In 2020, the Pittsburgh Steelers had about as wild of a roller coaster as you could experience in the NFL outside of going winless or winning a Super Bowl.
The Steelers started the season 11-0 before losing four of their last five games in the regular season. They then proceeded to lose their wild-card playoff game against the Cleveland Browns. All of that makes it hard to really pinpoint where you are as a team. Most believe the Steelers were a bit overrated and lucky to be 11-0 through their first 11 games. But losers of five of their last six, including their playoff game, seems to be a bit too far on the other end of the spectrum for their true identity.
That was sure to make for an interesting offseason for them, and that was indeed the case. They agreed to keep their long-time franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in their short-term plans, despite his older age, retirement questions, and just an overall dip in his play the previous season. However, over the course of the early offseason, they lost their starting left tackle Alejandro Villanueva and their starting center Maurkice Pouncey, starting pass rusher Bud Dupree, slot corner Mike Hilton, and starting outside corner Steven Nelson.
This puts the Steelers in an unknown spot. Bringing back Roethlisberger makes you think they’re still all-in on trying to win in 2021. But losing that many starters on top of falling flat on their face to end the previous campaign puts a lot of doubt into that.
If the Steelers want to compete in the short-term, they’ll need a strong draft class to do so. Here’s what a potential seven-round mock could look like for Pittsburgh.
Round 1 (No. 24 overall): Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
With two starting corners down and the only one left being a past-his-prime Joe Haden, the Steelers have to make a big-time splash in their cornerback room if they want to make sure their secondary is up to playoff par. They have Justin Layne and Cam Sutton, but they still need a potential CB1 type.
Farley could very well be that. CB1 players usually don’t make it to the back end of the first round, but Farley’s medical history could cause a bit of a slide for him. It was recently reported that he underwent a second back surgery this offseason, which isn’t the best news—having two surgeries on your back prior to even playing in the NFL is far from ideal. All of that is to say that, when healthy, few cornerbacks have the high ceiling Farley does. He could be a year one starter and a player they can build a secondary around.
Round 2 (No. 55 overall): Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
It’s not always the best draft strategy to pick players for such a short-term view, going after area of need right now, but again, with Roellisberger coming back, I assume that’s what the Steelers are doing, so they’ll have to cover the holes on their offense—of which there are many.
Leatherwood is a good pick for the Steelers if they have a chance to grab him in the second round. He has both guard and tackle versatility, and has even played both offensive tackle positions. He is experienced and talented, though his consistency needs work. He hasn’t shown to be overly dominant with power, to anchor or push. He also has some flexibility issues in his lower half that limit leverage in his stance and his ability to stay in front of defenders in space. His traits say he's a guard but his body says he's a tackle. The Steelers could try him at tackle first since they have an opening.
Round 3 (No. 87 overall): Josh Myers, C, Ohio State
The Steelers have a need at center for the first time in a long time since Pouncey is now retired. Myers is a capable center who comes from two years of starting experience with the Buckeyes. He has shown a good understanding of pre-snap call-outs and post-snap positioning. He is not the best athlete on the offensive line, and because of this, isn't a naturally dominant run blocker or blanketing pass protector. But with solid guards next to him, he knows how to redirect and maneuver the defensive line to avoid giving up pressure.
Round 4 (No. 128 overall): Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, Oklahoma
The Steelers’ top running back option to start the season is still unknown. If a unique player like Stevenson makes it to them in the middle rounds, getting him in their running back room to give Pittsburgh a new option could be a big payoff. Stevenson moves well for a player of his size, and he’ll be a fan favorite for how powerful he can be once he gains some momentum through the running lane.
Round 4 (No. 140 overall): Kary Vincent Jr., CB, LSU
Vincent Jr. doesn’t have a ton of tape due to how talented a more senior LSU defense was back in 2019 (he opted out of 2020), but he brings real track speed and takeaway mentality to the position. He can be a slot cornerback or a safety, at times, but I think his best work can come from the slot. He has the athleticism to shut players down in space, even with two-way gos.
Round 6 (No. 216 overall): Jordon Scott, IDL, Oregon
Scott is more of just a depth add. With the Steelers typically playing those odd fronts, getting a big man in the middle to rotate in to plug some gaps and open up space or one-on-ones for the outside linebacker pass rushers could be a worthwhile investment.
Round 7 (No. 245 overall): Landon Young, OT, Kentucky
This pick is more for depth than anything. The Steelers don’t exactly know who their starting five offensive linemen are going to be, or their “next man in” for the tackle and interior spots. When that is the case, investing in the trenches is a good strategy.
Round 7 (No. 254 overall): Jordan Reid, OT, Michigan State
I’m going to be honest, I made this pick just because it’s the same exact name and spelling of Jordan Reid of TDN’s scouting staff. In reality, this is completely a “best player available” approach for the Steelers, who in this mock draft got a lot of good talent for their biggest areas of need to try to compete as best they can in 2021.