, unlike the other franchises who are looking to add to their current secondary depth chart, the Steelers possess the 24th overall pick.

Not really conducive to getting a top tier prospect, and although there are big name prospects like Kyle Pitts, what about the mid-round options? There are a lot of talented players who could be available to the Steelers in the mid-to-later rounds, and Tommy Tremble certainly is a tough player to peg in regards to where he is expected to be taken in the upcoming draft.

There is the chance the Steelers choose to take a tight end to bolster their lackluster depth in 2021, and if Notre Dame’s Tremble is available when the Steelers pick on Day 2 or early Day 3, is he an option?

I did some digging on Tremble, and put together a brief synopsis of the kind of player he is, and will be when becoming a professional. Below you’ll see draft profile breakdowns, film room breakdowns and game film for you to enjoy.

Don’t listen to me, or anyone else, form your own opinion on Tremble. I plan on doing this for other prospects as the draft approaches. If there is a specific player you’d like to see covered, simply let me know and I’ll be glad to put it together!

Let us know your thoughts on Tremble 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 new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.

Draft Profiles NFL.com

Overview

Highly intriguing early entry tight end who appears to be scratching the surface of his future impact. He’s not the same level of player, but Tremble’s blocking toughness and athletic profile are reminiscent of Kellen Winslow Jr.’s when he entered the league. Tremble is a gritty, capable blocker at the point of attack and will really move the needle as a lead and move blocker in space. However, he lacks development as a route runner and has hands that fail to inspire confidence as a pass catcher. His versatility as a run blocker will allow offensive coordinators to shift him around formations and create favorable matchups in the passing game. If he’s able to simply improve his hands status to average, his speed and athleticism should create chunk play opportunities. He has Day 2 value with Day 1 upside.

Strengths

  • Feisty play demeanor suits his love of contact.
  • Activated as blocker from a variety of formations.
  • Uses athletic talent to gain positioning after initial strike.
  • Accelerates and crashes into targets as lead blocker.
  • Smooth block-to-block transition to open the edge for outside run.
  • Blocking talent opens up play-action opportunities.
  • Athletic ability and speed stand out as pass catcher.
  • Bursts off the snap and races into route.
  • Basketball movement for easy route adjustments in traffic.
  • Can separate on second- and third-level routes.
  • Vast improvement from 2019 with contested catches.
  • Talent and athleticism for some pass protection asks.

Weaknesses

  • Just 35 career catches for 401 yards.
  • Gives away short routes with altered initial speed.
  • Needs quicker sink and open versus short zone.
  • Double catches and drops are a concern.
  • Had more drops than touchdowns at Notre Dame.
  • Still learning to fit up block with proper platform and pad level.
  • Needs quiet, efficient hands at the point of attack.
The Draft Network

Tommy Tremble projects as an F-tight end in the NFL—a flex weapon that will be best served in an offense that doesn’t charge him with playing with his hand in the dirt. Tremble is a plus athlete who offers the long speed and agility to be dynamic as a pass-catcher, but his production to this point has yet to make the leap that you’d want to see to feel confident that he’s going to develop into an upper-level tight end at some point. Tremble has spent his career at Notre Dame caught behind the likes of Cole Kmet and 2020 freshman star Michael Mayer; he’s been the TE2 who is charged with moving around the set or blocking on the perimeter to set up runs and screens to the outside. Tremble’s potential is significant and his effort as a role player has been admirable, so you’ll feel fairly good that Tremble has the right makeup to stick as a developmental player while working himself into a more prominent role as he continues to mature.

Ideal Role: F-alignment tight end.

Scheme Fit: High motion, high volume perimeter concepts, high play-action passing ratio.

Pro Football Network
  • Position: Tight End
  • School: Notre Dame
  • Current Year: Junior
  • Height: 6’3 3/8″
  • Weight: 241 pounds

Positives: Athletic tight end who flashed dominance as both a blocker and a pass catcher. Sets with a wide base, bends his knees, and possesses terrific blocking vision. Explosive at the point and knocks defenders back from the action, working through the whistle. Runs well laterally, follows the quarterback across the field, and adjusts and swipes the ball out of the air on crossing patterns.

Extends to make the reception away from his frame and displays strong hands with the ability to pull the fastball out of the air. Works to make himself an available target and uses his frame to shield away defenders.

Negatives: Used more as a rotational tight end for Notre Dame rather than a consistent starter. Must improve his route running.

Analysis: Tremble displayed flashes of being a complete tight end last season, dominating as a blocker and coming up with big plays as a pass catcher. He’s a tough, athletic, and grind-it-out tight end, with a large upside, but he may need time before he’s truly ready to be a starter at the next level.

Breakdowns Game Film Other Breakdowns

QB

RB

ILB

EDGE/OLB

TE

OT

Interior OLine

CB

Podcast: Who will the Steelers select at 24, in 24 hours time?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/28/2021 - 2:00pm

Matt Peverell breaks down the Steelers salary cap and player personnel situation every week in The War Room

The time has come. The Steelers will have a new player donning the black and gold 24 hours from now. Once again, BTSC will dive into the cap and draft plan, Plus, two more players get added to the big board. Join BTSC’s Matt Peverell for his solo show as he examines the ins-and-outs of the Steelers dollars and “sense” situation when it comes to personnel.

Check out the newest addition to the BTSC family of podcasts and stay a while with Matty in The War Room.

Rundown of the show:

  • The 1st Round of the NFL Draft and things to think about with each pick, where teams might go
  • Rundown of Daniel Jeremiah’s Top 150 prospects and the best fits for the Steelers
  • The Steelers Big Board

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Here’s why you keep seeing Zaven Collins mocked to the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/28/2021 - 1:00pm
Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

While the majority of mock drafts side with Najee Harris, a growing minority have zoned in on the massive linebacker.

With mere hours between us and the 2021 NFL Draft many ‘draft experts’ and fans alike are putting out their final editions of their personal mock drafts. If you have been reading these mock drafts you will have certainly noticed the pure volume of times Alabama running back Najee Harris is expected to be the pick. You may have also noticed a couple other things, one of which being offensive lineman are now virtually nowhere to be seen. But for the purpose of today’s article we will be looking at the second most frequent mock drafted player to the Pittsburgh Steelers. That being Tulsa linebacker, Zaven Collins.

For many, imagining the Steelers drafting a position that isn't running back, center, tackle, or cornerback with their first round pick doesn't make much sense. I’m sure many people will question further why a linebacker of all positions. Well, today we will dive in on Zaven Collins’ fit on the Steelers, how he could revolutionize the defense, and why he would likely be the best player available on the board when it’s the Steelers turn to pick.

Zaven Collins with the Pick 6!

First he forces the big fumble at the end of the first half, now, he takes it in for 6.

I think Tulsa really enjoys playing in the Sunshine State. pic.twitter.com/aOfrzA5fwM

— Tyler Wiederhoeft (@TDWiederhoeft) October 24, 2020

Before we get to these reasons I also wanted to touch on one of the elephants in the room. Yes, neither Mike Tomlin or Kevin Colbert attended Tulsa’s pro day, and yes Tulsa is not a Power 5 school. While Steelers first round draft picks tend to have Tomlin/Colbert pro day attendance, and historically come from the biggest schools in the country, it’s important to keep in mind these aren't official rules. The Steelers did send a scout and a linebackers coach to watch almost every prospect’s Pro Day. Also, Power 5 schools typically have the most high end NFL Draft talent, making it merely a coincidence. Ben Roethlisberger came out of the MAC after all, and the Steelers were set on taking the American conference’s William Jackson III in 2016 before the Bengals swooped took him a pick before.

With that out of the way, let’s dive into why you continue to see Zaven Collins being mocked to the Steelers.

Linebacker Depth Chart

We will start this one off with what appears to be a hot take, but in all honesty is more of a tough pill to swallow. Outside of a returning Devin Bush, the Steelers inside linebacker depth chart is not that strong. Hear me out on this, Vince Williams returning to the Pittsburgh Steelers on a one-year veteran minimum deal probably denotes the final year of Williams’ career. The man has made a career out of big hits and tackles for loss, but often times was left out to dry in defensive schemes demanding him to drop into coverage. Collins on the other hand is the highest graded college coverage linebacker since 2011, while also being the size of a Mack truck. The Steelers won't want to find a linebacker in 2022 when they should be looking to deal draft capital for their next quarterback.

Robert Spillane basically said he is training to be the Steelers sub package dime linebacker. Which is a solid role for him. In these situations Collins could rotate down to the edge and rush the passer. Because, not only is he good at it, but T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith do not have a back up good enough to give them any rest. You kill two birds with one stone by drafting Collins.

How @ZavenCollins describes himself: Versatile, athletic, freakish

Which team is drafting the @TulsaFootball star LB?

: 2021 #NFLDraft - 4/29 to 5/1 on NFLN/ESPN/ABC pic.twitter.com/t0hRM0dw4V

— NFL (@NFL) April 22, 2021 Revolutionizes the Defense

Collins ability to blitz, sniff out screen passes, tackle running backs, and drop back in coverage gives the Steelers so much flexibility with their linebackers they could play a whole new style of defense. Instead of being forced into nickel defense, the Steelers could simply bump out either Collins or Devin Bush and find success in coverage.

They also wouldn't skip a beat from the loss of Mike Hilton because of Collins ability to get to the passer. Bottom line is the Steelers could do more than ever before with their linebackers. Collins has also stated he is more than willing to be a quarterback spy, and when you're in a division with Lamar Jackson and Joe Burrow, having someone who can do that is a huge bonus.

Physically Imposing

You can’t teach size, and Zaven Collins has plenty of it. Standing a smidge under 6’5” and currently tipping the scales at 270 pounds Collins will instantly be one of the biggest linebackers in the NFL. Collins uses his incredible length to bat down passes and punch footballs out of ball carriers’ arms. With NFL development, Collins’ massive frame will be used like a deadly weapon.

Dynamite College Tape

I highly suggest you spend some time watching Collins’ college tape. There’s a reason why he is the reigning Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner as college football’s top defender. From game-winning walk off pick-6’s, forcing safeties, sacks, big hits, tackles for loss, and turnovers, he can do it all. No matter when Tulsa played, Zaven Collins was the best player on the field, and it immediately jumps off the screen when you watch it for yourself.

Zaven Collins is a 6’4” 260 lbs. Linebacker out of Tulsa that can move like this. This was a 96-yard game winning, walk off Pick 6 in OT. No big deal. Sure fire 1st rounder next month.
pic.twitter.com/IgdXzdpMAA

— Steven Cheah (@StevenCheah) March 14, 2021 Best Player Available

When it is the Steelers’ turn to pick at 24, there's a real chance that the top offensive lineman, and other skill players are off the board. There’s even a 50-50 shot that someone drafts or trades past the Steelers to claim Najee Harris. In all likelihood, the best player available will be this kid. If the Steelers want to stick to the best player available approach then this could very well be the name we hear.

Zaven Collins shoots the gap and brings the back down for a safety. That’s 6’3 256 lbs MOVING! pic.twitter.com/2LA6zFunwQ

— Lorenz (@ScoutingLenz) December 23, 2020

So what do you think? If Zaven Collins is the best remaining player on the board should the Steelers take him? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.

From ‘locked in’ to ‘wide open’, expect the unexpected with the Steelers 2021 draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/28/2021 - 11:30am
Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

How things play out for the Steelers on Thursday night of the 2021 NFL draft is anyone’s guess.

It is so close we can almost taste it. All the lead up and all the hype of the 2021 NFL draft is drawing to a close as the actual draft itself is set to takeoff. All of the millions of mock drafts done by experts and fans will mean an absolutely nothing as the actual players are selected by actual teams in preparation to play actual games.

Since we are so close to the finish line and not yet there, look for the last push of major buzz around certain players tied to certain teams up to the moment where Roger Goodell takes the stage to get the party started.

Even within the last week, we’ve gone from a media report of the Steelers being “locked in” on a certain player they’re definitely going to take to general manager Kevin Colbert stating in his press conference Monday, “We’re wide open.” Of course, this is what you would expect from a general manager heading up to the draft. It’s not like the Steelers want to tip their hand, but there’s also a lot of truth if they have certain places they would like to go with their selection of players.

So why would the Steelers be locked in? That would be utterly foolish if a gem falls to them at 24, much like David DeCastro in 2012, as being locked in somewhere else could keep them from pulling the trigger. So saying the Steelers are locked in, at least from my perspective, sounds like somebody wanting to make a headline.

Whether you think the Steelers will go one route or another as the draft progresses is really anyone’s guess. There are 23 selections before the Steelers make their first pick on Thursday night, assuming they pick where they are slated, so really having any idea of how things will fall for the Steelers is futile. Even Kevin Colbert said it himself as the Steelers don’t even try to run mock drafts due to their ineffectiveness.

“We used to do the mock drafts and it was a complete waste of time,” Colbet explained on Monday. “What we’ve done now is — and we’ve done this, what, for the last 12 years or so, we just mock ourselves, and we’re picking first and we’re going to pick a player. Okay, he’s gone, we’re picking second. Okay, he’s gone, we’re picking third. And when we’re done with this process, and it’ll take the good part of the day on Wednesday, when we’re done with that, we’ll have 24 guys in an order that we would take them, and it’s not necessarily the order that you have on your board. So the order of the picks is set and you just wait and watch, and the only decision you have to make is whether you’re going to trade up or trade back. It doesn’t matter what happens in front of you because you’ve already made that decision.”

Does this sound like a strategy where the Steelers are “locked in” with a particular player? So if the Steelers really have no idea exactly how it’s going to fall, how are we supposed to know?

It’s simple. We’re not.

The best thing fans can do is to expect the unexpected. Sure, you might have favorite players you would like to see drafted. But getting locked in on these players may have you more disappointed in a draft that the Steelers knock out of the park.

It was just over a year ago when many Steelers fans hearts were broken as they had locked in on J.K. Dobbins being the Steelers selection with their first pick in Round 2. But seeing how the Steelers draft panned out, can you really complain? Yes, the Steelers could use some help at running back this season as their selection from last year has yet to prove he’s any sort of answer for what’s going on with the Steelers running game. But when the Steelers did not have a first round pick, and I saw at least one redraft of 2020 which had three Steelers picks from last year going in the first round, I’d say they knew what they were doing.

Going into Thursday night with a big expectation of what’s going to happen with the Steelers may keep you anxious over the next two days. While there are certain things the Steelers need to address, it doesn’t mean they have to do it at the very top of the draft. It’s not until we are able to look at everything the Steelers did as a whole over the course of the three days that we will we get the true picture of how things will progress for 2021.

I’m prepared for the Steelers pick Thursday night, assuming that is when they make their first selection, to come completely out of nowhere. Not only am I looking for it, I’m hoping for it. I want to see them grab the player many didn't expect to be there. I’m also happy with them taking someone who the “experts” thought would go later because the Steelers know how they will fit in with their team to make them even better. Would Chase Claypool, Alex Highsmith, or Kevin Dotson have had as strong of a rookie season if they were part of a different system? Luckily we’ll never know. But if fitting in with the Steelers makes them better players, then I’m glad they’re here. Remember this when the Steelers make their selection, both on who they took and who they passed on.

I trust the Steelers enough to not make a bad pick. May I have to eat my own words either Friday morning or a couple seasons down the road? Absolutely. The draft process isn’t perfect, so sometimes things don’t work out. But I still trust the Steelers to have better information than I have.

As we close out this very long pre-draft process, there is one thing I’ve learned through it all: Fans hear what they want to hear.

Even after Kevin Colbert made the statement of “we’re wide open,” there were still plenty of people confessing that meant the Steelers were taking a certain player. Basically, they inserted their own thoughts into his words. Fans have done it. Reporters have done it. It’s how it works.

You have to admit, if you’re a person who follows mock drafts, you are drawn to and intrigued by the ones that tell you what you want to hear. We want this player or that player to be available at 24.

But you know who doesn’t care who you want in this year’s draft? The Pittsburgh Steelers. They don’t care about what you think they need to do to win, they are going to do what they think they need to do to win. And that is how their 2021 draft is “locked in.”

Podcast: The evolution of the Steelers’ 2021 Draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/28/2021 - 11:00am

In the spirit of brotherly love, siblings Dave and Rich Schofield break down all things surrounding the black-and-gold.

Mock draft after mock draft has the Steelers taking somebody different. For every expert simulation that has Zaven Collins, Najee Harris and Christian Darrisaw, there are others that feature Samuel Cosmi, Caleb Farley and Creed Humphrey. How has the expectation of the pick evolved over the months leading to the podium? This will be just one of the subjects that will be discussed in the latest installment on the BTSC family of podcasts, The Scho Bro Show.

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’ 2021 Draft
  • Steelers Q&A

Dave and Rich walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-Gold.

If you haven’t heard, we have a YouTube channel, and the main reason for this is to increase the sound quality on our shows. But if you’re a visual learner you can watch the show below. Be sure to subscribe to our channel.

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

If you’re old-school and just want the audio, you can listen to it in the player below.

Part 1:

Part 2:

How to draft like the Pittsburgh Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/28/2021 - 10:00am
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The reality of the Steelers draft strategy is clear.

There are a ton of misconceptions out there about how the Steelers draft, people argue about it all the time. It’s an interesting argument, because the Steelers have a lot of success in the draft, especially compared to the rest of the NFL. Very few teams out-draft the Steelers, and the more long-term you look, almost no one can keep up.

I can’t tell you everything, I’ve never been in the draft meetings with the Steelers, but I can look at what the Steelers tell us, and what they do and give you some basic keys to help you think more like the Steelers when you approach the NFL Draft.

Need vs Best Player Available

This is a common argument, do the Steelers look to fill holes on their roster, or do they look to draft the best player regardless of position. The answer is “Yes.” Most of you already know this, it’s why we have terms like “Best player at a position of need” or “Best fit” floating around. I take a slightly different angle on this question.

The Steelers draft to build the best team they can. That, of course, involves finding the most talented player you can, with knowledge of what is on the roster currently to find the player that upgrades the roster the most. They also consider character, work ethic, leadership, coachability, all those things matter in team building. Because teams aren’t just what you see on game day, that team is built in practice, in the weight room, in position meetings and when they hang out in hotel rooms and after practice. All of it matters.

And the Steelers don’t always fill every need that people think they have. The Steelers picking Artie Burns is often viewed as a need pick, but that cornerback room was a mess for years before they picked Burns, and they didn’t reach for a corner in those drafts.

