Now that the Steelers have added a few pieces through free agency, it’s time do do our first mock draft of the season here at Steelers Sanctuary. Kevin Colbert filled some immediate needs by adding players like Morgan Burnett and Jon Bostic. The draft will probably still lean heavily on the defensive side, even with the new additions.
Round 1: Leighton Vander Esch – ILB – Boise St.
Inside linebacker remains the top priority heading into the draft. Vander Esch is basically a TJ Watt clone when it comes to physical attributes. It’s remarkable how similar these two players are. Both are tremendous athletes who excelled at the draft combine. They also had similar playing careers, each having only one year of starting experience to go on. The only difference being Watt played at a power five conference, while Vander Esch didn’t. This would really break tradition for the Steelers who haven’t gone outside the power five in the first round since Ben Roethlisberger.
Round 2: Lorenzo Carter – OLB – Georgia
This is a player who is a bit of an enigma. He tested through the roof at the combine, but the production at Georgia was never really there. At 6’4″ 250lbs, Carter ran a blazing 4.5 forty yard dash. His 130″ broad jump was in the 98th percentile, while his vertical jump of 36″ put him in the 82nd percentile. Even with all those tools, Carter never managed more than 5 sacks in a season, despite playing all four years for the Bulldogs. Still, he’s the kind of big-time athlete with plenty of upside the Steelers seem to covet. Lorenzo Carter could be a second round steal if he ever plays up to what his physical gifts hint at.
Round 3: Deon Cain – WR – Clemson
Cain is just the latest in what has become a wide receiver factory at Clemson. His size (6’2″) and speed (4.43 forty) are a very attractive package for NFL scouts at that position. He didn’t have great production in college, but he has the ability to become a dangerous weapon if he can be developed at the next level. The Steelers have had no problem producing big-time receivers over the years. Pittsburgh would be the perfect landing spot for a player like Cain. With Martavis Bryant almost sure to leave after the 2018 season, this position is sure to be a priority in this year’s draft.
Round 5: – Bo Scarbrough – RB – Alabama
Scarbrough is an old school type running back. He’s a big, tall, bruising back who will punish would-be tacklers. Scarbrough’s injury concerns, combined with his inability to catch passes out of the backfield are major drawbacks. He would give the Steelers a big back to throw against tired defenses in the second half of games. That, plus short yardage and special teams might make him a valuable player for Pittsburgh. The team could do worse this deep in the draft.
Round 5: Troy Apke – S – Penn St.
Some might say this is a bit high to take Apke, but his combine numbers may be pushing him up draft boards. This player shocked everyone, testing as well as any safety at the combine. Apke ran a 4.34 forty yard dash, one of the fastest times at the combine. He didn’t stop there, finishing in the 90th percentile or better in all the athletic categories. It’s worth noting that Steelers new defensive backs coach Tom Bradley attended the Penn St. pro day. Granted he may have been there to see the other Penn St. safety Marcus Allen, but surely he also took a long look at Apke as well. On an interesting side note, Troy Apke’s father Steve was a linebacker at Pitt during the 1980s. He even appeared as a replacement player for the Steelers during the strike season of 1987.