In normal circumstances it would be hard to predict the Steelers second round pick.  With the current state of things in the world right now, it becomes that much harder.  Without pro-days and player visits, its difficult to get clues on who the team may have interest in.  Because of this, we will be unable to use the system Steelers Sanctuary developed last season to help piece together the Steelers selections. Steelers first round prediction formula

Having said all that, lets take five tries to get the Steelers pick at 49 correct:

1.  Cam Akers – RB – Florida St.

There are so many clues that lead us to believe running back will be the position of choice at 49.  The biggest being owner Art Rooney III all but ordering the team to fix the running game.

Now in a recent conference call, Kevin Colbert implied he’d like to add to the depth at the position.  Combine all that with the Steelers spending significant money in free agency on fullback Derek Watt, and thats all the hints we need. This team is going to do everything it can to be better in the running game in 2020.

With top backs like D’andre Swift and JK Dobbins likely off the board, Cam Akers would likely be the next choice.  His 4.4/40 speed would give the Steelers backfield an added dimension.  That speed also comes with a bigger frame at 5’10” and 217 pounds.  This is a player who could give immediate production for the offense, and possibly become the number one back from day one.

2.  Jonathan Taylor – RB – Wisconsin

In keeping with the running back theme, Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor would have to be in the conversation at 49.  Taylor had a great combine, including a blistering 4.39 forty yard dash.  At 226 pounds, he is the bigger back Pittsburgh seems to favor.

Now the bad news.  Taylor had a serious fumble problem while at Wisconsin.  With the recent issues the Steelers have had in that area, this would be a huge negative against him.  There’s also the question of overuse with this back.  Taylor had three straight seasons of three hundred carries in his college career.  Those are numbers that certainly are a cause for concern.

Even with the drawbacks, it would be hard to pass on such a talented player.  If the Steelers are dead set on a running back, Jonathan Taylor would have to be near the top of their list.

3.  Micheal Pittman – WR – USC

Look around the Steelers wide receiver room and one thing is missing.  The team does not have a size/speed kind of wideout on the roster right now.  The Plaxico Burress/Martavis Bryant type that Ben Roehtlisberger likes to have on the outside.  Our dream fill for this would be Denzel Mims, but he has likely tested himself way out of Pittsburgh’s range.

Michael Pittman has similar athletic traits, and is much more likely to be around at pick 49.  At 6’4” and 223 pounds, Pittman has the “big receiver” part down.  He also showed very good  athletic traits at the combine.  Factor in the Lynn Swann connection at USC, and we may have enough to say this player is very much on the team’s radar.

4.  Donavan Peoples-Jones – WR – Michigan

Donavan Peoples-Jones floored people with his combine numbers.  Most people new he was athletic, but his testing was on another level.  Setting aside his 4.48/40, DVP also was at the 99th percentile in both the broad and vertical jumps.  All this while having the ideal size of being 6’2” and 212 pounds.

Now we have to tackle the problem with production at the college level.  His best season at Michigan was lees than stellar.  DVP had 47 catches for 612 yards in 2018, to go along with eight touchdowns.  Some of his poor production can be blamed on Michigan’s quarterback play.  Shea Patterson was below average in 2020, and that’s being kind.

If the Steelers believe that’s the case, they may also believe Donavan Peoples-Jones would be a steal at 49.  With no first round pick, the Kevin Colbert may be more apt to gamble on a high ceiling prospect like this.

5.  Willie Gay Jr. – LB – Mississippi St.

If Kevin Colbert were to stick with the old stand by of “best player available”, he would have a hard time passing on Willie Gay Jr.  While the need at inside linebacker may not be as pressing as others, the value here may be the greatest.  Gay’s athletic numbers at the combine were stunning.  They are on par, or better than the numbers put up by Devin Bush.  That’s a player the Steelers gave up significant assets to move up and get.

There are some red flags that are keeping Willie Gay Jr. out of the first round, and in the Steelers range.  Gay was suspended twice while at Mississippi St.  Once for an academic reason, and once for punching a team mate in the face.  Reports are that after the interview process at the combine, NFL general managers are much more comfortable off the field with this prospect.

If the Steelers have no character issues with Gay, he will be in the running for their choice at 49.  Imagine pairing him with Bush to hunt down Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.  Considering they will have to face Jackson twice a year for the next several years, having two super athletic linebackers makes all the sense in the world.