Most of the time the Need vs Best Player argument involves people picking one side, taking it to an extreme and then pointing and saying “See, the Steelers don’t draft for the best player, therefore they draft for need!” Fortunately for Steeler fans, the Steelers don’t make any decisions based on internet argument rules, they do things that make sense.

The bad part of this for fans of mock drafts is the Steelers consider a lot of information that we don’t have access to. And that leads to my second point.

Meetings with players

There is a heavy correlation between players the Steelers select early in the draft and meetings with Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert. But too often that correlation becomes overrated. There is a reason you meet with a player, you are interested in that player and you want to learn more about them.

Now, some of these players the Steelers could gather information before the meeting, come up with a few questions they want answered, meet the prospect, get the answers and they are done. With some prospects there may not be many questions. If on film they show they can do everything the Steelers want from them, if they have good relationships with coaches that tell them exactly what they want to hear about the player’s work ethic and leadership. If they have good medical reports that they trust from the combine or other sources, then you might have a player that the Steelers don’t need to meet with much at all.

By the same process there might be a player that interests the Steelers and they go to their Pro-Day, take them to dinner, meet their parents, talk to their coaches and still have some unanswered questions. It could take a lot of time invested before they are confident they have enough information to rank that player on their internal board.

And all that information gathering could end up with that player dropping on the Steelers board. We often see every interaction with a player as a sign the Steelers value that player more, when in reality they are still gathering information on that prospect. Now, it makes sense that players the Steelers are considering spending a bigger investment (like a first round pick) on would warrant a more thorough investigation than a late round pick, and things like character matter more when you are making a top pick, because those players are the ones you want to become your future leaders. But just because the Steelers meet with someone doesn’t mean they like them more because of it.

We don’t get to know everyone the Steelers talk to, we get almost no information about the conversations they have privately with that player’s coaches, and we have no idea what their scouts have told them throughout the college season. So while the draft visits are a sign that the Steelers are interested in a prospect, it gets over-valued because it is a step in the process we can actually see. Just remember that when the Steelers take that player you don’t want out to dinner.

There are no panic picks

The Steelers spend an immense amount of time planning out their draft, and when the draft actually starts their work is almost entirely done. Fans like to think that when the Steelers go on the clock there is a flurry of debate and arguing over who to take, but that’s all done. The debate process is over. They aren’t debating which player they should take because they already did that, they have a list and they follow it. They would be stupid to spend months researching and arguing to get their team rankings and then throw that out in the heat of the moment to make an impulsive choice. Especially in the first round, the roster changes after each pick and values change, but in the first round? Their list is already done.

If someone falls, that player is on their list somewhere, there’s no “They didn’t expect that and didn’t know what to do!” They might not expect it, but that possibility is going to be covered in their draft work. The Steelers know exactly where they rank Trevor Lawrence, and if somehow he fell to #24 they wouldn’t be confused as to what they should do. The Steelers didn’t expect David DeCastro to fall to them, but they knew what to do when he did, he was by far the top player on their board, so they took him.

The same goes for when players they want are taken. When William Jackson III wads taken by the Bengals right before they went on the clock the Steelers didn’t panic, they weren’t unprepared, they went with the next player on their board, Artie Burns was a pick that didn’t work out, it doesn’t mean they weren’t prepared for Jackson to be off the board, it just means they missed on that player. Same with Jarvis Jones. Sometimes their evaluations are wrong. It happens. But it doesn’t happen because they had never considered a scenario where the Bengals take a player they wanted one pick before them.

Drafting a player, or a position?

It is easy to view the draft through the lens of team needs. Steelers need a running back and center, so they should take the best running back and best center available, in some combination of early draft picks. We don’t always look at the player, just take the best guy on the list.

Sometimes though, the Steelers draft a player. They draft a specific player that they want, a guy that fits their scheme or locker room in a way that increases their value over that of other players. Often that shows up in a trade up. Devin Bush and Troy Polamalu stand out as players the Steelers traded up to get because they were players the Steelers wanted more than anyone else, more than two or three players, so they made a trade to get their guy.

But that “our guy” consideration isn’t limited to a big trade up, it will also show up in their normal rankings. Terrell Edmunds is a great example. The Steelers have been focusing on getting elite athletes into this defense for years. Just look at these high picks and those player’s Relative Athletic Score, which ranks them on a score of 1-10, with 10 being the most athletic player to ever test for that position.

2014: Ryan Shazier, 9.88 RAS
2015: Alvin Dupree, 9.47 RAS
2016: Sean Davis, 9.77 RAS (Artie Burns was the first round pick, he put up a 5 RAS but was injured when he tested)
2017: T.J. Watt, 9.92 RAS
2018: Terrell Edmunds, 9.89 RAS
2019: Devin Bush, 9.33 RAS

The Steelers picked Edmunds because they wanted a player who could cover in man, play in run support, and run sideline to sideline to limit big plays. And he’s been that guy.

People can call it a reach, and bring up stats for other safeties that have more interceptions all day, but the Steelers weren’t drafting the best safety in a vacuum, they were drafting a player they specifically wanted, to fill a specific role on their defense. That they valued him a lot more than other teams did makes sense when you understand what they were looking for. Other players didn’t fit that role, so they weren’t as valuable.

That list should also tell you that the Steelers value elite athletes, especially at linebacker and safety. But don’t overvalue it either, in the end it’s just part of the equation.

Putting it all together

One of my favorite articles about the draft is about Antonio Brown, when Jeremy Fowler went back to figure out why Antonio Brown slipped through the cracks in 2010. It’s a great read, and hits a bit differently when they talk about his “high maintenance” personality in 2017 compared to reading it in 2020. Check it out.

One of the bits from that that has stuck with me is the Steelers WR coach Scottie Montgomery had late 2nd round grades on both Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, they had Sanders rated slightly higher and took him in the third round. Montgomery then watched Antonio Brown, who he rated roughly equal to Sanders, fall through the 5th round. The Steelers took him in the 6th round, and he’s still one of the best 6th round picks of all time. So while even in this article I talk about the Steelers setting their board and using it, you can see how having Sanders on the board roster dropped Antonio Brown’s value to the Steelers, but at some point, Scottie Montgomery was able to get him back on that board for a sixth round pick.

The big takeaway from this should be that the Steelers draft process is complex but well organized, and we only see a few snippets of the process. Don’t get too attached to projections and mock drafts, the people doing those don’t have access to the Steelers process either. Lastly, don’t fall into the trap of thinking the Steelers select players based on knee-jerk reactions to anything, unless it is a player from Virginia, because we all know that being from Virginia is more important than everything I’ve discussed in this article.

Steelers Draft Fits: Finding the right (or left) Offensive Tackle

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/28/2021 - 8:30am
Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images

Looking at the offensive tackles in the NFL draft and who would fit with the Steelers.

This is the final part of our series examining 2021 NFL draft fits for the Steelers by position group on offense. Here we look at a group that has received a great deal of attention in the pre-draft process for Pittsburgh: the tackles.

Kevin: Let’s start with a guy I believe the Steelers would run to the virtual podium to select if he somehow fell to pick 24 - Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw. Darrisaw is being mocked in the teens in most scenarios and the Chargers, who pick 13th, are said to be high on him. I’ve seen mocks and simulations where he falls, however.

Darrisaw just looks like a franchise left tackle. Physically, he reminds me a lot of Ronnie Stanley. He has the length and athleticism to handle NFL edge rushers and he’d be a great zone blocker (inside, outside, mid-zone, all of it) if Matt Canada wants to go that way in the run game. Darrisaw isn’t exactly a mauler, he doesn’t play with a mean streak and his technique can be sloppy at times. But he sure passes the eye test.

Geoffrey, what do you think?

Geoff: Darrisaw is impressive for his technique, and the growth he has shown from his freshman year when he was already a starter. Darrisaw isn’t a player that has learned to get by with college level tricks, he’s been working on honing his craft and it shows. While the attitude and focus may not be ideal, he’s going to be a very good player with the technique he already has, and he’s shown that he is invested in his own improvement, so his career arc should be a good one. I agree he would be a perfect fit for a zone-heavy run game.

Kevin: Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins is another tackle whose name has been attached to the Steelers. Jenkins is a very different player than Darrisaw. He’s huge (6’6-320), brute strong and is a hammer as a run blocker. Jenkins finishes blocks like it’s the reason he was put on this planet. I’ve never seen so many pancake blocks from a single player. If the Steelers want to improve the run game, Jenkins would be a great start.

Jenkins is also a work in progress in pass protection. His feet are clunky and he doesn’t have the length you want in an edge protector. He’s probably a right tackle in the NFL, which means he’d get help from a back or tight end a lot. But he’s going to have to seriously improve his technique to handle some of the better edge rushers in the league.

Geoffrey, what are your thoughts on Jenkins?

Geoff: I love his film, but I have concerns taking him in the first round. First, his footwork is an issue, especially on the edge. Second, his arms are shorter than you want in a tackle. Add those together and he looks like an NFL guard to me. Which is fine, he could be a really good guard, but you don’t take Teven Jenkins the guard in the first round. Not when you can get a similar level of blocker at guard in a later round. As a guard he just isn’t that special, so while I love his game, I don’t think he’s worth the pick.

Kevin: The third tackle the Steelers could select in round one is Sam Cosmi from Texas. Geoffrey, is Cosmi a guy the Steelers should consider with their top pick?

Geoff: When I watch Cosmi a few things stand out. First his talent is undeniable. He’s a big athletic blocker who, if he gets the right amount of polish on his game, could be an incredible NFL left tackle. Picking Sam Cosmi is going to put a lot of pressure on the coaching staff to get him to that point. Because if he doesn’t, he could be a colossal bust as well. He has some footwork issues, but the big problem is he plays way too high, and he will not get away with that in the NFL. As a boom/bust prospect, you’d have to be convinced that Cosmi is a player willing and able to take those steps, and that your coaching staff can get it done. I don’t have enough knowledge of either of those factors to say if he’s worth it, but if the Steelers do take him, it means they have that confidence.

Kevin: I feel as though Cosmi would be a steal in round two but a reach in round one. I worry about guys who habitually play too high. Some do it because they’re stiff (Jenkins at times) and some because they can get lazy (Darrisaw). Cosmi is both athletic and, by all accounts, a hard worker. So has it just become habit for him? If so, that’s a problem. Leverage wins in the NFL and he’s not strong enough to afford getting out-leveraged. Otherwise he’s a really talented player. His success, then, will depend on how quickly he can fix his most notable flaw.

Geoff: Liam Eichenberg is another big-time run blocking tackle with shorter arms, his arms are even shorter than Teven Jenkins, but he has the polish on his game that gives confidence he will be a left tackle in the NFL. Eichenberg is more limited scheme-wise and isn’t going to be a good fit if the Steelers are looking for a lot of outside zone runs. On the left side with Kevin Dotson, who also is a more vertically-based blocker, it would limit the Steelers run game significantly scheme-wise. If Matt Canada is looking for an inside zone and power based run game, Eichenberg would be fine. With his limited arm length and scheme fit, I wouldn’t take him in the first round, what do you think Kevin?

Kevin: No, definitely not in the first round. There will be better prospects available, and if not, the Steelers should try hard to trade down. I really like Eichenberg as a second round pick, though. I think Notre Dame’s line was very well-coached under Jeff Quinn, who helped develop Jason Kelce and Joe Staley as college players and did a great job turning the Irish into a dominant run-blocking unit in 2020. Eichenberg is not a plug-and-play starter but is developed enough to contribute as the sixth linemen in heavy packages and step into a starting role in a year or two. I would not be disappointed with him in round two. He feels like a Pittsburgh Steeler to me.

Geoff: Jalen Mayfield has all of 15 starts under his belt, and will be 20 years old on draft day. His pro day numbers were awful, and he has seemingly fallen out of mock-draft favor. What stands out with Mayfield is his 2019 season when he faced a ton of NFL caliber edge rushers and looked great facing them at 19 years old. He’s a developmental prospect, because he is young and hasn’t played many games, but his on-the-field performance was top notch in 2019 and he looked even better in the 2 games he played in 2020. The problem with Mayfield and the Steelers is by the time Mayfield is making a real impact on the field, it’s unlikely Ben Roethlisberger will still be playing football. I look at Mayfield as an opposite of Liam Eichenberg, while Eichenberg has more limitations, he’s much more NFL ready. Mayfield could very well be truly great tackle, he’s not likely to be a quality starter in year one.

Kevin: I agree with that assessment. Mayfield presents a dilemma because, if the Steelers want to win now, he’s not going to help them. But he could be great by year three or four. The problem is, what will Pittsburgh’s offense look like that far down the road? He’d be a great pick if Pittsburgh had the luxury of letting him learn for a couple of years. I don’t think the Steelers have that luxury. If he somehow falls to round three I’d jump at him. But I think the Steelers need guys in round one and two who can make a more immediate impact.

Speaking of developmental linemen, let’s say the Steelers land a center early and look for a tackle they can groom later on. One guy I like who’s gotten pretty good buzz is Spencer Brown from Northern Iowa. He’s got an Alejandro Villanueva vibe. He’s a huge individual at 6’8 but is a little light, as ridiculous as this sounds, at 310 pounds. Like Villanueva, he’s a converted tight end who demonstrates excellent footwork. He’s a little nastier than Villanueva, however, and is more physical at the point of attack. Brown will need to get thicker and stronger to block NFL defensive linemen but he’s got a really high ceiling if the Steelers give him time to develop.

Geoff: Brown is intriguing, he’s got incredible physical tools if he gets in a system that can help him develop. These tackles all cause me to think of Mike Munchak. There was a time you couldn’t trust the Steelers to draft an NFL-ready lineman and get good play from him, then Munchak came and they all turned into world-beaters. With line coach Adrian Klemm in his first season in charge, we have to hope the Steelers can identify the right guy(s) and give them the help they need to reach their potential. The NFL Draft is all about the possibilities, but it’s the work afterwards that brings about the reality.

Kevin: Ok, let’s bring this all together. Now that we’ve examined all the position groups, what’s your ideal draft on offense for the Steelers? Give me the guys you’d most like to see them land.

Geoff: My ideal offensive draft would be Christian Darrisaw in the first round, Creed Humphrey (it’s my ideal draft, lineman are falling) and then Michael Carter and Tommy Tremble in the third and fourth rounds. In my opinion a running back pick in this draft is a reach, a first round runner should be a special talent, and I don’t think the top runners in this draft are those guys. So as I’ve been saying, scheme first, O-line second, I like Carter and Tremble in Canada’s offense, and we’d add two lineman that excel at zone running.

Kevin: For me, the ideal scenario goes something like this: Najee Harris or Travis Etienne in the first round (Etienne is my guy but I wouldn’t be unhappy with Harris) followed by Landon Dickerson (injuries be damned) in round two. That would take care of the Steelers’ two biggest needs, freeing them to select a developmental tackle (Spencer Brown?) or a tight end who can block (Tremble?) in later rounds.

I’d also be thrilled with a scenario where they landed a top center (Dickerson or Humphrey) and a physical tackle (Eichenberg or Jenkins) in the first two rounds and Ohio State’s Trey Sermon as their back in round three. He’s the only runner outside of the Big Three I’d take on day one or two.

There you have it. Buckle up, Steelers’ fans. The Super Bowl of the off-season is almost here!

2021 NFL Draft: BTSC Big Board, Top 100

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/28/2021 - 7:15am
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Ranking and analyzing the top 100 prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft

About four months ago, I had posted a big board in the Fan Post section of the site (if you do not view Fan Post articles already, I highly encourage that you check that part of the site out), and Pittzblitz56 approached me about doing a potential collaborative big board that involved the BTSC community. Without DropTheHammer’s Big Board, we thought that a collaborative big board would be a way to fill the void that his big board left.

Ryland B. later approached me in the comment section of that same article, saying that he would be willing to help put the big board together and contribute analysis. We began the board ourselves, but we left it open to BTSC members who wanted to contribute as well. A couple weeks in, one of BTSC’s site moderators, SNW, said that he would gather each player’s stats and consensus ranking. Not long after, a couple more BTSC members, Itz JustNoah and Necksnation, jumped in and helped Ryland and I contribute analysis.

It was the idea of Pittsblitz56, inspired by DropTheHammer, and created by BTSC members. We went through each position, ranking and analyzing 288 prospects, in the span of about three months. It was a lot of work, but we hope that everyone enjoyed each article and took the time to read the analysis. I would like to thank Pittsblitz56 for getting this all started. I would also like to thank Ryland for the many hours of work he put into the board through analysis, editing, and many other things behind the scenes. I also want to thank SNW, Itz JustNoah, and Necksnation for jumping in and helping us. We couldn’t have done it without you guys!

If you would like a printable version of my top 300 rankings, which are the same rankings used for this board, you may click here to access that. It can be helpful on draft night in terms of knowing who the best available prospects are and who the most realistic options for the Steelers are.

Ryland is also working on some boards that will come out throughout the draft, highlighting the top 50 players remaining after each night. Be sure to check those out as well.

As a reminder, the stats and consensus ranking were compiled by Pittsblitz56 and SNW (using CBS Sports, Drafttek, ESPN, Mock Draft Database, and Tankathon), and the analysis is a collaboration of Ryland, myself, Itz JustNoah, and Necksnation.

Let’s get to the final top 100!

1. Penei Sewell — OT — Oregon
#58, Jr, 6’6”, 330 lbs
Consensus ranking: 2 (2, 2, 3, 2, 2)
2020 season stats: Opted out
2019 season stats: (14 games)

steelerfan11: It has been a long time since there has been a tackle prospect as good as Sewell. He can play on either side of the line, but I fully expect him to be put at left tackle from day one for whichever team that drafts him. He has good lateral mobility and is very nimble on his feet. He is comfortable in his stance and gets good leverage as a run-blocker. Hand usage, power, and pad level are all spectacular as well, making him a generational talent at the most important position outside of quarterback. He is a high-level run blocker and pass protector, and there are no major flaws in his game.

2. Trevor Lawrence — QB — Clemson
#16, Jr, 6’6”, 220 lbs
2020 season stats: 3,153 passing yards, 24 passing touchdowns, 5 interceptions, 203 rushing yards, 8 rushing touchdowns (10 games)
Consensus Ranking: 1

Ryland B: Ever since his brilliant freshman campaign at Clemson in 2018, Lawrence has been seen as a top-tier NFL prospect, with it being all but a guarantee he’ll be selected first overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. Lawrence is an accurate passer with a NFL-caliber arm, and has always been a solid decision-maker with the football. He also has great size and is a surprisingly good runner. Lawrence only lost two games in his college career, always playing well and showing good leadership skills. There’s some minor concerns here and there with Lawrence, but overall he’s the most NFL-ready quarterback to enter the draft in years. The Steelers won’t be landing him, but whichever team does (*cough* Jacksonville) will be getting a good one.

