Tumultuous offseasons in Pittsburgh have become almost expected at this point, but 2019 might really take the cake. As the Steelers figure out what to do with Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell, the team must also rebuild their defense, adding as many as 2-3 starters to the secondary and at least one linebacker.
Some of that will happen in free agency, but the Steelers have always been a team that builds primarily through the draft, and this year will be no exception. With comp picks still unknown, here is my best shot at predicting what a Steelers mock draft could look like given their current slate of draft choices.
In order to make these selections, I fired up The Draft Network's Mock Draft Machine, which releases to the public on February 25th. You can draft for one team, two teams, heck, you can draft for all 32 teams if you’d like. Make sure to keep your eye out for the launch!
Round 1, Pick 20: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, DB, Florida
Now this isn't a player you see getting mock to Pittsburgh very often, or any other team in Round 1 for that matter. Here's the scenario: Greedy Williams and Devin White are off the board. Cornerback remains the highest priority, but I'm trying to keep this mock realistic, and I can't see the Steelers drafting small Byron Murphy or small and (relatively) slow Deandre Baker in Round 1.
Gardner-Johnson played in the nickel most of this season for Florida, but he has the size and athleticism to play on the outside as well. It's a projection, but if CGJ tests well, I fully expect some teams will want to see him at cornerback. In Pittsburgh there is no certainty at any position in the secondary outside of Terrell Edmunds and Joe Haden, meaning CGJ could potentially play in the slot, convert to outside corner or replace Sean Davis at free safety. Either way, he's probably the best defensive back available that Pittsburgh would consider at no. 20.
Round 2, Pick 53: Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson
Billed as a size-speed-length cornerback, Mullen fits the prototype of what the Steelers want at the position, but has made shockingly few plays on the ball in college and needs significant technical development. Those concerns haven't stopped Pittsburgh before, and now the Steelers are desperate to rebuild a beleaguered secondary that might get gutted this offseason.
Round 3, Pick 84: Terry McLaurin, WR, Ohio State
A legit speedster with serious route-running ability, McLaurin should test well enough to elevate his stock into the top 100 despite just 75 career catches at Ohio State. The Steelers drafted James Washington to be a vertical threat for them last year, and while they will still hold out hope he develops, Antonio Brown's potential absence suggests wide receiver could be a major priority for the team moving forward. McLaurin can add an element to the Steelers' receiving room that it currently lacks.
Round 4, Pick 116: Terrill Hanks, LB, New Mexico State
Hanks is highly athletic, competitive, physical and can't tackle. The ideal Steelers prototype at linebacker. Hanks is what you want on the hoof, but needs significant development from the neck up and in his form as a tackler. I wouldn't count on him to start right away, but with proper coaching, he has starter upside down the road.
Round 6, Pick 162: Armon Watts, IDL, Arkansas
Watts stock might rise above the Round 6 range after an impressive Shrine week in St. Petersburg. He has legit pass rush ability and quickness for an interior defensive lineman, breaking out in his final season as a Razorback with seven sacks. The Steelers desperately need some depth and long/late down ability in their interior defensive line group.
Round 6, Pick 185: Darius Slayton, WR, Auburn
The Steelers may lose Brown, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Justin Hunter and Eli Rogers this offseason, and they have always been a team that re-loads at the position through the draft. Slayton is a legit vertical threat with game-breaking long speed and intriguing post-catch ability. Whatever round he's drafted in, you can bet the Steelers will be interested in his skill set.
Round 7, Pick 197: Javon Patterson, IOL, Ole Miss
Pittsburgh has prepared for the possibility of losing Ramon Foster in free agency with the development of B.J. Finney, but how much they believe in the longtime backup will be revealed this offseason. Patterson improved a lot this past season for Ole Miss, but he'll still be a developmental prospect for new OL coach Shaun Sarrett to develop.
*REMINDER*: You can play general manager for your favorite team too when Mock Draft Machine releases to the public on February 25th!