Exciting Pittsburgh Steelers Draft Moves Needed Early for Them To Compete

Pittsburgh Steelers Draft

After their 11-0 start, the Pittsburgh Steelers were cruising towards the playoffs in 2020. Then the wheels came off. Injuries weakened the defense and the lack of a run game prevented the offenses from truly shining. In an off-season that is filled with difficulties for the Steelers, a loaded draft allows them to find some real talent at low cost. An exciting Pittsburgh Steelers draft within the first three rounds is exactly what is needed.

Exciting Pittsburgh Steelers Draft Moves Needed Early On

Pittsburgh’s cap issues are well known and they currently find themselves over the total cap amount with a host of free agents to deal with as well. One main issue is the contract that future hall of fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is set to earn in the 2021 season. Much has been made about what number seven will do but with $41 million due to be going his way maybe the Steelers need to decide for him. But given how much he has achieved for the Steelers and the fact that he knows the offense better than anyone, it’s fair to assume that he will be there for at least one more year.

Given that, it seems unlikely the Steelers make a move up in the draft for their quarterback of the future. Although when you look at the talented quarterbacks in this draft they probably should. Instead, I think the Steelers look to shore up the offensive line and the running game and make one last push at a title with number seven at the helm. With a star-studded defense raring to go and a few pieces added to an already exciting offense, the Steelers could be considered a challenger.

Despite the strength of schedule, the Steelers face in 2021, they have shown that when Roethlisberger is fit they are the best team in the AFC North, and one of the best in the league. If they can add to a running game and prevent him from having to throw the ball 50-60 times a game, number seven will be able to manage the game a lot better and keep them in a position to win.

With that being said, here is who the Pittsburgh Steelers should aim to get in the first three rounds when the draft rolls around.

The Exciting Mock Draft

On day one of the draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers hold the 24th pick. When it comes to turning in their card Pittsburgh should make a couple of trades back the way and give themselves more selections in the first three rounds. With a couple of trades, they can turn the three picks they currently have into five picks (within the first three rounds) and transform the offense. 

First of all the Steelers make a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs. Kansas City moves up to 24 to select Jaelen Phillips, Edge from the University of Miami. To do that they send the Pittsburgh Steelers their 31st pick and their 63rd and Pittsburgh also sends their 124th (compensatory pick). Then the Steelers trade back again but this time with the New York Jets. The Jets move up to 31 and send the Steelers their 34th and 66th picks. New York selects Elijah Moore from Ole Miss and the Steelers have turned three picks into five.

Round 2 – Pick 34 – Alex Leatherwood, Tackle, Alabama

As highlighted in the 2020 season the Pittsburgh Steelers need to bolster the line and improve the running game. The first step in an exciting Pittsburgh Steelers draft is selecting Alex Leatherwood from Alabama. A 6 foot 6, 312-pound monster who has the strength to dominate a defensive lineman in the running game. A player who is best suited in the power running scheme would be an instant starter in Pittsburgh. 

Having played at Alabama he is no stranger to winning. He has played at both guard and offensive tackle and has the ability to play anywhere on the offensive line. His strength gives him the ability to push defenders out of the way and clears a path in front of him. If he can square up cleanly on a defender he can move them from any position. 

The only thing stopping Leatherwood from being a first-round pick is his struggles against a wide rush. His lack of mobility in the lower half means he struggles against rushers who can change their route mid-step. With that in mind, Mike Tomlin and the Steelers may be better to move him to guard and limit the area he needs to cover.  

His sheer size can be a huge asset but also his biggest downfall. That being said if he makes the move to guard and has less ground to cover he can help Pittsburgh get back the running game they desperately need.

Round 2 – Pick 56 – Terrace Marshall Jr, Wide Receiver, LSU

Despite the inability in the run game and the need to improve the offensive line, the Steelers enjoy selecting a wide receiver in the draft. In this draft, he is too good to miss out on at this stage. With JuJu Smith-Schuster likely on the way out, Terrace Marshall Jr could step in and be an instant starter for the black and gold. An already young wide receiver group could get even better with the addition of Marshall.