3. Zach Wilson — QB — BYU
#1, Jr, 6’3”, 210 lbs
Consensus Ranking: 8
2020 season stats: 3,692 passing yards, 33 passing touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 254 rushing yards, 10 rushing touchdowns (12 games)

steelerfan11: Strength of schedule is something that will be an issue for some, but Wilson balled out this season for BYU. His arm is not on the same level as a Lawrence or Fields, but it is definitely above average, and his accuracy is as good as anyone’s. He can deliver it from a slew of different arm angles, but his best attribute may be his mobility in the pocket and decisiveness as a runner. Wilson is a gamer who has everything you want in a franchise quarterback, which is why he will be a top five pick come April.

4. Justin Fields — QB — Ohio State
#1, Jr, 6’3”, 228 lbs
Consensus Ranking: 4
2020 season stats: 2,100 passing yards, 22 passing touchdowns, 6 interceptions, 383 rushing yards, 5 rushing touchdowns (8 games)

Ryland B: Justin Fields spent his freshman year of college backing up Jake Fromm at Georgia before transferring to Ohio State for his sophomore and junior years, where his career would blossom. Following a breakout 2019 season, Fields played rather inconsistently in a COVID-19 shortened 2020, often struggling when facing a rush and making some questionable decisions. However, a near flawless showing against Trevor Lawrence’s Clemson Tigers in the College Football Semifinal restored the faith in Fields as a draft prospect. He has decent size, is very athletic and a good runner, and has an absolute cannon for an arm. Despite having some pocket awareness problems, Fields is very mobile and can throw well on the run. He’s a very accurate passer overall, rarely turning the ball over, although there is some room to grow regarding his decision making. Fields isn’t a perfect prospect, but he’s a solid #3 quarterback in this draft class behind Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson. Fields is a top 5 talent in my opinion, but it will be interesting to see if he falls on draft night.

5. Ja’Marr Chase — WR — LSU
#7, Jr, 6’0”, 208 lbs
Consensus ranking: 5 (5, 3, 5, 5, 6)
2020 season stats: Opted out
2019 season stats: 84 receptions, 1,780 receiving yards, 20 receiving touchdowns (14 games)

steelerfan11: Chase was almost as unstoppable in 2019 as DeVonta Smith was in 2020. Chase is an explosive player with a decent sized frame to win a good amount of contested catches. Hands are not an issue, and his ability to high point the ball is among the best in this class. He has good speed and runs solid routes, and his willingness as a blocker will not go unnoticed by scouts. There are a lot of other accolades I could give Chase, but since he is not falling anywhere near 24, let’s move on.

6. DeVonta Smith — WR — Alabama
#6, Sr, 6’1”, 175 lbs
Consensus ranking: 7 (8, 11, 4, 8, 5)
2020 season stats: 117 receptions, 1,856 receiving yards, 23 receiving touchdowns (13 games)

Ryland B: Many have Ja’Marr Chase ranked as the best wide receiver in the 2021 draft class, but DeVonta Smith’s incredible senior season at Alabama made him my #1. Despite lacking ideal size and athleticism for the position, Smith made the absolute best of what he had during his time at Alabama. And it’s fair to say his hard work paid off as Smith won the Hesiman trophy his Senior year thanks to an absolutely incredible season (if you haven’t looked at his 2020 stats listed above yet, I’d recommend you do so). Probably the best route-runner in the class, Smith has a great release, makes good cuts, and has a good feel for the little things that make a receiver great, such as finding the soft spot in a zone, faking out defenders at the top of his routes, and sharp footwork. He isn’t the greatest athlete, but still has good speed and is a natural catcher of the ball, which makes him a threat in contested catch scenarios despite his diminutive frame. It’s worth noting Smith suffered a finger injury in the National Championship Game (a game in which he had 215 yards in the first half), which could be something to keep an eye on as hand injuries can be dangerous for receivers, although it doesn’t look like it will be a big deal. Smith was as close as you can get to unstoppable in 2020, and while lack of size may be a concern at the NFL level, he’s a complete prospect who is deserving of a top-10 pick in the upcoming draft.

7. Micah Parsons — LB — Penn State
#11, Jr, 6’3”, 245 lbs
Consensus ranking: 10 (6, 14, 4, 12, 12)
2020 season stats: Opted out
2019 season stats: Tackles 109, TFL 14, Sacks 5, FF 4, FR 1, PD 5, Int 0, (13 games)

Necksnation: Parsons would likely be the consensus top defensive player in the draft if not for character issues. Like many top prospects, he opted out of the 2020 college season, but his stock actually rose when Penn State’s defense suffered in his absence. His pro day numbers solidified his status as one of the most athletic defenders in the draft. As a blitzer, Parsons demonstrates great instincts and the ability to shed blocks and make tackles. His coverage skills could use some refining, but it’s nothing he can’t handle, and it’s certainly not a weakness of his. Parsons’ ceiling and his athleticism make him the top linebacker in this class, and he has a good chance of going inside the top 15.

8. Kyle Pitts — TE — Florida
#84, Jr, 6’6”, 246 lbs
Consensus ranking: 9 (10, 9, 6, 11, 11)
2020 season stats: 43 receptions, 770 receiving yards, 12 receiving TD’s, (8 games)

Ryland B: “Matchup nightmare” is really the only way to describe Kyle Pitts. At 6’5” and around 240 lbs, with the athleticism of a wide receiver, Pitts made a living at Florida making defensive backs and linebackers look silly. He has incredible hands, great body control, and a large catch radius, and his ability to track and catch a football through contact make him the best at contested catch scenarios in this class. Besides his knack for winning 50/50 balls, Pitts can also win with pure athleticism, as he has good speed and is surprisingly a good route-runner for a player of his size. His lanky frame makes it so he won’t be the quickest, but he has impressive long speed and can easily burn linebackers. He even lined up on the outside at times and held his own, bullying corners. He’s impressive after the catch, as well. The one problem with Pitts is that he isn’t the greatest blocker, and while he’s fairly strong, has good size, and shows good effort, he isn’t that effective and will purely be a receiving threat on the next level. Still, a team that isn’t looking for a blocking tight end will get some incredible value out of Pitts, and he could be a top-10 pick in the upcoming draft.

9. Rashawn Slater — OT — Northwestern
#70, Sr, 6’4’’, 315 lbs
Consensus ranking: 12 (11, 14, 8, 13, 12)
2019 season stats: (11 games)

Itz JustNoah: The first thing you notice when looking at Slater’s tape is his hand technique. On every play, his hands are exactly where they need to be to win those physical battles in the trenches. His footwork is smooth and he plays with a great level of physicality. As a Junior, he had to go up against Ohio State and Chase Young. He was 1-on-1 with Young 12 different times over the course of the game and he won every single time. His size and length could potentially limit him against stronger edge rushers but I doubt it will affect him much. Personally I think he will be best as a tackle but he does have the versatility to play inside if need be.

10. Christian Darrisaw — OT — Virginia Tech
#77, Jr, 6’5’’, 314 lbs
Consensus ranking: 20 (14, 18, 24, 16, 16)
2020 season stats: (9 games)

Itz JustNoah: Darrisaw is, in my eyes, the next best tackle behind Sewell. Slater’s tape is great but Darrisaw is just so strong and his physicality is unmatched. He’s extremely powerful as a runblocker and he holds his block well in pass protection. He uses raw strength to move defenders out of the way with ease to create holes for runners and a clean pocket for whoever’s throwing the ball. He has the potential to be a franchise left tackle for whoever drafts him. I would be elated if he falls to the Steelers at 24 and Colbert would be foolish to not take him.

11. Jaylen Waddle — WR — Alabama
#17, Jr., 5’10”, 182 lbs
Consensus ranking: 10 (9, 8, 10, 12, 13)
2020 season stats: 28 receptions, 591 receiving yards, 4 receiving touchdowns (6 games)

steelerfan11: I love guys who bring a special speed element to the game. With Waddle, it is not just straight-line speed. He is quick in and out of cuts, and he is extremely versatile, occasionally being used on jet sweeps and as a dangerous kick returner. There is the concern with injury, as Waddle has had some issues staying healthy, but the reward far outweighs the risk of taking him inside the top ten in my opinion. This guy is on another level when healthy.

12. Jaycee Horn — CB — South Carolina
#7, Jr, 6’1”, 205 lbs
Consensus ranking: 17 (30, 12, 15, 16, 14)
2020 season stats: Tackles 16, TFL 1, PD 6, Int 2, (7 games)

Itz JustNoah: As far as coverage goes, Horn is as good as it gets. He reacts well in man, he recovers quickly, he ran a 4.39 so he’s not gonna get burned over top and his ball skills are right up there with the other top guys. One of the things you notice when watching him is that he won’t get beat right off the line. He watches the opponent’s hips, not their eyes, so he won’t get beat by any “fancy footwork”. Horn does have a tackling problem and he tends to hold more than you would like. If he can clean up his holding problem I think he can be a very, very successful outside corner with the speed and athletic ability to also cover the slot. I like Horn a good bit but he’s not as technical or just plain talented as Surtain. So while I think it’s a great pick if he does fall, I would not want any sort of trade up for him.

13. Caleb Farley — CB — Virginia Tech
#3, Jr, 6’2”, 207 lbs
Consensus ranking: 17 (11, 31, 12, 13, 18)
2020 season stats: Opted out
2019 season stats: Tackles 20, PD 12, Int 4, (11 games)

Necksnation: Farley opted out of the 2020 college season and recently underwent a back procedure, causing his stock to fall, but he has all the tools to be a lockdown corner in the NFL. His combination of size, length, speed, and instincts make him one of the most naturally gifted players in the class. Farley’s 2019 film is fantastic, and if he hadn’t opted out I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the consensus top corner in the class. He excels in press coverage, and is able to stay on a receiver step by step for an extended period of time. His back issues are a legitimate reason for concern, but if he can stay healthy, he should be able to succeed at the next level.

14. Azeez Ojulari — Edge — Georgia
#13, So, 6’3”, 240 lbs
Consensus ranking: 39 (58, 30, 58, 22, 25)
2020 season stats: Tackles 31, TFL 12.5, Sacks 9.5, PD 2, FF 4, FR 1 (10 games)

Itz JustNoah: Ojulari has great athleticism and technique. He uses his hands well, he’s quick and he’s got a great bend that helps him stay upright. He has average size for an edge rusher so he could use a bit more strength but his speed off the line has helped him be successful without the ideal size. His major flaw comes as a run defender. When he’s forced outside and has to set the edge, he doesn’t have his burst off the line so he isn’t able to get by blockers. He’s not polished, but he’s got a high ceiling that makes him well worthy of being taken in the first round. He excelled in Kirby Smart’s 3-4 defense at Georgia and I think that’s where he will fit best in the NFL.

15. Kwity Paye — Edge — Michigan
#19, Sr, 6’4”, 272 lbs
Consensus ranking: 15 (8, 20, 18, 14, 15)
2020 season stats: Tackles 16, TFL 4.0, Sacks 2.0 (4 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 50, TFL 12.5, Sacks 6.5 (12 games)

Itz JustNoah: Paye is built like a semi-truck. He was incredible against the run in college due to his great feet and hands, and I don’t doubt that that will translate to the NFL. However, he relies too much on his athleticism as a pass rusher and that is something that has to be fixed if he wants to be successful as a true edge. If he can develop as a pass rusher on the technical side of things, he has the potential to be extremely good. Paye is ineffective when dropping back into coverage so a 4-3 scheme, where he can play on the edge while not being asked to drop back in coverage, would work very well.

16. Trey Lance — QB — North Dakota State
#5, So, 6’4”, 226 lbs
Consensus ranking: 15
2020 season stats: 149 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 1 interception, 143 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns, (1 game)
2019 season stats: 192 completions, 66.9 completion percentage, 2786 yards, 28 passing TDs, 0 INTs, 169 carries, 1100 yards, (16 games)

steelerfan11: Lance played one game in 2020, and it did not go as well as many expected. Overthrowing receivers and making the wrong reads were a common thing, but he did enough in the second half to lead his team to victory. My biggest issues with him are touch and delivery speed. His delivery looked very slow to me on the tape I have seen of him, and his eyes stay on his intended receiver too long, allowing the defender to break on the ball for an interception. Footwork was inconsistent as well. That said, his size, arm, and athleticism make him an intriguing option in the middle of the first round. He is boom or bust at this point.

17. Patrick Surtain II — CB — Alabama
#2, Jr, 6’2”, 202 lbs
Consensus ranking: 10 (15, 8, 10, 9, 9)
2020 season stats: Tackles 37, TFL 3.5, FR 0, PD 9, Int 1, (13 games)

Necksnation: Surtain will likely be the top corner off the board in April, and for good reason. In coverage, he is able to follow his man step for step and is adept at forcing incompletions. When he does allow a completion, he quickly and effectively tackles the ballcarrier to prevent any yards after the catch. Surtain is best when he’s playing man, but he’s more than capable of playing zone if he needs to. He does have a tendency to commit pass interference penalties, but he improved in that aspect from 2019 to 2020, so it shouldn’t be a big issue in the NFL. His only other weakness is that he occasionally gets beat downfield, but he does a good job of catching up to the receiver and putting himself in a position where he can still make a play on the ball. Surtain is the only cornerback in the class who I’d use a top 10 pick on, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Broncos or Cowboys select him with either of their top picks.

18. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah — LB — Notre Dame
#6, Sr, 6’1”, 215 lbs
Consensus ranking: 21 (23, 29, 14, 19, 18)
2020 season stats: Tackles 62, TFL 11, Sacks 1.5, FF 3, FR 2, PD 3, Int 1, (12 games)

steelerfan11: While not the biggest linebacker in the world, Owusu-Koramoah has serious range in coverage and outstanding versatility. His lack of size occasionally bites him when trying to tackle a well-built running back or tight end, but the burst he displays when rushing the passer makes up for it. His versatility also allows him to play safety in certain packages, and he has had no trouble covering receivers and tight ends out of the slot. Adding some weight would only help him, but he will be a valuable piece for a defense that can use his versatility correctly.

19. Mac Jones — QB — Alabama
#10, Junior, 6’ 3”, 214 lbs
Consensus Ranking - 41
2020 season stats: 4,500 passing yards, 41 passing touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 14 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown (13 games)

Ryland B: Mac Jones is a bit of a departure from his successors at Alabama, Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa. While Hurts and Tagovailoa were athletic, high-upside prospects with some concerns regarding their overall accuracy and ability to go through progressions, Jones is more of the opposite. He’s a pocket passer with decent athleticism, while his greatest strength is his accuracy and ability to distribute the football. Jones has a fairly strong arm and throws a pretty deep ball, while also going through his progressions well and delivering the ball on time. He’s not a good runner, or even very mobile for that matter, but he can recognize when to run and can gain a first down with his legs every now and then. Surrounded by superior talent and excellent play-calling, Jones put up some great numbers at Alabama this season. He has a fairly high floor, but doesn’t have the highest ceiling, and could be picked anywhere from the top 5 to the end of the first.

20. Alijah Vera-Tucker — G/T — USC
Jr, #75, 6’4”, 315 lbs
Consensus ranking: 24 (19, 32, 21, 29, 19)
2020 season stats: (6 games)

steelerfan11: Vera-Tucker was asked to move to left tackle and fill the void that Austin Jackson left. He wasn’t too bad, but he is much better suited at guard. He has quick hands and does a good job of landing his punches, and his body control is superb. His mobility is very good for an interior lineman as well, showing the ability to consistently get to the second level of the defense. He also displays a good pad level in the run game. Overall, Vera-Tucker brings a nice balance of upside and NFL readiness, and he could be gone by the time we get to pick 15.

21. Joseph Ossai — EDGE — Texas
#46, Jr, 6’4”, 253 lbs
Consensus ranking: 34 (34, 36, 29, 38, 34)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 90, 14.5 TFL ,6 Sacks , Int 2, PD 3, FF 2 (13 games)

Itz JustNoah: I absolutely love Ossai. He has pretty much everything you want in a 3-4 OLB. He’s very quick off the line, his balance is phenomenal, he uses his hands extremely well and he has a wide range of pass rush moves. The stats may not show it but he is almost always in the backfield whether it be a run or a pass. Unlike a lot of the other edge rushers in this class, Ossai is very versatile. He can easily drop back into zone coverage or even play man against some tight ends or running backs, so he is the perfect 3-4 edge. I see a lot of TJ Watt in him because of his quickness, balance and his knack for creating turnovers. I’ve seen him fall out of the first round in some mocks but I think that any team that uses a 3-4 should take him before any other edge rusher.

22. Samuel Cosmi — OT — Texas
Jr, #52, 6’7”, 309 lbs
Consensus ranking: 43 (32, 24, 84, 25, 28)
2020 season stats: (8 games)

steelerfan11: Cosmi is not a sure thing at tackle, but I liked what I saw from him in both 2019 and 2020 when he was at left tackle. Generally, raw tackles will start out at right tackle if they play at all their rookie season, but I think Cosmi’s natural fit is on the left side. He depends on his superb athleticism too often, but all of Cosmi’s technical issues are fixable. When he leaves his chest exposed and a defender can land a punch, he loses balance but can usually save himself with his length. His kick-slide needs to become smoother, but that will come with improved footwork and hip angles. His pad level also needs to be lower on a more consistent basis, but that got much better in 2020. Cosmi does a good job of getting to the second level of the defense as a run-blocker, and he has the length and mobility to be a dominant pass blocker. If he can add a good 15 pounds to his frame, he could develop into one of the top blindside protectors in the game.

23. Pat Freiermuth — TE — Penn State
#87, Jr, 6’5”, 250 lbs
Consensus ranking: 39 (26, 47, 41, 39, 41)
2020 season stats: 23 receptions, 310 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD’s, (4 games)

steelerfan11: Freiermuth is one of my favorite prospects in this class because of his style of play. Every year people try to compare the top tight ends in the class to Rob Gronkowski, but I actually find it fair to compare Freiermuth to him. I expect Freiermuth to get closer to the 260 pound range once he is in the NFL, helping him hold up against stronger NFL athletes. He does a good job of boxing out defenders and getting in good position to make catches, and he has the soft hands that you want in a tight end. I realize that he is still very raw and undeveloped as a blocker, but I believe that he is fully capable of becoming one of the top blocking tight ends in the league. It just may not come in year one. If he has fully recovered from that shoulder injury that ended his 2020 season early, he will be able to contribute immediately as a legitimate red zone threat. They say that a good blocking tight end is an extension of the offensive line, so if the value does not present itself at center or tackle, maybe the Steelers would consider the local tight end instead.

