Here we go! Just hours away from the NFL draft, and here at Steelers Sanctuary we are ready for our final mock draft. This has been one of the more difficult mock drafts to predict in recent memory. Not just figuring out who the Steelers will take, but who will be left when it’s time for them to pick. It’s stands to be a crazy, trade filled draft. All that said, here’s our best guess as to which players the Steelers will be selecting in this year’s draft
Round 1: Justin Reid – S – Stanford
As in all my mock drafts, I’m going to hedge a little bit here. If Leighton Vander Esch falls to 28, he is the Steelers pick hands down. I just can’t see it happening at this point. If indeed Vander Esch is off the board, then the pick will be Justin Reid. Head coach Mike Tomlin may have let something slip in his last press conference. Tomlin said when referring to who the team’s free safety would be “we are open to everything, not only the players we have but also the players we are going to bring in this weekend.” I can see a scenario where Reid is the free safety, Davis plays strong safety, and Morgan Burnett plays some sort of nickel backer. Reid checks a lot of boxes including being brought in for a visit, and being an exceptional athlete. He ran a 4.4/40 at the combine among his many impressive results.
Round 2: Shaquem Griffin – LB – UCF
Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin spent a lot of time in their last press conference talking about specialization, particularly when it came to pass rushers. This got me to thinking, who could be a pass rushing specialist the Steelers could grab after round one? I think Griffin could be just that guy, especially in year one. Griffin has totaled 18.5 sacks in his last two seasons in school, with 33.5 tackles for a loss. Despite the obvious limitations of only having one hand, Griffin is a good enough athlete to be an impact player at several positions.
Round 3: Equanimeous St. Brown – WR – Notre Dame
Here’s your replacement for Martavis Bryant. St. Brown stands 6’5″ and ran a 4.5 forty yard dash at the draft combine. He has all the traits of Bryant, without the baggage. St. Brown isn’t a finished product, but the Steelers are well known for developing wide receivers. Interesting nugget, St. Brown’s father John was a three time Mr. Universe and two time Mr. World weight lifter.
Round 5a: Dorian O’daniel – LB – Clemson
Pittsburgh brought more inside linebackers in for visits than any other position. They seemed to be preparing for missing out on the top tier, and having to pick one later on in the draft. O’daniel is a smaller, more athletic type of inside linebacker. Exactly the type of linebacker the NFL is leaning toward. He makes perfect sense at this range for the Steelers.
Round 5b: Ade Aruna – EDGE – Tulane
This is a total upside pick here. Aruna has only been playing football since his freshman year in high school. That is when he arrived in this country from his native Nigeria. He has the size (6’5″/260lbs) and the speed (4.6/40) to make him an interesting prospect at the edge position.
Round 7a: Troy Apke – S – Penn St.
Let’s face it predicting any round is difficult at best, predicting seventh rounders is near impossible. Apke wasn’t on anyone’s radar until he blew up the combine with numbers that included a 4.38 forty yard dash. At worst you’re getting a good special teams player with plenty of athletic upside.
Round 7b: Russel Gage Jr. – WR – LSU
Another player Pittsburgh brought in for a visit. I’ve read people rave about his effort, toughness, and work ethic. Gage could become a core special teams player for the Steelers right from year one. Not bad for a late seventh round pick.