(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
It’s late January so it’s still early in the draft process. Senior Bowl practices are commencing and mock drafts are pouring into the minds of draft-thirsty fans. This mock draft for the Pittsburgh Steelers includes their current seven selections and does not feature any compensatory picks that may get slotted to the team.
I used Pro Football Network’s mock draft simulator to help regulate the likeliness of a player’s availability.
Round 1, Pick 24: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
It’s known that Mike Tomlin has an affinity for Virginia Tech products, and this one will fill a vital need. Alejandro Villanueva is slated to be a free agent this off-season and I expect the team to let him walk. The offensive line left too many plays on the field this season and was arguably the worst unit on the team. Darrisaw slides into the starting lineup on day one. With a combination of size, athleticism and physicality, the Virginia Tech product would be a breath of fresh air on the underperforming unit.
Other players on the board considered: OT Tevin Jenkins, LB Zaven Collins, CB Tyson Campbell
Round 2, Pick 55: Creed Humphrey, OC, Oklahoma
There are already glowing reports from the Senior Bowl regarding Humphrey and like Darrisaw, would be a day one starter for the Steelers. Like Kevin Dotson, Humphrey is a force to be reckoned with and is a powerful anchor at the position. A mean streak coupled with being a sharp technician, Humphrey replaces recently retired Maurkice Pouncey and the dismantled unit continues to be rebuilt.
Other players on the board considered: RB Kenneth Gainwell, TE Brevin Jordan, LB Chazz Surratt
Round 3, Pick 87: Trey Sermon, RB, The Ohio State University
The Steelers need an infusion of talent at the running back position with James Conner set to leave in free agency, and the likes of Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland haven’t shown to be bell-cow material. Sermon is a combination of size, speed and receiving ability who can stretch the field and break off the home-run rushes that the Steelers have been yearning for since Willie Parker. Sermon is a 3-down back who can benefit from the two picks before him.
Other players on the board considered: LB Cam McGrone, NT Tommy Togiai, QB Kyle Trask
Round 4, Pick 121: Deommodore Lenoir, CB, Oregon
Joe Haden could be cut as a cap casualty, but even if he’s retained, the Steelers will need to add some talent at the position. Also who could be lost in the offseason are both cornerbacks Cam Sutton and Mike Hilton. According to Oregon Football’s website, Lenoir finished his career with 34 consecutive starts and only allowed a 54% completion percentage in his senior season (53% in 2019). The former Duck is a fierce, reliable tackler who is sticky in coverage.
Other players on the board considered: DT Jaylen Twyman, LB Monty Rice, WR Shi Smith
Round 6, Pick 192: Frank Darby, WR, Arizona State
I’m predicting that JuJu Smith-Schuster is playing football somewhere other than Pittsburgh in 2021. This has no inflection on my personal wishes, but a practical opinion. The Steelers can bring in a receiver with top-level speed and almost identical size to Smith-Shuster. What the Roethlisberger-led offense lacked in 2020 was breakaway plays. Rarely did the offense connect deep, or break off a reception for a long score. With the attention on rising stars Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool, Darby can contribute while taking advantage of 1-on-1 opportunities.
Other players on the board considered: S Tariq Thompson, DT Khyiris Tonga, LB Justin Hilliard
Round 7, Pick 211: Matt Bushman, TE, BYU
Vance McDonald just retired and Eric Ebron is a ball of inconsistency across the board. The Steelers need to add to the tight end room and Bushman has a high ceiling. A combination of size, receiving ability and blocking, Bushman checks the boxes needed to play the position in the NFL at a respectively high level. Blocking will be the former Cougar’s calling card, but make no mistake, his receiving ability is nothing to overlook.
Bushman reminds me of Cameron Brate.
Other players on the board considered: TE Kylen Granson, EDGE Malik Herring, OT Josh Bell
Round 7 Pick 220: Paddy Fisher, LB, Northwestern
Vince Williams may be cut as a potential cap casualty, but even if retained, the linebackers on this roster in 2020 left much to be desired. Paddy Fisher is a special teams demon who racked up over 400 career tackles in his collegiate career. Fisher has the speed and instincts to be a contributor on defense after earning his way up from special teams.
Other players on the board considered: EDGE Tarron Jackson, OT Syrus Tuitele, P Drue Chrisman
Overall, I am happy with this draft. It features 5-6 selections that could be starters or have some real first-year impact. With the Steelers fighting a gruesome battle with the salary cap, finding rookie starters within the draft will be absolutely rewarding for this team. I would have liked to obtain an outside linebacker on day three, along with a safety. Regrettably, a quarterback of the future was not drafted, it will have to wait until 2022. What I did do was set the future quarterback with two new offensive linemen, a bell-cow running back and a field-stretching receiver. What are your thoughts?