24. Najee Harris — RB — Alabama
#22, Senior, 6’ 2”, 230 lbs
2020 season stats: 1,466 rushing yards, 26 rushing touchdowns, 5.8 yards per carry (YPC), 43 receptions, 425 receiving yards, 4 receiving touchdowns.

Ryland B.: Considered a top recruit coming out of high school, Najee Harris underwhelmed in his first few years at Alabama, but slowly improved each season to become the best running back in his draft class by his senior year. Harris has the size of a NFL running back, but he also has the power and athleticism to succeed at the next level. He is a patient runner with good vision, and can consistently make something out of nothing if the play breaks down. He ends runs with power, and is hard to bring down once he gets going, even unleashing an impressive hurdling ability at times. He isn’t the fastest, but has enough speed and burst to succeed at the NFL level — although he won’t be a home-run hitter. As a receiver, Harris showed some good hands and yards after catch ability in 2020. If there’s one concern, it’s mileage, as Harris had over 800 touches during his 4 years at Alabama. He hasn’t shown any durability concerns, but it’s certainly something to be aware of due to the short shelf life on NFL running backs. Overall, Harris is the most complete and NFL-ready back in the draft class, having shown athleticism, talent, and production over his successful college career.

25. Travis Etienne — RB — Clemson
#9, Senior, 5’ 10”, 205 lbs
2020 season stats: 914 rushing yards, 14 rushing touchdowns, 5.4 YPC, 48 receptions, 588 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns

Ryland B.: Etienne made the right choice returning to school for 2020, but ended up having a down year statistically, failing to crack a thousand rushing yards for the first time since his freshman season in 2017. He did improve as a pass-catcher, totaling a career high in receiving yards and better hands overall. As a runner, Etienne is a speedster, one of the fastest in this class. His smaller frame is a concern, but he hasn’t had any major injury issues and always plays bigger than he is, finishing runs with some power and giving his all every play. He doesn’t have the greatest vision, and will sometimes try to push runs too far outside, but his vision definitely improved in 2020. Etienne’s agility isn’t overly impressive, but his speed certainly gives him an advantage in avoiding defenders. Etienne isn’t a complete running back just yet, but he has a solid foundation of tools and his impressive speed gives him incredible upside as an NFL back.

26. Zaven Collins — LB — Tulsa
#23, Jr, 6’4” 260 lbs
Consensus ranking: 35 (28, 75, 23, 25, 22)
2020 season stats: Tackles 53, TFL 11.5, Sacks 4, FF 1, FR 1, PD 2, Int 4, (8 games)

steelerfan11: Collins has old-school size, but his fluidity in coverage is better than a lot of 230 pound linebackers in this class. He has decent range in coverage, but that is not his biggest strength. He was expected to run in the 4.6 range at his pro day, and he ran a little slower than that at 4.67. It was not a shocker to many people, but it does show that he may want to consider shedding a couple pounds if he wants to improve his range in coverage. However, his other numbers were impressive for a man his size, recording a 35 inch vertical and 122 inch broad jump. He will occasionally take a bad tackling angle and fail to bring the opponent down, but he does a good job of realizing gaps and filling them quickly. He has a few minor issues to fix, but he should still be able to contribute in year one. He should be off the board by the time we get to pick 40.

27. Christian Barmore — DL — Alabama
#58, So, 6’5”, 310 lbs
Consensus ranking: 29 (26, 49, 30, 21, 20)
2020 season stats: Tackles 37, TFL 9.5, Sacks 8, FF 3, PD 5, (12 games)

Itz JustNoah: Barmore has great size even for his position. He has all the right technique that you want from an interior lineman. His strong upper body helps him get in the backfield with ease and he has plenty of strength to help against the run. He’s much more refined than Nixon and I think that a team like the Raiders or possibly the Vikings that are ready to compete now and need a defensive tackle would work best. He can fit in a 3-4 and a 4-3 as long as playing on the interior. I would not be opposed to the Steelers taking him at 24 to add some youth to the defense (especially since Alualu didn’t return) but the offensive line is definitely a bigger need if the top tier guys are still there.

28. Kelvin Joseph — CB — Kentucky
#1, Jr, 6’1”, 192 lbs
Consensus ranking: 73 (NA, 111, 46, 69, 66)
2020 season stats: Tackles 25, TFL .5, PD 5, Int 4, (9 games)

Ryland B.: A smart, fluid mover in zone, Joseph had a sneaky solid season in 2020 for Kentucky. I watched his tape against Alabama, and he more than held his own against DeVonta Smith, who was the best receiver and route runner in college football last year. Joseph’s not the quickest, but he still has a good athletic profile to match up with NFL receivers. Joseph’s tackling is by far the worst part of his game, but overall he’s a corner with the instincts and athletic ability to succeed in the NFL.

29. Nico Collins — WR — Michigan
#1, Sr., 6’4” 215 lbs
Consensus ranking: 125 (138, 157, 43, 161, NA)
2020 season stats: Opted out
2019 season stats: 37 receptions, 729 receiving yards, 7 receiving TD

steelerfan11: Collins opted out of the 2020 season for Michigan, and his absence was quite evident. Collins did not have a great quarterback throwing him the ball during his time in Ann Arbor, but he bailed Shea Patterson out many times down the field in 2019. For a guy at that size, he actually runs decent routes and gets in and out of his cuts pretty quickly. His ball skills are tremendous, and he has good speed. If he would have had good quarterback play last year and decided to play this season, we may be talking about him as a top 15-20 pick. I still think that he is deserving of first round consideration simply based off on talent, but it is likely that he falls to day two.

30. Trey Smith — G — Tennessee
Sr, #73, 6’6”, 330 lbs
Consensus ranking: 47 (28, 39, 70, 48, 50)
2020 season stats: (10 games)

steelerfan11: Smith played left tackle in 2017 for the Volunteers before having issues with blood clots in his lungs in 2018. The former five-star recruit was able to get the issue resolved in time to play in 2019, but he moved inside to guard, which turned out to be the right move. Smith was much more dominant at guard and became one of the best run-blocking guards in the country while holding his own as a pass protector. In 2020, he was not quite as quick on his feet, and he struggled to win the battle for leverage. However, I like his game as a whole, and I believe he has a chance to be an absolutely dominant run-blocking guard.

31. Rondale Moore — WR — Purdue
#4, So., 5’9” 180 lbs
Consensus ranking: 32 (17, 20, 58, 29, 34)
2020 season stats: 35 receptions, 270 receiving yards, 0 receiving TD (3 games)

Ryland B.: Rondale Moore is an interesting prospect, as most of his first-round hype is based off of his incredible freshman season — back in 2018. That year Moore had over 100 catches and 1,200 yards to go along with his 12 touchdowns, making him a surefire first round pick when he would eventually enter the draft. However, a torn ACL at the beginning of his sophomore campaign didn’t help his draft plans, and then a decision to opt-out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns essentially made Moore a one-year wonder. But when he’s on the field, there is a lot to like about his game. Moore is very fast and elusive, and is a monster after the catch. There are some concerns about his smaller frame, as Moore isn’t suited for contested catches and struggles against physical corners, although he has good hands. Moore is a boom-or-bust prospect entering this year’s draft, but if he can be the player he was in 2018, the team that drafted him will be quite happy that they did so.

32. Creed Humphrey — C — Oklahoma
Jr, #56, 6’5”, 320 lbs
Consensus ranking: 58 (96, 40, 51, 44, 61)
2020 season stats: (11 games)

Ryland B.: There were questions about Creed Humphrey’s athleticism entering the 2021 draft cycle, but he silenced the doubters with a 10/10 RAS score in 2021, making him one of the most athletic centers ever tested. But his technique is just as impressive. A former wrestler, he plays with good functional strength and excellent leverage. He’s a proven leader with a great football IQ as well. Being left-handed might cause some issues, but that shouldn’t drop him on many boards (could it raise him on Miami’s?). Humphrey has really cemented himself as the top center in this class, and could here his name called as early as the first round.

33. Aaron Robinson — CB — UCF
#31, Sr, 5’11”, 193 lbs
Consensus ranking: 76 (NA, 108, 64, 68, 63)
2020 season stats: Tackles 41, TFL 1, FF 1, PD 7, Int 0, (9 games)

steelerfan11: Robinson is yet another scheme versatile corner who does his best work in man coverage. The dude is just a baller no matter where he is lined up. He can reroute receivers at the line when he is lined up on the perimeter, and he has the quickness and agility to cover receivers coming out of the slot. While he is not the biggest corner in the world, he has good functional strength and seems to be well-built. Robinson actually transferred from Alabama, and I cannot help but wonder what his draft stock would be if he would have stayed. Now, he may not have seen the opportunities he wanted at Alabama, but his tape this season would have made him a surefire first round pick if his production came at Alabama instead of UCF.

34. Javonte Williams —RB — North Carolina
#25, Junior, 5’ 10”, 220 lbs
2020 season stats: 1,140 rushing yards, 19 rushing touchdowns, 7.3 YPC, 25 receptions, 305 receiving yards, 3 receiving touchdowns

Ryland B.: I’ve seen some debates online over the past month or so arguing that Williams is the second-best running back in this class over Travis Etienne — and while I’m not ready to go that far yet, Williams’ incredible 2020 season certainly puts him in the discussion. He’s a running back that screams “Pittsburgh Steeler”, as he’s an underclassmen, runs with power and an attitude, and produced well in college. If he gets a good SPARQ score you might as well pencil him in as the Steelers’ second round pick. In a way, I see Javonte Williams as Benny Snell 2.0, someone with the powerful rushing style and contact balance the Steelers liked in Snell, but paired with good speed and burst to make him a complete back, something that Snell certainly lacks. Williams isn’t the fastest in this class, but he’s an excellent power back with enough speed to be a starter in the NFL. He’s definitely someone to keep an eye on as the draft gets nearer.

35. Jaelan Phillips — EDGE — Miami
#15, Jr, 6’5”, 266 lbs
Consensus ranking: 30 (40, 47, 17, 24, 24)
2020 season stats: Tackles 45, TFL 15.5, Sacks 8 (10 games)

Ryland B.: I hadn’t watched a ton of Phillips until I started analyzing him for this board, but I came away very impressed. He’s a plus athlete with good size, which I had known before, but he seemed to be more technically sound than most think he is. What really stood out to me is how violent of a pass-rusher Phillips is. His hand usage is strong and choppy, his motor is nonstop, and he’s a very disruptive, hard hitter. He’s solid against the run as well. Phillips can still be inconsistent and play too high at times, but he has all of the tools to succeed and should just continue to improve. The only red flag is his concussion issues, which unfortunately, could be quite the issue.

36. Kadarius Toney — WR — Florida
#1, Sr., 6’0”, 193 lbs
Consensus ranking: 51 (119, 54, 23, 29, 28)
2020 season stats: 70 receptions, 984 receiving yards, 10 receiving TD (11 games)

Ryland B.: Toney’s agility and shiftiness are on another level. A ton of his highlights were simple wide receiver screens where Florida would throw a short pass to Toney and let him create the rest of the yardage. He reminds me a bit of Diontae Johnson, as he’s a quicker-than-fast receiver who is incredibly dangerous after the catch, although Toney has stronger hands. He isn’t much of a deep threat and doesn’t have the greatest speed, but he’s fast enough to succeed on the NFL level. On a side note, I doubt he’ll end up in the black and gold, but if he does, he’s the perfect fit for a Matt Canada/Ben Roethlisberger offense: he has good hands and excels with short passes, sweeps, and motions.

37. Asante Samuel, Jr. — CB — Florida State
#26, Jr, 5’10”, 184 lbs
Consensus ranking: 36 (26, 24, 45, 44, 42)
2020 season stats: Tackles 31, TFL 1, FF 1, FR 2, PD 6, Int 3, (8 games)

Necksnation: The son of a four-time Pro Bowler, Asante Samuel Jr. has been rising on draft boards and has the potential to be a high quality starter in the NFL. Samuel is best in man, and he defends the run well. Although he’s somewhat undersized, Samuel projects as an outside corner in the NFL who can also play in the slot. Samuel doesn’t have great ball skills, but he did register three interceptions in 2020, so he seems to be improving in that regard. The Steelers have reportedly met with Samuel, but I wouldn’t want him selected in the first two rounds.

38. Greg Newsome — CB — Northwestern
#2, Jr, 6’1”, 190 lbs
Consensus ranking: 27 (NA, 25, 29, 29, 24)
2020 season stats: Tackles 12, FR 1, PD 10, Int 1, (6 games)

Necksnation: Although his tape was somewhat underwhelming, Newsome has the athleticism to succeed at the next level. His physicality and aggressiveness are two of his best traits, although they do make him susceptible to penalties. In addition, he has very good ball skills and open field tackling. Newsome only registered one interception in his time at Northwestern, but in 2020, he had seven pass breakups over three games. Newsome is raw, but his upside is high, which has made his stock rise over the past few months. I wouldn’t be surprised if he hears his name called in the first round, and he could be as high as the third cornerback off the board.

39. Walker Little — OT — Stanford
#72, Sr, 6’7”, 313 lbs
Consensus ranking: 88 (120, 87, 85, 81, 66)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: (1 games)

steelerfan11: Before Walker Little opted out of the 2020 season, I thought that he had a chance of being a top 15 pick. He has all the traits that you want in a blindside pass-blocker. The former five-star recruit was a very fluid mover, and his ability to mirror well in pass protection made him look the part of a franchise tackle. Hand usage was good, and he was very good instinctively. The only problem is that we have not seen him play in two years. Little had a knee injury at the beginning of the 2019 season and then opted out this season. I really would like to see how well he moves and performs post-injury, and that will be difficult to do considering that there is not a combine to evaluate him at either. I absolutely love the upside that Little brings, and he could be the steal of the draft, but he is anything but a sure thing. I must say that the more I watch of him from 2018, the more I would welcome the idea of the Steelers grabbing him if he is available on day two.

40. Davis Mills — QB — Stanford
#15, Sr, 6’4”, 225 lbs
Consensus ranking: 107 (62, 185, NA, 99, 80)
2020 season stats: 1,508 passing yards, 7 passing touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 37 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns (5 games)

steelerfan11: Mills was getting absolutely no hype two months ago, but people have begun to take notice of his talent. Mills shocked scouts when he ran a 4.58 in the 40 at his pro day, but what was more impressive was the accuracy he displayed in the rain, especially on deep throws. There were several games where Mills turned the ball over a lot, but he did not let the turnovers phase him. He generally came up clutch when his team needed a big play, and he showed good poise in the pocket for a quarterback who is inexperienced. He only started 11 games at the collegiate level, but the upside is a high-level NFL passer who can occasionally make plays with his feet. He has a very good chance of being taken inside the top 50 picks.

41. Daviyon Nixon — DL — Iowa
#54, So, 6’3”, 305 lbs
Consensus ranking: 43 (NA, 27, 61, 42, 43)
2020 season stats: Tackles 45, TFL 13.5, Sacks 5.5, FF 1, (8 games)

Itz JustNoah: In a relatively weak class for defensive lineman, Nixon is a bright spot. He’s not completely pro ready but he shows plenty of potential. He has excellent hands and athletic ability. Despite having 5.5 sacks (which is not bad for an interior lineman) he didn’t overly impress me as a pass rusher but his power as a run stopper is incredible. He has the ideal size and physical tools to be a starting defensive tackle, he just has to learn proper technique as a pass rusher to be really successful. I don’t think he’s a first round talent yet, but if a team wants to take a chance on him the upside is high.

42. Elijah Moore — WR — Ole Miss
#8, Jr., 5’9”, 184 lbs
Consensus ranking: 54 (NA, 56, 36, 68, 54)
2020 season stats: 86 receptions, 1193 receiving yards, 8 receiving TD (8 games)

Ryland B.: I hadn’t watched Elijah Moore at all until looking at film for this board, but I came away very impressed. He’s very quick and has solid speed, and runs good routes. He was very productive in college as well, and although he ran a lot of short routes, mainly bubble screens and curls, he was really successful when he got the chance to run vertically. I think he’ll translate quite well into the NFL as a starting slot receiver.

43. Carlos Basham — EDGE — Wake Forest
#9, Sr, 6’5”, 285 lbs
Consensus ranking: 50 (56, 62, 41, 48, 42)
2020 season stats: Tackles 28, TFL 5.5, Sacks 5, PD 1, FF 1 (7 games)

Ryland B.: Basham is a powerful edge rusher who has more of a clear fit as a 4-3 defensive end than anyone I’ve profiled so far for this board. He’s not a bad athlete per se, but he lacks the pure agility and bend of some of the others on this list, and his array of pass-rush moves isn’t the strongest. Still, Basham has good strength, plays with good discipline, and has a solid all-around game. He may not be an overly dynamic athlete, but Basham still made his impact at Wake Forest with some big plays. Hell be a good second round pick as he can start right away but probably not a great fit in Pittsburgh.

44. Jamin Davis — LB — Kentucky
#44, Jr, 6’4”, 234 lbs
Consensus ranking: 91 (44, 193, 36, 90, 94)
2020 season stats: Tackles 102, TFL 4, Sacks 2.5, FF 1, FR 1, PD 8, Int 5, (10 games)

Ryland B.: Davis has long been a popular sleeper in the draft community, and he’s starting to get mentioned as a potential first round pick in mock drafts. He’s a fantastic athlete with solid size, who is impressive in coverage and a solid run defender. He’s a willing tackler, but he can have a hard time making his way through traffic and not getting caught in blocks. Against the pass, he does show impressive ball skills and the athletic ability to stick with his assignment. He’s a good linebacker who will just have to improve his strength and instincts at the next level.

45. Trevon Moehrig — S — TCU
#7, Jr, 6’2”, 202 lbs
Consensus ranking: 23 (25, 17, 15, 30, 28)
2020 season stats: Tackles 47, Sacks 0, Int 2, PD 11, FF 0, FR 0, (10 games)

steelerfan11: Moehrig is the best safety in this class, but not by much. He has some versatility, but he will most likely settle in as a free safety in the NFL. His physicality is what I like most about him. He does not shy away from contact and isn’t afraid to hit hard. He has solid ball skills and good instincts, but his tackling is inconsistent. It seems as if sometimes he will go for the big blow rather than simply wrapping up the ball carrier. Moehrig will likely be a starting free safety in the NFL, but I would not take him until day two.