In 2019 Marshall lined up with Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson and still put up impressive numbers. Finishing the season with 671 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns was impressive given the company. After Jefferson was drafted to the Minnesota Vikings and Chase opted out for the year, Marshall found himself as the number one guy at LSU. In 2020 he continued to shine with ten touchdowns and 731 receiving yards. He then decided to opt-out in November in preparation for the NFL Draft.

The 6’3″, 200-pound wideout has the size and physical attributes to line up against just about anyone on the defense and win. Cornerbacks won’t be able to pressure him on the line, and if they try to his speed will make them pay for it. Some fine-tuning will be required on his route running and run blocking but with physical traits like his he will be highly sought after come the draft.

The addition of Marshall gives Roethlisberger another weapon to utilize in his last push for another Lombardi.

Round 2 – Pick 63 – Javonte Williams, Halfback, North Carolina

Now back to the ailing run game. Since Pittsburgh managed to acquire another round two pick in the previous trades they can select their running back of the future. Since started for the Tar Heels in 2018 Williams has continually improved and had more chances at running the ball. In 2018 he finished his first year with just 126 snaps. That number continued to grow and by 2020 he racked up 425 snaps for the year. Finishing with 19 touchdowns and 1140 yards was a great season to have in preparation for the NFL draft.

Williams is a big and powerful runner who can break contact and build up the yards after contact. After a year of struggling with the run game, he could be the answer that Pittsburgh needed. With James Conner hitting free agency and more than likely moving on to a new team (given Pittsburgh’s cap struggles) Javonte Williams is the answer that the Steelers need. In addition to his powerful running, he is also very capable of blocking in pass protection. Another huge trait for a team playing with a quarterback who is nearing 40.

When he isn’t blocking in the passing game he can receive as well. In his final year at North Carolina, he had 25 receptions for 305 yards, adding another three touchdowns to his total. A quarterback loves weapons and another out of the backfield could be vital for Big Ben. With playmakers all around him on the Pittsburgh offense, he will make the jump to the NFL quickly.

Round 3 – Pick 66 – Creed Humphrey, Center, Oklahoma

Another position that the Pittsburgh Steelers are losing a player from. Only this time it is likely to retirement and not free agency. After a dip in 2019, Creed Humphrey stepped up again in 2020. He played a total of 710 snaps in the 2020 season and has now played in 36 straight games. Along with Alex Leatherwood and Kevin Dotson, the Steelers would have a strong, young, and dominant offensive line to help the run game. 

Being very capable to cover both A-gaps will leave the rest of the line free to deal with the rest of the defensive line. During his three years at college, he has been an important factor in one of the most explosive offenses. A trait that the Pittsburgh Steelers will be hoping to be in the 2021 season. Another key element to help improve the running game and more importantly keep the quarterback on his two feet.

Round 3 – Pick 87 – Ben Cleveland, Guard, Georgia

With their final pick in the third round, the Steelers finish the rebuild of their offensive line and select Ben Cleveland from Georgia. At 6’6″ and 335 pounds, Cleveland has the build to be a great addition to any offensive line. His solid technique and hand placement make him dangerous on the interior of the offensive line. His slight downfall is hit agility and movement. This shouldn’t be too much of an issue if he is lined up in the guard position.

With his strength and great technique, he is a valuable asset in the passing game. He is difficult to bull rush and can read defenders when they are trying twists and stunts. He spent three years as a right guard with the Georgia Bulldogs and with a bit of refining he can become a starter in the NFL. 

The Pittsburgh Steelers already have a dangerous offense and if they follow this mock draft they can bolster the running game. They also add another weapon at the receiver position and give number seven another option when he has the ball. Who knows, he might not get many more opportunities. An exciting Pittsburgh Steelers draft could be exactly what the franchise needs to get back to the big game.

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