46. Tyson Campbell — CB — Georgia
#3, Jr, 6’2”, 185 lbs
Consensus ranking: 48 (31, 47, 55, 54, 52)
2020 season stats: Tackles 29, TFL 2.5, PD 6, Int 1, (10 games)

Ryland B.: Campbell is a good athlete who is still figuring out the corner position. He has good size and is physical in man coverage, with the speed to match up with top receivers. He’s a smooth mover with good quickness and he flips his hips well, but he can be a slow processor and still end up a step behind receivers. Campbell is an incredibly raw corner with all of the tools to succeed, but he will need to be developed by whichever NFL team drafts him.

47. Rashod Bateman — WR — Minnesota
#0, Jr., 6’2”, 210 lb
Consensus ranking: 22 (24, 26, 19, 19, 20)
2020 season stats: 36 receptions, 472 receiving yards, 2 receiving TD (5 games)

Ryland B.: Bateman’s COVID-19 shortened 2020 wasn’t anything to write home about, but if you turn on his 2019 tape you’ll see what the hype was all about. Bateman made a living off of contested catches, showing off his incredible hands and concentration, even pulling some passes in with only one hand. Concerns about his speed are a little overblown, as he has enough to gain separation on the NFL level, and has quick feet and runs good routes. Contested catch specialists often have a hard time transitioning to the NFL level, but I think that Bateman’s solid floor of skills put him in the late first/early second round conversation.

48. Jabril Cox — LB — LSU
#19, Sr, 6’4”, 231 lbs
Consensus ranking: 62 (85, 54, 39, 60, 71)
2020 season stats: Tackles 58, TFL 6.5, Sacks 1, FF 0, FR 1, Int 3, (11 games)

Ryland B.: Cox is quickly becoming one of my favorite linebackers in this draft. He’s built nearly the same as Jamin Davis, and similarly is an excellent athlete who is rock solid in coverage. He has the same big play gene as the Kentucky linebacker as well. But where Davis struggles in navigating traffic, Cox is a heat-seeking missile. He flies across the field and through contact to make tackles, and while he’s still developing as a run defender, he shows all of the required tools and effort. He’ll be excellent value in the second or third round.

49. Landon Dickerson — C — Alabama
Sr, #69, 6’6’’, 325 lbs
Consensus ranking: 67 (76, 59, 93, 56, 52)
2020 season stats: (12 games)

Ryland B.: If it wasn’t for Dickerson’s extensive injury history, I’d have a much higher grade on him. Dickerson is a technically sound, smart center with good size and strength who plays very aggressively. He’s a proven winner and leader as well. His strength and physicality shine in his run blocking, and he is good in pass protection thanks to his football IQ and technical ability. Besides the injuries, Dickerson’s weaknesses involve his overall athleticism, as it isn’t bad but far from elite, and he isn’t the most mobile. He’s a strong player though and shined at the SEC level, so there isn’t a whole lot to worry about there. If Dickerson can stay healthy he’ll be a very good NFL center. If you’re interested in reading more in-depth analysis on him, check out K.T. Smith’s extensive breakdown on Dickerson HERE.

50. Richie Grant — S — UCF
#27, Sr, 6’0”, 199 lbs
Consensus ranking: 84 (NA, 28, 186, 56, 66)
2020 season stats: Tackles 72, Sacks 1, Int 3, PD 0, FF 2, FR 2, (9 games)

Ryland B.: Grant is a top-tier coverage safety who really stood out in the Senior Bowl. He’s quick and instinctive in coverage with excellent ball skills. As a free safety his play recognition and range isn’t the greatest, but far from a concern. He isn’t the biggest, but still plays very physically and is a surprisingly good tackler. Grant projects best as a safety in the NFL, but he was fairly versatile in college, and I think that in the right scheme he could be a solid slot cornerback.

51. Gregory Rousseau — EDGE — Miami
#15, So, 6’7”, 265 lbs
Consensus ranking: 15 (16, 12, 16, 16, 16)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 54, TFL 19.5, Sacks 15.5 (13 games)

Ryland B.: From a draft perspective, I really wish that Rousseau hadn’t opted out of the 2020 season. He put up 15.5 sacks — as a redshirt freshman — in 2019, and was seen by most as a surefire top 10 pick entering the following season. But after opting out the following season he’s dropped in most rankings. The problem? Despite Rousseau’s impressive production, he’s still very raw, and with only one true season under his belt he’ll be a massive risk for whichever team gets him. He has all of the physical traits you could want in an edge rusher with great size and athleticism, but his game is still fairly underdeveloped. Rousseau has the talent to be a first round pick, but it will be interesting to see if he can live up to that billing.

52. Dillon Radunz — OT — North Dakota State
Sr, #75, 6’6’’, 299 lbs
Consensus ranking: 64 (67, 84, 56, 57, 55)
2020 season stats: (1 games)
2019 season stats: (16 games)

Ryland B.: Radunz has flown under the radar for a while, but began to pop up on draft radar as his teammate Trey Lance began to get more hype — and Radunz showed up on the tape. He’s not a freak athlete like Cosmi or Darrisaw, but he’s still a fairly good one with good mobility and strength. He’s a little undersized for the position, an issue I think will pop up more in the NFL than it did at the FCS level. I think he has the frame to bulk up, though. He’s solid in pass protection but shined best in run blocking, showing excellent power and drive. Radunz had a strong Senior Bowl and showed the versatility to play at guard as well. Radunz’s smaller size and school are legitimate concerns, but as for now the NDSU linemen has established himself as a fringe first round candidate at offensive tackle.

53. Amon-Ra St. Brown — WR — USC
#8, Jr., 6’1” 195 lbs
Consensus ranking: 62 (58, 68, NA, 61, 60)
2020 season stats: 41 receptions, 478 receiving yards, 7 receiving TD (6 games)

steelerfan11: St. Brown has the bloodlines and the talent that warrant a first round selection, and he has a skill set to complement that. He is very quick and clean in and out of his cuts, he runs decent routes, has good body control and sideline awareness, has solid speed, and displays reliable hands week in and week out. Former USC receiver Juju Smith-Schuster is a reasonable comparison here as well, but I honestly think St. Brown’s game is a little more complete and a little better in terms of overall upside. While he isn’t dominant in any one area, he is very good in almost every category. If he isn’t a WR1 for some team, he will most certainly be one of the best #2 receivers in the league. He is a high floor prospect with a reasonably high ceiling.

54. Jayson Oweh — EDGE — Penn State
#28, So, 6’5”, 253 lbs
Consensus ranking: 47 (80, 50, 35, 35, 33)
2020 season stats: Tackles 63, TFL 13.5, Sacks 0, PD 2, FF 2 (7 games)

steelerfan11: Oweh has as much potential as anyone in the class, but he lacked production in 2020. It is not every day that you see a 250+ pound athlete run the 40 in under 4.4 seconds, but Oweh can do it. However, he has struggled to translate his God-given athletic gifts to the football field. Some scouting reports that you read will say that he is limited to 4-3 schemes, but I believe the exact opposite. I think that he will only have success as a 3-4 outside linebacker. If you watch his tape, you will see that he lacks quickness out of his stance when lined up as a down lineman with his hand in the dirt, but he was a totally different player when he was a stand-up linebacker. He had a quicker first step, and he was more effective using his speed. If a team is willing to be patient with Oweh and not expect much from him in year one, he will have a chance to blossom into one of the top 3-4 outside linebackers in the league. For more perspective on Oweh, here is an interesting scouting report on him from Big Blue View.

55. Terrace Marshall — WR — LSU
#6, Jr., 6’3”, 200 lbs
Consensus ranking: 41 (65, 35, 35, 36, 35)
2020 season stats: 48 receptions, 731 receiving yards, 10 receiving TD (7 games)

Ryland B.: Part of a highly productive LSU offense in 2019, Marshall still managed to shine despite being in the same wide receiver room as Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase. Both Jefferson and Chase didn’t play in 2020, and Marshall was able to capitalize on the opportunity, putting up good numbers before opting out part way through the season. Marshall has really great size and good vertical speed and ball skills, although his hands aren’t the most consistent. Marshall is a good route-runner as well, although there is room to grow regarding his quickness and agility. Having been overlooked early on in his career due to the talented offense he played on, Marshall could be steal in the upcoming draft.

56. Teven Jenkins — OT — Oklahoma State
Sr, #73, 6’6’’, 320 lbs
Consensus ranking: 61 (109, 96, 33, 37, 32)
2020 season stats: (12 games)

Ryland B.: Another name that comes up a lot at #24 in mock drafts, Jenkins is a powerful run-blocker at the tackle position who is still improving at the pass-blocking aspect of his position. I wasn’t all that impressed at first but he grew on me the more I watched. Jenkins really has that mauler mentality and plays with great power and drive. Put a guy in front of him and Jenkins will move him out of the way. This overaggressive style of play can get Jenkins in trouble at times, especially when paired with his lack of athleticism and technique. Overall I like Jenkins, as tough, aggressive linemen are something the Steelers really need more of on their roster. Still, there are a lot of issues that are hard to ignore, and Jenkins certainly needs to develop.

57. Jevon Holland — S/CB — Oregon
#8, Jr, 6’1”, 201 lbs
Consensus ranking: 57 (52, 59, 59, 54, 61)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 66, Sacks 0, Int 4, PD 4, FF 0, FR 0, (14 games)

steelerfan11: Holland has the best versatility of any safety in this class. He can play both safety spots as well as nickel cornerback, and I expect the team that drafts him to use him sporadically at each of those positions. Holland opted out of the 2020 season, but he was the leader of the Oregon defense in 2019, accounting for four interceptions and over sixty tackles. Holland has ideal speed and length to excel in man coverage, and he did exactly that in college. He has loose hips and moves fluidly when dropping into zone, but there are a few instances where he would drop too deep or not deep enough. He became much more consistent in 2019 in that department while still displaying his athletic traits and versatility. He was projected to be a top 15 pick before opting out, but his stock has fallen to a probable day two pick. He could be one of the true steals of the draft if he is still on the board after the top 50 picks.

58. Patrick Jones — EDGE — Pittsburgh
#91, Sr, 6’5”, 260 lbs
Consensus ranking: 55 (31, 67, 49, 67, 60)
2020 season stats: Tackles 44, TFL 13, Sacks 9 (11 games)

Ryland B.: Jones is an athletic pass-rusher with an insanely quick first step. He has solid size, and while he’s still a little raw overall there aren’t any major concerns when rushing the passer or defending the run. As a 4-3 defensive end, Jones is a very solid prospect who will just need some time to grow into his role in the NFL. However, as a 3-4 outside linebacker, a position Jones would play in the Steelers’s system (an actual possibility as the team met with him at the Senior Bowl), there would be a lot more to work on. Jones has the ideal size and athletic profile but is severely lacking when it comes to anything besides rushing the passer from a defensive end stance.

59. Alex Leatherwood — OT — Alabama
Sr, #70, 6’6”, 312 lbs
Consensus ranking: 47 (45, 38, NA, 33, 30)
2020 season stats: (13 games)

ItzJustNoah: Leatherwood is a mammoth of a man. He is listed at 312, I think he’s probably a bit more than that but not in a bad way. He’s very balanced, providing power as a pass protector and a run blocker. He’s very strong and he easily keeps his balance against stronger guys. I was very impressed, when looking at his tape, by his footwork especially for a guy his size. Despite that though, his mobility is not very fluid and speed rushers will beat him.

60. Wyatt Davis — G — Ohio State
Jr, #52, 6’4”, 315 lbs
Consensus ranking: 33 (NA, NA, NA, 29, 37)
2020 season stats: (8 games)

Ryland B.: There’s a lot to like about Wyatt Davis. He’s a powerful, athletic guard who has been a starter for a while on one of the better lines in college football. He’s a mauler who can move defenders in the run game, and he’s pretty solid in pass protection. Davis isn’t the most polished player at his position, as he can get pushed back sometimes and can struggle staying on a block. However, he’s an experienced, high-upside prospect overall who is still a safe pick in the early rounds.

61. Quinn Meinerz — C/G — UW-Whitewater
Sr, #77, 6’3”, 320 lbs
Consensus ranking: 157 (NA, 130, 176, 165, NA)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: (15 games)

steelerfan11: Meinerz played his entire collegiate career at guard until his senior season. After an offseason of, well, interesting training, he made the move to center and played at a really high level for Wisconsin-Whitewater. He was still somewhat of an unknown commodity up until a few weeks ago when he shined at the Senior Bowl. He consistently won in one-on-one drills and showed his toughness and attitude as a blocker. His personality, style of play, and hair all make Ryan Jensen a logical comparison. I’m not saying that he will become one of the top two or three centers in football and go on to win a super bowl like Jensen, but he does not seem to be as raw a prospect as the initial scouting reports were saying. The NFL is quite a leap from Division III college football, but Meinerz has the toughness and moxie to be a really good interior lineman down the road.

62. Liam Eichenberg — OT, — Notre Dame
Sr, #74, 6’6”, 302 lbs
Consensus ranking: 63 (105, 77, 46, 45, 43)
2020 season stats: (12 games)

Ryland B.: The highest rated member of a very good Notre Dame offensive line last year, Eichenberg has been projected all the way from the first to the third round in some mock drafts. A very good run blocker, Eichenberg plays tough while showing decent strength. In pass protection, his lack of athleticism shows, but he is still solid overall. Speed rushers give him fits though and cause him to lunge too often. Eichenberg is a good high floor/low ceiling prospect who will probably be a starter at the NFL level, although I’m not sure if he has Pro Bowl potential.

63. Shaun Wade — CB/S — Ohio State
#24, Jr, 6’1”, 195 lbs
Consensus ranking: 100 (144, 66, 108, 98, 86)
2020 season stats: Tackles 35, TFL 1, PD 1, Int 2, (8 games)

steelerfan11: Wade had a fantastic year in 2019 when Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette were manning the outside, but Wade struggled mightily when he was asked to be a boundary corner in 2020. Wade made a few decent plays, but he struggled for the most part. However, literally whenever Ohio State moved him to the slot for a few plays, he was his old self and was blanketing receivers. Ty Fryfogle of Indiana absolutely torched Wade all day when he was playing on the outside, but on the few occasions he was put in the slot, he did well against Whop Philyor and the other Indiana receivers. As a prospect, I like Wade’s athleticism and upside, and I think the 2020 season was just a fluke. Some think that he will move to safety, but I honestly think playing the nickel is what he does best. If he can be an inside-only corner for a team, he could be a potential pro-bowler down the line.

64. Trey Hill — C/G — Georgia
Jr, #55, 6’4”, 330 lbs
Consensus ranking: 113 (148, 123, NA, 88, 91)
2020 season stats: (8 games)

steelerfan11: If you ever read my comments about my hopes for the Steelers this offseason, Trey Hill has probably been mentioned at some point in time. Hill just turned 21 and still has a lot of room to grow as a prospect, but he could start from day one if the Steelers needed him to be. He gets good leverage, uses his hands well, and maintains a low pad level. He has excellent power and is an absolute mauler in the run game, and I believe his ability to get to the second level of the defense is way better than what your average scouting report on him will say. While he has sufficient mobility and has shown the ability to pull as either a center or guard, he isn’t super light on his feet. If he remains at center, he may want to drop a couple pounds, but I would love to see Hill next to Kevin Dotson on that offensive line. I believe that Hill is one of the most underrated players in this draft. If he is still there on day three, some team is getting an absolute steal.

65. D’Wayne Eskridge — WR — Western Michigan
#1, Sr., 5’9” 190 lbs
Consensus ranking: 109 (NA, 89, 105, 134, NA)
2020 season stats: 34 receptions, 784 receiving yards, 8 receiving TD (5 games)

Ryland B: Eskridge’s draft stock rose meteorically during the Senior Bowl, going from a mid-round grade to a viable late first-rounder to many. Despite playing at a lower level of competition, Eskridge showed he could put DB’s at any level on skates during his impressive string of practices at the all-star game. Eskridge runs very snappy routes, making sharp cuts, and showing off great acceleration — all while being one of the fastest receivers in this class. He’s a little small for an NFL wideout, but he still has good hands and toughness, along with a defensive background. He was a starting cornerback at Western Michigan for much of his time there, and played fairly well. Overall, there’s a lot to like about Eskridge’s game, and while a good Senior Bowl may have taken aways his status as a late-round gem, a deep wide receiver class could push him into the second round. He’s a MAC guy, too, which means the Steelers will definitely have him on their radar.

66. Tylan Wallace — WR — Oklahoma State
#2, Sr., 6’0”, 190 lbs
Consensus ranking: 53 (62, 50, 60, 72, 67)
2020 season stats: 59 receptions, 922 receiving yards, 6 receiving TD (13 games)

Ryland B.: Tylan Wallace has been consistently productive as a three-year starter at Oklahoma State, racking up nearly 3,500 receiving yards in his career as a contested-catch specialist. Wallace doesn’t have great size or speed, and his lanky frame limits his agility and quickness. However, he’s a good football player, period. Wallace has really great hands and tracks the ball well, and despite not being the biggest guy, he wins a lot of jump balls. He’s a scrappy, physical receiver who is an excellent blocker and tough to bring down after the catch, fighting hard for yardage every time. He also sells out for the ball when it’s in the air, fighting through the defender and contorting his body to find a way to make the catch. Wallace was an excellent college receiver, but his athletic profile may hinder his transition to the NFL.

67. Jalen Mayfield — OT — Michigan
So, #73, 6’5”, 320 lbs
Consensus ranking: 32 (29, 44, 26, 32, 29)
2020 season stats: (2 games)

steelerfan11: Another example of Ed Warriner’s excellent coaching, Mayfield was very raw when arriving at Michigan, losing frequently to quicker edge rushers that had a quicker first step than he had and getting overpowered by more powerful pass rushers. After several years under good coaching, Mayfield has taken amazing strides in his game and has become much more refined. He knows how to move defenders in the run game, and his strong lower body helps him anchor well. His footwork is somewhat slow and sloppy at times, and I would like to see him get out of his stance a bit quicker, but Mayfield has a high floor due to his versatility to play both tackle and guard. His ceiling will likely depend on whether he can slide over to the left side in the NFL.

68. Brady Christiansen — OT — BYU
Jr, #67, 6’6’’, 300 lbs
Consensus ranking: (137, 195, NA, 112, NA)
2020 season stats: (12 games)

Ryland B.: Trusted with protecting top quarterback prospect Zach Wilson at BYU, Christiansen was excellent as a pass protector. He’s a smart, physical player with decent size and strength. He’s also a good run blocker who plays powerfully and with good technique. Where Christiansen is lacking is in his athleticism, as he’s not that mobile and had some trouble with agile, athletic pass-rushers. He also went on a mission trip while in college which makes him older than most of the prospects in this draft, which might have aided in his college success, as well as taking away a couple years from his NFL career. It’s worth noting he’s pretty popular with the folks at PFF, but who knows how those grades will translate at the next level. Christiansen doesn’t have a very high ceiling, but his floor is high enough to be a solid starter early on in his NFL career.

69. Jackson Carman — OT/OG — Clemson
Jr, #79, 6’5”, 335 lbs
Consensus ranking: 62 (37, 71, NA, 66, 74)
2020 season stats: (12 games)

steelerfan11: Carman may have the highest upside of any tackle after Penei Sewell, but inconsistency has been the story of his collegiate career. Carman was playing at about 345 pounds at Clemson, which allowed him to be an absolute mauler in the run game. That size became a double-edged sword, however, as he was often unable to win battles against speedy edge rushers one-on-one. His first step is slower than what you would like in a blindside protector, and his pad level could use a little work in the run game. He has every tool you could ever want, but I really think he needs to drop 10-15 pounds if he is going to reach that potential at tackle. If not, I think that a move to guard at the next level is inevitable (Note: Carman weighed 317 pounds at his pro day. Sounds like he wants to stay at tackle).

70. Dylan Moses — LB — Alabama
#32, Sr, 6’3”, 240 lbs
Consensus ranking: 59 (76, 48, 54, 62, 53)
2020 season stats: Tackles 80, TFL 22, Sacks 6.5, FF 1, FR 0, PD 4, Int 1, (13 games)

Necksnation: Once considered a potential top 10 pick, an underwhelming 2020 caused Moses to plummet on draft boards. He is an above average tackler who is very athletic, although it isn’t always evident in his film. Moses’ awareness is a reason for concern. In the film I watched, he was frequently getting fooled by read options, and it sometimes looked like he didn’t know where the ball was. His coverage skills could also use some work, as he only registered two interceptions and four pass breakups in his three seasons at Alabama. However, if he can return to his 2018 form, Moses has the potential to be a quality starter for an NFL team.

71. Eric Stokes — CB — Georgia
#27, Jr, 6’1”, 185 lbs
Consensus ranking: 58 (65, 70, 62, 48, 43)
2020 season stats: Tackles 20, Int 1, (9 games)

Ryland B.: Stokes’ blazing 40 time (4.25 seconds) likely moved him up on some draft boards, but he’s not necessarily a first round talent. Similarly to his teammate Tyson Campbell, Stokes has some incredible measurables, with fantastic size and speed. He’s also a physical corner in both coverage and run support. However, Stokes is more of a straight line athlete than Campbell, as while he is fast he doesn’t move the smoothest or possess the greatest agility, although it is far from a major concern. Stokes’ ball skills are a plus, but he is still raw and not NFL-ready quite yet. However, Stokes has all of the tools and effort needed to succeed at the next level.

72. Anthony Schwartz — WR — Auburn
#1, Jr., 6’0”, 179
Consensus ranking: 117 (141, 92, NA, 118, NA)
2020 season stats: 54 receptions, 636 receiving yards, 3 receiving TD (10 games)

steelerfan11: Schwartz is one of my favorite prospects in this entire class. There is fast, and then there is freakishly fast. Tyreek Hill fast. Schwartz honestly disappointed me with his 4.26 40 time at his pro day. Listed at only 179 pounds, Schwartz could probably afford to add ten pounds and not lose his world class speed. Schwartz has pretty good hands for a speed guy, and he is not afraid to work the middle of the field. He can line up on the outside or in the slot, although his best fit in the NFL will likely be the slot. I wish that he was a more willing blocker and had a little more shiftiness to his game, but the sky’s the limit for a guy with Schwartz’s speed.

73. Hunter Long — TE — Boston College
#80, Jr, 6’5”, 253 lbs
Consensus ranking: 90 (NA, 111, 49, 110, NA)
2020 season stats: 57 receptions, 685 receiving yards, 5 receiving TD’s, (11 games)

Ryland B.: Long was targeted a lot last year as a big part of Boston College’s offense, and responded well with some admirable production. He has good size and decent athleticism, although he lacks the athletic upside of some of the others in this class. As a receiver he has solid hands and speed, and while his routes aren’t anything special, they’re more than adequate for a man his size. Long is a great blocker, being both willing and effective, with good hand placement and drive. While Long is still above-average as a receiver, there are still some issues overall. He isn’t the most athletic and could have a tough time getting separation on the next level. His hands are good, but there are still some drops here and there, and while he made some tough catches, he failed to hold onto some passes you would expect a big, imposing tight end to come down with. He’s not much of a threat after the catch, either. Overall I’m not as big a fan of Long as some others are, but in a weak class he’s a solid third option. He could be a good #2 tight end for an NFL team, but I don’t think he has much starter upside.

74. Cameron McGrone — LB — Michigan
#44, Jr, 6’1”, 236 lbs
Consensus ranking: 88 (121, 69, NA, 83, 79)
2020 season stats: Tackles 26, TFL 2, Sacks 4.5, FF 1, FR 0, PD 1, Int 0, (5 games)

steelerfan11: Familiar with Devin Bush? McGrone has a similar profile but has a smaller sample size. He has the same size, speed, and blitzing ability that made Bush a top ten pick, but we did not see it week in and week out. However, much of that may have been because of Michigan’s inconsistent play as a unit. When Aidan Hutchinson went down with a season ending injury, Michigan’s defensive line struggled to get consistent pressure, which made Josh Ross’ And McGrone’s job more difficult. McGrone had an injury of his own in 2020, but he displayed amazing toughness and played through it. He is excellent in man coverage, but his ability to play zone coverage is an unknown at this point because of how rarely Michigan employed zone philosophies. If he reaches his full potential, he’s Devin Bush 2.0, but the Steelers already have the real Devin Bush. I expect them to find someone who would be more of a complement to Bush’s skill set.

75. Alim McNeill — DL — North Carolina State
#29, Jr, 6’2”, 320 lbs
Consensus ranking: 68 (NA, 63, NA, 75, 67)
2020 season stats: Tackles 26, TFL 4.5, Sacks 1, FF 1, FR 1, (11 games)

steelerfan11: McNeill does an excellent job of splitting the A-gap and applying pressure from the interior, but he will sometimes get upfield too quickly on running downs and become a non-factor against the run. It is rare for a 320 pound prospect to have issues with “overrunning” plays, but that is sometimes the case with McNeill. He has a quick first step out of his stance, and he maintains a good pad level, but I have concerns as to whether he can adjust the technical difficulties in his game. That said, he has enough intrigue as a penetrating 3-4 nose tackle to warrant a day two pick.

76. Pete Werner — LB — Ohio State
#20, Sr, 6’3”, 242 lbs
Consensus ranking: 112 (126, 121, 96, 106, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 54, TFL 2.5, Sacks 1, FF 2, FR 0, PD 1, Int 0, (8 games)

steelerfan11: I was not looking at Werner as a potential fit for the Steelers during the season simply because I did not know if he had the necessary athleticism, but he silenced doubters like me by recording a 4.58 40 and a 39.5 inch vertical. He is very good instinctually and plays a very smart version of football. His role increased in Ohio State’s defense despite the crowded linebacker room, and he was up to the task both in coverage and against the run. If Werner continues to improve in coverage, his size and athleticism will make him a valuable player as early as year one.

77. Milton Williams — DL — Louisiana Tech
#97, Jr, 6’4”, 278 lbs
Consensus ranking: 225 (NA, 292, NA, 157, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 44, TFL 10, Sacks 4.5, PD 1, FR 3, (10 games)

Ryland B.: Williams is an athletic prospect with a lot of upside, but questions regarding his size and strength will make him a risky pick in the upcoming draft. He has good mobility and has some nice pass-rush moves, and he’s a good tackler and run defender. He’s undersized though, and got pushed back more often than you’d like to see from an interior lineman. He rarely did much against double teams, too. On tape I did notice he got held a lot, which is a testament to his quickness and hand-usage. Williams will be an interesting late-round pick, but some major holes in his game may damper his otherwise fantastic upside.

78. Ronnie Perkins — EDGE — Oklahoma
#7, Jr, 6’4”, 248 lbs
Consensus ranking: 70 (NA, 98, NA, 59, 52)
2020 season stats: Tackles 24, TFL 10.5, Sacks 5.5, PD 0, FF 0, FR 0 (6 games)

Ryland B.: Perkins is a strong, aggressive EDGE with good athleticism. He has violent hands and a good collection of pass rush moves, although there is room to develop in that area. For someone listed at under 250 pounds, Perkins plays much bigger than he is and I can’t stress enough how impressive his strength is. He’s a good tackler and has all of the tools to be a good run defender, but hasn’t completely arrived there yet, with The Draft Network noting that he is “wildly undisciplined” when defending the run. A suspension at Oklahoma could be a red flag as well.

79. Joe Tryon —EDGE — Washington
#9, Jr, 6’5”, 262 lbs
Consensus ranking: 53 (65, 72, 31, 53, 46)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 61, TFL 14.5, Sacks 9, PD 2 (13 games)

Ryland B.: Tyron is a very athletic presence on the edge with good size and strength. He has impressive hand usage and some good pass-rush moves, and when paired with his speed and agility it can be quite the combination. Against the run Tyron is solid, but he can get pushed back a little more often that you’d like and isn’t the strongest tackler. It’s also worth noting that Tyron sat out the 2020 season, which might drop his draft stock a bit as 2019 was really his only good year in college.

80. Chazz Surratt — LB — North Carolina
#21, Sr, 6’2”, 225 lbs
Consensus ranking: 70 (81, 75, 47, 74, 73)
2020 season stats: Tackles 91, TFL 7.5, Sacks 6, FF 1, FR 1, PD 4, Int 1, (11 games)

Itz JustNoah: As a UNC fan, I had the pleasure of watching Surratt in a lot of games this year. His pro day numbers may not be the greatest but his athleticism is evident on tape. He’s always around the ball, he plays fast and he’s good against the pass, both in coverage and as a pass rusher. Surratt is relatively new to the position and he’s not very refined but his raw talent is undeniable and should easily make him at least a 3rd round pick if he doesn’t sneak into the 2nd. I wouldn’t mind if Pittsburgh wanted to take him but I would prefer we take Collins or Bolton before even thinking about Surratt.

81. Nick Bolton — ILB — Missouri
#32, Jr, 6’0”, 232 lbs
Consensus ranking: 37 (50, 31, 32, 36, 38)
2020 season stats: Tackles 95, TFL 16, Sacks 4, FF 0, FR 1, PD 5, Int 0, (10 games)

Ryland B.: Built like Devin Bush, Bolton has a skillset similar to that of a slightly more athletic Vince Williams. He doesn’t have sideline-to-sideline range, but he has tremendous short-area explosiveness, and is a tough, physical tackler. He’s a smart player who is decent in zone coverage, but his athletic limitations show up when in man coverage. I think he could be a great interior blitzer, using his quickness to shoot gaps, but I didn’t see him do much of that at Missouri. I’m not as big a fan of his tape as others, as he often had a really hard time shedding blocks, which could be a big problem on the next level. Bolton is a solid prospect who could hear his name called anywhere from the first to third round in a linebacker class everyone has ranked differently.

82. Trey Sermon — RB — Ohio State
#8, Senior, 6’ 1”, 215 lbs
2020 season stats: 870 rushing yards, 4 rushing touchdowns, 7.5 YPC, 12 receptions, 95 receiving yards, 0 receiving touchdowns

Ryland B.: Sermon put himself on the map after a historic 2021 Big Ten Championship game, in which he had 331 rushing yards, followed by another dominating performance against Clemson in the CFP semifinal, in which he nearly had 200 rushing yards. Sermon is a big, powerful, explosive runner with lots of upside, even though he was in a limited role with Ohio State his senior year. We didn’t get to see much of him catching passes in college, but he has the ability and will look to improve on that in the NFL. I think Sermon’s injury issues are a little overblown, as an ACL injury and shoulder injury in separate years feel more like bad luck than injury-proneness. If anything, the ACL tear in 2019 would’ve been the hardest to come back from, but Sermon bounced back nicely in 2020. If the shoulder injury heals well there shouldn’t be much to worry about long-term. Sermon is an interesting prospect this draft, as he has lots of potential but never really seemed to develop all the way. He definitely has starter upside if he can learn the ropes in the NFL.

83. James Hudson — OT — Cincinnati
Jr, #55, 6’5”, 310 lbs
Consensus ranking: 111 (115, 180, 40, 110, NA)
2020 season stats: (10 games)

Ryland B.: Hudson is an athletic, raw prospect at offensive tackle coming out of Cincinnati. It’s easy to see why people like him so much on tape, as he’s big, powerful, and a fluid athlete. He plays with good aggressiveness and drive, his mobility really shines on some reps. There are some pretty glaring issues though, as Hudson’s technique can be all over the place. Sometimes he plays too high, and he can sometimes reach too much instead of mirroring. He seems to be a bit grabby at times too. Hudson certainly has the potential to fix all of these issues and be a very good starter in the NFL, but don’t expect him to start day one.

84. Dyami Brown — WR — North Carolina
#2, Jr., 6’0”, 185 lbs
Consensus ranking: 113 (108, 95, NA, 135, NA)
2020 season stats: 55 receptions, 1099 receiving yards, 8 receiving TD (11 games)

steelerfan11: Brown is very good at getting vertical. He has great ball skills and does a great job of tracking the ball downfield. He does have the occasional dropped pass, but he seemed to improve in that department as the season went along. What makes Brown an intriguing option in the middle rounds is that, unlike a lot of other receivers in this part of the draft, he gives tremendous effort as a blocker. He does a good job of creating separation late in his routes, and he isn’t afraid of working the middle of the field. There is certainly upside for Brown, and he should be able to step in and contribute immediately as a #3 option for an offense.

85. Kenneth Gainwell — RB — Memphis
#19, Sophomore, 5’11”, 191 lbs
2020 season stats: Opted out
2019 season stats: 1,459 rushing yards, 13 rushing touchdowns, 6.3 YPC, 51 receptions, 610 receiving yards, 3 receiving touchdowns

Ryland B.: A versatile athlete, Gainwell can play both out of the running back position and in the slot — and he was successful in both during his breakout 2019 season. Gainwell has good speed and is a shifty, elusive runner. He isn’t the biggest back out there, but is a surprisingly powerful rusher even though he might want to bulk up in the NFL. As a receiver, Gainwell has good hands and can run solid routes. His versatility and speed are great assets that will make him an exciting addition to any backfield in the next level, although scouts might want to take into account that he opted out of the 2021 season.

86. Levi Onwuzurike — DL — Washington
#95, Sr, 6’3”, 293 lbs
Consensus ranking: 45 (30, 83, 25, 44, 41)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 45, TFL 6, Sacks 2, FF 0, (13 games)

Ryland B.: A true disruptor up front, Onwuzurike may not have had the flashiest statistics at Washington, but he still made quite the impact. Onwuzurike has exceptional athleticism for someone his size and plays with a relentless motor, constantly making his way into opponents’ backfields. His power and hand usage are very impressive as well. Onwuzurike’s tape is impressive, but my main nitpick is that he seems to play too high at times, allowing him to get driven back and lose the leverage battle, missing some tackles as well. Overall though it isn’t a major issue and is definitely fixable. Onwuzurike may be a little undersized for a traditional 3-4, but if he bulks up a bit or gets placed in the right scheme, he has all of the tools to succeed at the NFL level.

87. Elijah Mitchell — RB — Louisiana
#15, Senior, 5’11”, 218 lbs
2020 season stats: 878 rushing yards, 8 rushing touchdowns, 6.2 YPC, 16 receptions, 153 receiving yards, 0 receiving touchdowns

steelerfan11: Mitchell was part of a good backfield at Louisiana, but he was the best runner of the guys in that backfield. He displays good awareness as a runner, and his balance through contact is impressive as well. He also has good short area quickness and decent footwork. While he did not have a ton of production as a receiver, he has shown excellent hands, which he displayed at the Senior Bowl. He slimmed down to 201 pounds to run a fast 40 at his pro day (ran a 4.38), but I expect him to regain that weight and play around 220 pounds in the NFL, which was about what he played at in college. He is a big sleeper in this class and will provide excellent value to a team that waits until day three to select a running back.

88. Patrick Johnson — EDGE — Tulane
#7, Sr, 6’3”, 255 lbs
Consensus ranking: 229 (NA, 244, NA, 214, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 39, TFL 14.5, Sacks 10, PD 2, FF 2, FR 0 (11 games)

steelerfan11: Johnson is a versatile pass rusher who lined up all over the place for Tulane. While he did not always play against elite competition, he was successful in every aspect of his game for Tulane, whether it was rushing the passer, dropping into coverage, or stopping the run. He has tremendous hand usage and a good repertoire of pass-rushing moves, but his biggest strength may be his ability to process information quickly as a run defender. He plays bigger than his 240 pound frame suggests, and that is evident based on how well he sets the edge in the run game. Johnson will be able to step in immediately as a 3rd or 4th outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme and could fight for a starting job on a team as early as year two.

89. Michael Carter — RB — North Carolina
#8, Senior, 5’8”, 199 lbs
2020 season stats: 1,245 rushing yards, 9 rushing touchdowns, 8.0 YPC, 25 receptions, 267 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns

Ryland B.: Carter was sharing a backfield with the talented Javonte Williams in 2020, but still managed to set career-highs in nearly every statistical category, rushing for over 1,200 yards with a whopping 8 yards per carry. Carter is compactly built with a fast, explosive running style. His 40 time wasn’t great but turn on the tape and you’ll see a much faster player on game days. He’s a smooth runner with excellent footwork who navigates through traffic well, often out-maneuvering defensive backs once he gets to the second level of the defense. He’s not the greatest at getting through contact, but shows good effort and has solid balance. He wasn’t used as a pass-catcher a lot at North Carolina, but he can catch, and has the potential to be a dangerous receiver out of the backfield in the NFL.

90. Robert Rochell — CB — Central Arkansas
#9, Sr, 6’0”, 195 lbs
Consensus ranking: 149 (NA, 188, 82, 177, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 27, TFL 1, FF 1, FR 1, PD 3, Int 0, (7 games)

Ryland B.: The small school could be a concern, but I really liked what I saw of Rochell’s tape. He’s an athletic, physical corner who is well-suited for the outside. He has good ball skills, is good in press coverage and playing off, and is solid in run support. However, he’s not the most agile or the smoothest mover, despite his impressive athletic profile. Ultimately, Rochell is the stereotypical outside press/man corner, but he does have more upside and versatility than most.

91. Ambry Thomas — CB — Michigan
#1, Sr, 6’0”, 183 lbs
Consensus ranking: 173 (120, 209, 166, 196, NA)
2019 season stats: Tackles 38, TFL 3, FR 2, PD 4, Int 3, (13 games)

steelerfan11: Thomas opted out of the 2020 season, but the 2019 tape was pretty impressive. Michigan played almost 100% man defense in Don Brown’s defense, but he has shown good fluidity and instincts, which would make one think that he could be solid in zone coverage as well. I expect him to pick up zone defense fairly quickly, but in year one, you will only want to see him on the field when your defense is playing man. When lined up on the outside for Michigan, he did a great job of disrupting receivers at the line of scrimmage and getting good position against receivers that were bigger than him. Quite honestly, the only time in his college career that he was dominated by a single player was DeVonta Smith in the Citrus Bowl last year, but Smith pretty much dominated every corner this past season. Looking back on it a year later, I doubt that very many teams are looking at that tape and saying that this guy has no shot in the NFL. If that were the case, a lot of corners the next couple years are going to be off teams’ boards as well. If Thomas can shake the rust off from sitting for a year, he could be a productive player as soon as year one.

92. Simi Fehoko — WR — Stanford
#13, Jr., 6’4”, 227 lbs
Consensus ranking: 423 (NA, 423, NA, NA, NA)
2020 season stats: 37 receptions, 574 receiving yards, 3 receptions TD (6 games)

steelerfan11: Have you ever heard of a guy named Chase Claypool? Fehoko isn’t quite as strong as Claypool, but there are some similarities. At 6’4 and over 225 pounds, he has the ability to win the contested catches in tight spaces. While a few drops do show up on tape, he generally displays strong hands needed to haul in the balls that are thrown into heavy traffic. I know that 40 times do not make or break a player, but that time is rather important when evaluating receivers and perimeter skill players. If there was a combine this year, his straight-line speed could probably get him in the 4.3s. He isn’t quite that fast when you see him on tape, but we said the same thing about Claypool after he ran his 4.42 last year. He also has some sneaky wiggle to his game. If he can clean up those occasional drops, he has a chance to be special.

93. Rhamondre Stevenson — RB — Oklahoma
#29, Senior, 6’0”, 246 lbs
2020 season stats: 665 rushing yards, 7 rushing touchdowns, 6.6 YPC, 18 receptions, 211 receiving yards, 0 receiving touchdowns

Ryland B.: I hadn’t seen much of Rhamondre Stevenson during his time in college, but when I turned on the tape my first thought was, Wow, he moves FAST for a big guy. For a nearly 250-pound running back, Stevenson looks like the fastest guy on the field at times (it’s worth noting he has recently lost around 20 lbs in preparation for the NFL). He’s big, fast, powerful, and explosive, with nearly all of the athletic potential you could ask for in an NFL running back. He doesn’t have the same level of footwork or shiftiness as some of the smaller backs in this class, but again, for the big runner that Stevenson is, it’s pretty impressive. Stevenson is one of my favorite prospects I’ve seen so far in this draft process, but some off the field issues damper the hype a bit. A failed drug test at Oklahoma, as well as some academic issues earlier in his career, could be a red flag on his NFL resume. However, if Stevenson can prove that it won’t be an issue in the future, there’s a lot to be excited about concerning his NFL career.

94. Jaylen Twyman — DL — Pittsburgh
#97, Jr, 6’2”, 290 lbs
Consensus ranking: 79 (43, 103, 89, 77, 85)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 57, TFL 12, Sacks 11, (13 games)

Ryland B.: An undersized defensive lineman, Twyman still impressed with some incredible production at Pitt. He’s a twitchy athlete with good mobility, and a well-polished pass rusher. Twyman’s size and strength are probably the biggest concerns, as he wasn’t the greatest run defender and often struggled against double teams. Twyman ended up opting out of the 2020 season, which many viewed as a mistake as there were still a lot of questions regarding his play. However, it seems as if Twyman used his time off wisely, bulking up a gaining strength to put on a show at the Pitt pro day (40 reps on the bench!). Twyman’s limitations may hurt his NFL career, but I believe that if he is put in the right system and can continue to gain strength, he could be very successful on the next level.

95. Paulson Adebo — CB — Stanford
#11, Sr, 6’1”, 192 lbs
Consensus ranking: 94 (110, 97, 73, 95, 96)
2020 season stats: Tackles 33, PD 10, Int 4, ( games)

Itz JustNoah: Adebo has the size, athleticism and length to be an elite level cornerback. He’s good in both man and zone coverage, he recognizes routes and is able to easily stay with receivers, his ball skills are great and his footwork is phenomenal. He does need to get his head around quicker on deeper routes and he might need to be a tad less physical at the next level but overall he’s a very underrated prospect that can be something special if he puts it all together. For teams that are in need of a corner but ready to win now, Adebo would be a great pick in the second or potentially third round.

96. Tommy Tremble — TE — Notre Dame
#24, Jr, 6’4’, 248 lbs
Consensus ranking: 233 (NA, 208, NA, 258, NA)
2020 season stats: 19 receptions, 218 receiving yards, 0 receiving TD’s, (12 games)

Ryland B.: I think that Tremble could be a steal in this draft, as he’s a good tight end who’s just been stuck behind other good tight ends on the Notre Dame depth chart. He’s an excellent athlete with good explosiveness and route-running abilities. He has good hands as well. Tremble is a really good blocker, but most of his success came at the second level, mainly working against linebackers. If he can make an impact against NFL defensive ends he could really elevate his game. Tremble’s good blocking foundation, paired with his athleticism, make him an intriguing prospect in the upcoming draft. However, much like his time at Notre Dame, I’m not sure if he’ll ever be more than a good second option.

97. Andre Cisco — CB — Syracuse
#7, Jr, 6’0”, 209 lbs
Consensus ranking: 59 (63, 44, 69, 59, 58)
2020 season stats: Tackles 11, Sacks 0, Int 1, PD 1, FF 0, FR 0, (2 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 65, Sacks 0, Int 5, PD 10, FF 1, FR 1, (9 games)

Ryland B.: Cisco has some flaws in his game, but overall he’s a very good free safety prospect. He’s big and athletic, with some of the best ball skills and burst you’ll see out of any safety in this class — as evidenced by his insane interception numbers at Syracuse. But while Cisco is a defensive force in zone, in man coverage he’s more suspect. He’s fast but not particularly quick and got outmaneuvered on routes more often than I like to see. His boom or bust style of coverage led to some big plays being allowed as well. In run support, Cisco isn’t the greatest or most aggressive tackler. There’s some injury issues that will need to be addressed as well. I actually really like Cisco as a prospect, but there’s some big issues in his game that will need to be fixed for him to succeed in the NFL.

98. Jordan Smith — EDGE — UAB
#22, Jr, 6’7”, 255 lbs
Consensus ranking: 136 (NA, 150, 133, 126, NA)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 53, TFL 17.5, Sacks 10, PD 1, FF 4, FR 0 (14 games)

Ryland B.: Smith is an interesting prospect simply due to his impressive length at 6’7”. He has a lean, athletic build for a pass-rusher, and while it helps with his agility and overall athleticism, he would still ideally bulk up some more in the NFL. Smith plays with great effort and has excellent physical traits, but his game is still very raw all around. Smith has impressed in coverage though, and could be a versatile 3-4 OLB on the next level. There are red flags though, as Smith was involved in a credit card fraud scheme during his freshman year at Florida. His lack of top competition at UAB may lower his draft stock as well.

99. Talanoa Hufanga — S — USC
#15, Jr, 6’1”, 215 lbs
Consensus ranking: 102 (NA, 74, NA, 130, NA)
2020 season stats: Tackles 62, Sacks 3, Int 4, PD 1, FF 2, FR 0, (6 games)

steelerfan11: A couple members of BTSC actually brought this guy to my attention, and his tape did not disappoint. When you throw out his testing numbers and look solely at the tape, you see a guy who looks like a young Troy Polomalu. His physical, downhill style of play is fun to watch, as he strikes fear into opposing ball carriers. He can also blitz, cover, and create turnovers all at high levels. This guy is a true playmaking strong safety, but he is not extremely fluid in coverage at this point. He is also not as fast as he looks. He ran a 4.61 at his pro day, but the rest of his testing was not terrible, recording a 36 inch vertical and 6.87 3-cone drill. If he falls to day three, some team may be getting a steal.

100. Quincy Roche — CB — Miami
#9, Sr, 6’3”, 245 lbs
Consensus ranking: 102 (91, 87, 163, 78, 91)
2019 season stats: Tackles 49, TFL 19, Sacks 13, PD , FF 1, FR 2 (13 games)

steelerfan11: Roche’s quickness off the edge and excellent hand usage give him the upper hand against tackles that only have average athleticism. He lacks the strength to bull rush and is forced to rely on his quickness to beat the tackle around the edge. That lack of strength also hurts him as a run defender, as many tackles were able to push him around at will. However, he is a smart football player that overcomes his lack of strength with good technique. Although he will get pushed around at times, he is still solid against the run. His ceiling is not quite as high as some of the other rush linebackers in this class, but if he can add some weight to his frame, he will provide a team with value on all three downs.

To check out all 288 players we’ve profiled, you can click on the positional articles to read more about players outside the top 100 here (and read other’s analysis on them as well): Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers (Part 1), Wide Receivers (Part 2), Tight Ends, Interior Offensive Line, Offensive Tackles, Interior Defensive Line, Outside Linebackers/EDGE, Inside Linebackers, Cornerbacks, and Safeties.

Well, that’s all, folks! Thank you for taking the time to read each of our extensive articles over the past few months. Ryland will have more coming in the next few days, but this is the last you are hearing from me on the 2021 version of the big board.

This is your big board, BTSC. What are your final thoughts? Who do you think is too high or too low? Let us know your thoughts one final time in the comment section below! Thanks again, and Go Steelers!!!

A running back should never wear a number between 80-89

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/28/2021 - 6:00am
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

If running backs started wearing numbers between 80-89 as a result of the NFL’s new rule change, it could lead to an increase in the position's diva tendencies.

NFL owners approved seven proposed rule changes last week.

After you wade through some of the minor changes—including broadening the scope of the booth’s power as it pertains to replay reviews—you get to the real game-changer: Expanding the numbers that players at certain positions can wear.

For example, in addition to 80-89, receivers can now wear any number between 1-49. Defensive backs can also choose any number from 1 to 49. The variety is even greater for linebackers, who can wear numbers 1-59, as well as 90-99.

Personally, this new policy doesn’t bother me that much. True, it may be unfair to the fan who has already purchased the jersey of a player who will now decide to change his number; then again, I’m sure the league had increased merchandising sales in mind when it decided to go ahead with this plan.

With all due respect to the folks who will now have to buy new jerseys to replace the old ones, and with all due respect to Tom Brady who may have finally encountered a force strong enough to stop him (counting), it’s not going to affect how I view and consume the game of football.

If a linebacker wants to wear No. 13, who am I to question that? He could hurt me. If a defensive back wants to wear 2, who cares? Just use proper inside/outside technique in coverage. If a receiver decides he wants to wear 23, 34 or 45, let him. They’re all kind of weird, anyway.

If you’ve watched college football as long as I have, you’re used to this sort of thing; the only rule about college numbers is there are no rules.

However, while I did say earlier that this new number rule doesn’t bother me that much, it does bother me a little.

Let me go over some more of these positions. A tight end is no longer limited to the 80s when choosing a jersey number—he can also wear any digit from 1 to 49. Fine. Tight ends are becoming more and more diva-like, so if they want to be all weird and out there, who am I to judge? Most are too big for me to fight and too fast for me to outrun.

But there is one position that I am extremely worried about as it pertains to this new rule—running back.

If a running back wants to wear 1 or 19, that’s fine. But 80 or 89? To quote the comment section of any article posted on Facebook about any subject ever—including new soda flavors—: “Please, stop.” In addition to now being able to wear any number between 1-49, a running back can freely pick any digit between 80-89.

Just think about that for a second.

Picture Walter Payton trying to run over the entire Chiefs’ defense back in 1977 while wearing No. 84 instead of No. 34. Do you think he even makes it past one defender? Can you imagine Earl Campbell surviving his goal line collision with Jack Tatum in the Astrodome if he is wearing a number that begins with an eight?

OK, forget the toughness stereotypes that often haunt wide-receivers; what about the diva labels?

Payton’s nickname was “Sweetness.” You change his jersey number to 84, and Bears fans may have quickly grown tired of his celebrity status and started referring to him as “Salty.”

Speaking of legendary Bears’ running backs, Gale Sayers once said that all he needed was 18 inches of daylight (to burst through a hole and blow by a defense). That was inspirational coming from a guy wearing the number 40; change his number to 80, on the other hand, and just try getting the image of Sayers dressed in funky sunglasses and a Hulk Hogan-styled feather boa out of your head.

John Riggins went to head coach Joe Gibbs just prior to the 1982 playoffs and said, “I want the ball.” Washington subsequently rode Riggins all the way to a victory in Super Bowl XVII. There’s no way of knowing this for sure, but I’ll bet if Riggins wore No. 84 and not 44, Gibbs would have pulled a Bill O’Brien and immediately traded the legendary running back away for a cold six-pack before the playoffs even began.

Jim Brown has always proudly proclaimed that he is the greatest running back—maybe even the greatest football player—of all time. Few have ever disagreed with this. But I’ll bet if Brown wore 82 instead of 32 during his historic football career, that would have drastically altered the opinions of players, media members and fans. In fact, Brown likely would have gone on to star in the first-ever reality show, titled: Jim Brown’s Gonna Git You Sucka.

Picture Jerome Bettis on the sidelines talking about how they needed to keep feeding him the ball. Great memories, right? Now, imagine him saying that while wearing No. 85; could be a sign of an increased diva quotient, no?

And don’t even get me started on the head shake The Bus used to do after a tough run—or the fact that he even had a nickname.

Franco's Italian Army was one of the coolest things about Franco Harris's great career. But what if Harris wore No. 81? You got it, he would have been furthering his brand.

Look, all I’m saying is running backs have it tough enough: They take an enormous beating; their careers are extremely short on average; teams don’t want to draft them in the first round; and nobody wants to pay them.

They don’t need the extra burden and baggage of wearing a number that begins with an eight.

2021 NFL Draft: Schedule, how to watch, streaming information and more

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/28/2021 - 5:30am
Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

All the information to watch or listen to the 2021 NFL Draft over a variety of platforms

The NFL draft looks to return mostly to its normal form in 2021. After getting a wonderful view of Roger Goodell‘s basement as he announced picks with all the draftees in their respective homes in 2020, the stage is set in Cleveland this year. When Roger Goodell takes the stage to a barrage of boo’s, it will be unclear if they are towards him or just a mere reaction to having to be in the aforementioned city.

The 2021 draft also gets back to normal for Pittsburgh Steelers fans as they are scheduled to make a first-round selection this season. After trading away their 2020 first-round pick for All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, Steelers fans had to wait until Friday night before they were able to learn of any new draft picks.

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, AT&T TV, 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 29, 2021

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 30, 2021

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 the selection.

Saturday May 1, 2021

12 PM EST Rounds 4 through 7 (picks 106- 259)

Behind The Steel Curtain will be doing a live broadcast on the BTSC Radio YouTube channel following each pick. With the Steelers scheduled to have two picks in both the fourth and seventh rounds, the YouTube shows will run through the second selection in those rounds. 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 the selection.

Podcast: Using specific scenarios to predict the Steelers’ top pick

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 04/28/2021 - 4:30am

Jeff Hartman brings an AM studio show to the BTSC family of podcasts with the latest episode of “Let’s Ride“.

Everybody has different expectations of who the Steelers are going to pick first in the 2021 NFL Draft. There are so many mock drafts and so many different possibilities. With that, the #RideorDieCrew will go over specific scenarios to predict the top pick for Steel City football. That is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the morning flagship show in the BTSC family of podcasts. Join BTSC co-editor Jeff Hartman for this, the LIVE mailbag and more on “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Using specific scenarios to predict the Steelers’ top pick
  • The LIVE mailbag!
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman of BTSC walks you through everything you need to know regarding the black-and-gold.

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Is Shaun Wade a great mid-round CB option for the Steelers in 2021?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/27/2021 - 3:45pm
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

For teams who are looking for a mid-round CB in the 2021 NFL Draft, Shaun Wade might be a prospect to keep an eye on.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of many NFL organizations who could be looking at a cornerback in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. However, unlike the other franchises who are looking to add to their current secondary depth chart, the Steelers possess the 24th overall pick.

Not really conducive to getting a top tier prospect, but are there some prospects, but what about the mid-round options? There are a lot of talented players who could be available to the Steelers in the mid-to-later rounds, and Shaun Wade certainly is a tough player to peg in regards to where he is expected to be taken in the upcoming draft.

There is the chance the Steelers choose to take a cornerback to bolster their depth in 2021, and if Ohio State’s Wade is available when the Steelers pick on Day 2 or early Day 3, is he an option?

I did some digging on Wade, and put together a brief synopsis of the kind of player he is, and will be when becoming a professional. Below you’ll see draft profile breakdowns, film room breakdowns and game film for you to enjoy.

Don’t listen to me, or anyone else, form your own opinion on Wade. I plan on doing this for other prospects as the draft approaches. If there is a specific player you’d like to see covered, simply let me know and I’ll be glad to put it together!

Let us know your thoughts on Wade 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 new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.

Draft Profiles The Draft Network

Ohio State defensive back Shaun Wade will be a hotly contested prospect after seeing his fair share of successes and failures with the Buckeyes program. Wade burst onto the scene as a dynamic freshman and starred in a nickel corner role for a Buckeyes secondary that was loaded with talent throughout the course of his first two seasons in Columbus. But Wade’s junior season saw a transition to the perimeter and a fair share of struggles with life on the outside, calling into question whether or not Wade can play on the boundary and whether or not he’s destined for a role as a nickel or safety. Based on Wade’s 2020 play, a transition to strong safety feels like a safe bet to maximize his athletic skills, length, and hitting power without tasking him to cover too much ground or play on an island in coverage. Wade’s ceiling really shines when he’s able to be protected vertically, so even if he went into the pros as a cornerback, he’d be best suited to play in a two-deep variation. In all, Wade has plenty of potential; but after three seasons in Columbus, he feels no closer to reaching it and a position change may be his best ticket to getting there.

Ideal Role: Base defense strong safety—big nickel coverage option.

Scheme Fit: Wade has the length and athleticism to play man and trigger skills and size to play in zone. He projects favorably to multiple schemes, but defenses that utilize three safeties often feels like the best fit.

The Pro Football Network
  • Position: Cornerback
  • School: Ohio State
  • Year: Redshirt Junior
  • Height: 6’1″
  • Weight: 195 pounds

Positives: Physically talented cornerback who shows a physical nature to his game, mixes it up with receivers, and stays on the opponent’s hip out of breaks. Effectively brackets receivers over the middle of the field with safeties, displays a closing burst, and swiftly gets to the ball.

Consistently gets his head back around to locate the pass in the air. Forces the action upfield when focused on his game. Effectively defends the run or screen passes. Strong and easily brings opponents down at the point of attack.

Negatives: Shows a lot of hesitation in his game. Played with a nonchalant attitude last year, seemed as though he was going half-speed, and gave up on plays rather easily. Inefficient and takes too many steps getting to the action.

Analysis: When breaking down Wade I saw two players on film. The first was a potentially dominant cornerback with the ability to shut down opponents with physicality as well as ball skills. The other prospect, and the one most prominent last year, played like an undrafted free agent that looked like he’d rather be elsewhere than the football field.

NFL.com

What I liked: Wade has ideal size/length and he plays with tremendous awareness. He primarily aligns in the slot, but he will roll back to the deep middle in some of Ohio State’s coverage schemes. He’s very disciplined as a zone defender, showing the ability to quickly read pattern combinations and position himself to make plays on the ball.

In man coverage, Wade is patient and avoids false steps. He’s a smooth, fluid mover and he can build speed to catch up down the field. He’s also a very dynamic blitzer from the slot. He disguises well and displayed the ability to dip and bend around the offensive tackle in the Cincinnati game. He earned a sack and forced a fumble on that play. He’s also a very reliable tackler. I love his overall toughness and demeanor.

Where he needs to improve: Wade flashes a physical jam in press coverage, but there are too many occasions in which he doesn’t shoot his hands and allows free access to receivers off the line of scrimmage. He was beat inside in the Penn State and Wisconsin games I studied. He also needs to improve his hands from a ball-skills perspective. He left a couple interceptions on the field in the games I watched. He was in position, located the ball, but simply didn’t finish with the catch.

Biggest takeaway: Wade has some areas where he can improve, but he likely would have been a first-round pick had he declared for the 2020 NFL Draft. He’ll have an opportunity to prove he can hold up outside at cornerback this fall and that should only increase his value for the next level. He could emerge as the premier player at his position in the country. Ohio State knows how to develop defensive backs. He’s next in line.

He reminds me of: I don’t have a perfect comparison for Wade, but I see some similarities to Minkah Fitzpatrick when he was coming out of Alabama. Both guys can play all over the secondary. They possess outstanding instincts and toughness. Fitzpatrick had noticeably better ball skills, but I’m hopeful Wade will make some strides this fall to improve in that area.

Teams were split on where Fitzpatrick would best fit at the next level. Some thought he would be an elite nickel back, others liked him at free safety and a few believed he could hold up outside at cornerback. After moving around during his brief time with the Dolphins, he settled in at free safety for the Steelers after being traded to Pittsburgh early last season. I believe teams will have similar discussions about Wade. I’m hoping he will land with the right team, one that will find the perfect role for him.

Breakdowns Game Film Other Breakdowns

QB

RB

ILB

EDGE/OLB

TE

OT

Interior OLine

CB

The Green Bay Packers are the Steelers ideal draft day trade partner

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/27/2021 - 2:30pm
Photo by Tony Medina/Icon SMI/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Packers are looking to move up, and the Steelers could use a couple more picks

As we inch closer toward the 2021 NFL Draft more and more information gets out to the general public. This time it’s that the Green Bay Packers are looking to make a deal and move up in the first round. Combine that with Steelers General Manger, Kevin Colbert not quite answering a question about trading back, and we might just have the perfect partner right in front of us.

The Packers are desperate to land a receiver, and currently hold the 29th pick in the first round. But, with the Baltimore Ravens and a New Orleans Saints selection in front of them, the Packers need to get past 27 to make this a reality. The Browns (26) and Jaguars (25) are both teams which I'd imagine don’t want to trade down, so the best available option lands on the Steelers. The Steelers have a plethora of holes on the roster, and depending on who’s available when it’s their time to pick, should 100% be interested in trading back.

Building the parameters of the trade, to me, are quite simple. The Packers send their first round pick (29), their third round pick (92), and their sixth round pick (214) for the Steelers’ first round pick (24), and their second fourth round pick (140). Under most draft pick evaluation charts the trade is a perfect match. The Packers would be able to scoop up Rashod Bateman or Elijah Moore, and the Steelers add a much need top-100 pick and another late selection on Day 3. Everybody wins, and, best yet, they both play in opposite conferences.

Cynthia Frelund of NFL.com compiled a list of ‘win-win trades’ for the draft using her metrics, and included the Steelers Packers swap. Here’s what she had to say on the deal

Green Bay receives: — 2021 first-round pick (No. 24 overall) — 2021 fourth-round pick (No. 140) Pittsburgh receives: — 2021 first-round pick (No. 29) — 2021 third-round pick (No. 92) Why it works for the Steelers: The Steelers’ needs (O-line, edge, running back, corner) create a scenario where the projected WR run could allow them to trade down, get extra draft capital and still end up with the player they wanted in the first place. I plugged in all the fit-specific players at No. 24 and then at 29, and the names did not change much. (Running back was just a 2.8 percent different.) Furthermore, Pittsburgh could flip its acquired No. 92 pick in a second-round trade-up — maybe moving from No. 55 all the way up to 41 (the Lions own the pick) or 42 (Giants).

This would be a neat little deal for either team to pull off. The only negatives I can think of is watching the Browns and Ravens select ahead of the Steelers, who we all know tries to draft similarly to the Steelers’ model. But if the Steelers want more picks that's exactly what they’re going to have to do.

But what do you think? Are the Packers the perfect trading partner with the Steelers in the 2021 NFL Draft? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.

Steelers Draft Scenario 3.0: With all RBs available, Steelers take the proven commodity

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/27/2021 - 1:30pm
Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

In the latest 2021 NFL Draft scenario, the Steelers address a major need with their top pick.

With the 2021 NFL Draft just days away, it is time to start doing what all NFL teams are doing at this time in their draft prep. Teams are going through an endless amount of scenarios trying to decipher what they will do if the draft falls a certain way.

For the Pittsburgh Steelers, they have any number of directions they could go in the upcoming selection process, so it is time to start running the scenarios leading up to the big event!

Check out previous scenarios below:

For clarification, as well as consistency, I am using The Draft Network’s mock draft simulator. On top of that, I am always using the Predictive Board, and the manual option, during these simulations. It also should be noted there are never any fictitious trades in these scenarios.

23. NY Jets - Jaelan Phillips, EDGE Miami

22. Tennessee - Alex Leatherwood, OT Alabama

21. Indianapolis - Rashod Bateman, WR Minnesota

20. Chicago - Mac Jones, QB Alabama

19. Washington - Greg Newsome II, CB Northwestern

18. Miami - Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB Notre Dame

17. Las Vegas - Zaven Collins, LB Tulsa

16. Arizona - Micah Parsons, LB Penn State

15. New England - Trey Lance, QB North Dakota State

14. Minnesota - Teven Jenkins, OT Oklahoma State

13. LA Chargers - Christian Darrisaw, OT Virginia Tech

12. Philadelphia - Caleb Farley, CB Virginia Tech

11. NY Giants - DeVonta Smith, WR Alabama

10. Dallas - Jaycee Horn, CB South Carolina

9. Denver - Patrick Surtain II, CB Alabama

8. Carolina - Rashawn Slater, OT Northwestern

7. Detroit - Penei Sewell, OT Oregon

6. Miami - Ja’Marr Chase, WR LSU

5. Cincinnati - Jaylen Waddle, WR Alabama

4. Atlanta - Kyle Pitts, TE Florida

3. San Francisco - Justin Fields, QB Ohio State

2. NY Jets - Zach Wilson, QB BYU

1. Jacksonville - Trevor Lawrence, QB Clemson

This third scenario played out almost exactly as the second scenario, but instead of taking a center, which I did in the 2.0 scenario, I decided to focus on the ground game. The center class is deep, and I feel as it the Steelers will be able to target a center on Day 2, but on Day 1 they take a play maker.

That play maker would be none other than Najee Harris out of Alabama.

The Steelers have been rumored to be highly invested in Harris, and why wouldn’t you be? The guy is a playmaker in every sense of the word. On top of that, he is a three down back who can do it all. Run, catch and block. The Steelers could utilize Harris in a multitude of ways as a rookie, without asking him to be the majority of the offense.

There will be those who bemoan the selection, as always, but if the Steelers want a player who can contribute on Day 1, could be the starter at the onset of 2021 and could make the offense better, Harris fits that description.

After taking Harris in the first round, the Steelers would target positions like center, offensive tackle, cornerback, linebacker and other positions in the coming rounds. This would be a very polarizing selection for the Steelers, but I have a feeling the Harris jerseys would be flying off the shelves come Week 8 of the 2021 regular season.

This is just the one of many NFL Draft scenarios I’ll be doing, every time finding a new prospect/approach which could dictate who the Steelers might select in the first found of the 2021 NFL Draft.

What do you think of the pick, given who was still available when it was the Steelers’ pick? Let us know in the comment section, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft.

Steelers exercise 5th year option on Minkah Fitzpatrick, no word on Terrell Edmunds

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/27/2021 - 1:06pm
Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers reportedly are exercising the 5th year option on Minkah Fitzpatrick, but no word yet on their decision surrounding Terrell Edmunds.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a decision to make as it pertains to their two first round safeties. With both being selected, although not both by the Steelers, in the first round, the Steelers hold the control over both Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds’ fifth year options.

As of Tuesday, it is being reported by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network the Steelers have picked up Fitzpatrick’s option.

The #Steelers have exercised the fifth-year option for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, source said. The #Bears have done the same for Roquan Smith.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 27, 2021

Everyone knew the team would pick up Fitzpatrick’s option, it was a no-brainer, but what was interesting in the aforementioned report was there was no word on the team’s plans for Terrell Edmunds.

Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) how much players make on the fifth year option depends on the success they’ve had in the first three years of their career. For a player like Fitzpatrick who has been a Pro Bowl and All-Pro the past two seasons, his option would be significantly more than Edmunds, who has yet to achieve either of those accolades.

Here is a more detailed breakdown on how the option pays out under the new CBA:

The payout for the fifth-year option in the new CBA comes on four different levels, although they are not called “levels” in their terminology. All players begin in what could be described as the first level and can reach the next level based on the percentage of snaps they have played in their first three seasons. To reach the third level, players must be selected to a Pro Bowl on the original ballot during their first three seasons, equating their fifth-year salary to that of the same position of someone receiving the transition tag. If a player was selected to multiple Pro Bowls on the original ballot, they reach the highest level which equals the pay of the franchise tag at a given position.

The Steelers don’t have a ton of time to make the decision on these players, with May 3rd being the NFL deadline for organizations to either pick up, or decline, the option. Since the fifth year option was instituted, the Steelers have only passed on the fifth year option twice, and those players were Jarvis Jones and Artie Burns.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news on this story, and more, as the team prepares for the 2021 NFL Draft this weekend.

Steelers prepared to sign fewer undrafted rookies than in previous years

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/27/2021 - 12:00pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

General manager Kevin Colbert sees fewer signings based on a smaller pool of players.

In their pre-draft press conference on Monday, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert addressed a variety of topics dealing with the 2021 NFL draft and the upcoming season. During his opening remarks, Colbert gave an update of the total number of players currently on the Steelers roster and how that affects them moving forward through the 2021 NFL draft and beyond.

“As we sit here today, our roster is currently at 75 players,” Colbert stated. “It’s probably a little higher number than we anticipate or usually have at this time of the year.”

With only 15 roster spots available at the moment, if the Steelers signed their typical 10 to 15 undrafted rookie free agents along with there eight draft picks, a significant number of players under contract would have to be released. While it isn’t uncommon for the Steelers to have to release players they had signed in the offseason in order to accommodate their rookies, there is a reason behind Colbert’s philosophy this year.

“We did sign more players,” Colbert continued. “The other thing that the — not the pandemic, but the opt-out of the draft issue that the NCAA allowed this year, it probably cut in half the players that will be available to us to sign as free agents after the draft. It’s roughly — I want to say it went from 800 to 400, with that not being the actual numbers.”

The rule Colbert is most likely referring to is the NCAA allowing all student athletes for the 2020-21 season to have an extra year of eligibility. Additionally, the 2020 season does not count as one of these years even if the student athlete played and did not opt out. Here is an explanation from ncsasports.org:

Traditionally, a student-athlete has 5 years to play 4 years of their sport. An extra year means a current college student-athlete would have 6 years to play their 4 years. This means, NCAA student-athletes can compete in all or a portion of the 2020-21 season, but it won’t be counted against their years of eligibility depending on their division level specific eligibility rules.

For example, a D1 freshman athlete, whether they compete in the 2020-21 competition season or not, is eligible for an extra year of competition. Starting their sophomore year, this athlete competes in 100% of the season through senior year. After their senior season, this athlete’s eligibility count is 3 years and they decide to enroll as a fifth-year senior to compete in their fourth collegiate season. Upon the completion of their fourth competition season, this athlete has the option to compete for one final season, a fifth year, because the NCAA D1 had granted all 2020-21 athletes an extra year of eligibility. If this athlete returns for a fifth year, they will have been a member of the team and eligible to receive financial aid for six year, because their first year of competition didn’t count against their years eligibility.

Because of this rule, the overall pool of athletes entering the 2021 NFL draft has been reduced as every player was eligible to return in 2021-22. If players are not likely to be drafted, returning to college for another season in order to improve their chances of catching on with an NFL team seems to be a wise decision.

For this reason, Colbert believes the number of athletes available as viable options for Steelers will be fewer this year then during previous drafts, let alone knowing the total pool of athletes is smaller. Because of this, the Steelers we’re on the lookout for possible players to sign at various pro day workouts who are not currently on an NFL roster.

“But anticipating we would have less guys to sign after the draft, we were conscious of that when we were at pro days, and maybe the one-year vet guy that worked out, we signed five or so players from that venue just to try to keep us as current as we could be in anticipation of not being able to sign as many guys after the draft.”

The Steelers made a number of the signings this offseason from players who are able to participate at various pro days. Signing such as Tyler Simmons, Matthew Sexton, Jarvis Miller, Jamir Jones, and T.J. Carter all came since the start of the league year and are for league-minimum salaries after working out at various pro days. In essence, these players are undrafted free agents but one year later.

While some may believe having less undrafted rookie free agents following the 2021 NFL draft is no big deal, the Steelers have managed to find quality undrafted players over the years. While some undrafted players landed in Pittsburgh after various stops, players such as Ramon Foster, B.J. Finney, and James Pierre were players who went undrafted and signed immediately with the Steelers. Although Finney took a year on the practice squad before landing on the roster, both Foster and Pierre are examples of players that earned their way onto the 53-man roster for their entire rookie season after going undrafted.

Even with a smaller number of players, the Steelers can still find their “diamond in the rough” among the undrafted players from the 2021 NFL draft. Knowing the number of options are less, and already taking this into account over the last month, the Steelers seem to be in prime shape to round out their roster by the end of the weekend.

Stay tune to Behind The Steel Curtain for continued coverage of the upcoming 2021 NFL draft.

Alan Faneca, like many Steelers before him, has a teammate worthy of the HOF present him

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/27/2021 - 11:17am
Photo credit should read DAVID MAXWELL/AFP via Getty Images

The Hall of Fame guard is having a former teammate who many view as worthy of the Hall of Fame presenting him his summer.

The Pittsburgh Steelers organization is like a fraternity. Regardless of whether you leave the team, or finish your career elsewhere, you will always be considered a Steeler. This is why players like Kevin Greene, who played for a number of NFL teams, decided to be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the black and gold. Alan Faneca, who will be enshrined this summer as the part of the Class of 2021, didn’t finish his career in Pittsburgh, but will be enshrined as a Steeler.

One aspect of the enshrinement process is when those how are getting in announce who will be presenting them. For many Steelers, the person they select has extra meaning. They aren’t just picking a person which they knew well, but often want to send a message to the Pro Football Hall of Fame about a teammate who is deserving of the gold jacket.

Fans saw Lynn Swann do this when he chose John Stallworth to present him when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, and the same could be said when Tony Dungy chose Donnie Shell to present him. It just so happens both of those presenters eventually were inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Faneca is following in those same footsteps, as he made it known Tuesday he will have former teammate, and Hall of Fame hopeful, Hines Ward present him this summer.

.@afan66 has selected @mvp86hinesward to be his @ProFootballHOF presenter! #PFHOF21 https://t.co/21uEcUFW5v

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 27, 2021

Ward has been eligible for the Hall of Fame for several years now, never making it to the final stage of the process. Despite not having the statistics many other pass catchers have on their resumes, his credentials include two Super Bowl victories and a Super Bowl XL MVP.

Faneca choosing Ward wasn’t just about a teammate which he admired, but drawing attention to Ward as a potential Hall of Fame player. A classy move by Faneca, and one which should make the enshrinement ceremony even more special for the Steelers organization.

This summer the following members of the Steelers organization will be forever enshrined into the hallowed halls of Canton, OH:

Class of 2020
Bill Cowher
Donnie Shell
Troy Polamalu

Class of 2021
Bill Nunn
Alan Faneca

It will be a very black and gold weekend in Ohio this summer, and adding Ward to the mix only makes it more special. Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare for the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft.

Podcast: The people speak on the NFL Draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 04/27/2021 - 11:00am

In the latest episode of “Steelers Hangover” show, Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo look at the week that was and the Steelers going forward.

Finally, the 2021 NFL Draft is only days away. As always, there is plenty of excitement in Steeler Nation for the first round.

Three days before the actual general managers choose, the knowledgeable BTSC chat room family willl got a chance to pick their players on an episode of The Steelers Hangover with Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • The Second Annual BTSC Chat Room Mock Draft
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

If you haven’t heard, we have a YouTube channel, and the main reason for this is to increase the sound quality on our shows. But if you’re a visual learner you can watch the show below. Be sure to subscribe to our channel!

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

If you’re old-school and just want the audio, you can listen to it in the player below.

Part 1

Part 2

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