With the NFL season halfway over and many disappointed fans looking toward the future of their struggling teams, it is officially mock draft season. And with the Steelers projected to have the fourth overall pick, their highest since 1970 when they took Terry Bradshaw first overall, many supporters have turned their attention to figuring out who their future cornerstone new general manager that Omar Khan will decide to build the Steelers’ franchise around.
Round 1, Pick 4: Jalen Carter- Defensive Tackle From Georgia
Yes, one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL is still playing for the Steelers, and yes, the Steelers defense has outperformed their offense by a wide margin, but passing on the young Georgia product would be a huge mistake. The 6-foot-3, 300-pound junior ranks fifth on PFF‘s big board due to his “rare pass-rushing ability.” But not just that, he is a force to be reckoned with in the run game. His ability to shed off blocks is paralleled only by edge rusher from Alabama, Will Anderson.
His numbers, as impressive as they are this season, are limited due to him missing a handful of games with a sprained MCL. Plugging him on a defensive line with TJ Watt and Cam Heyward as a Stephon Tuitt replacement would make them one of the scariest groups from around the league.
Round 2, Pick 34: Olu Fashanu- Offensive Tackle From Penn State
Steelers QBs have been sacked 21 times, which is tied for the tenth most in the league. The Steelers also run toward their left tackle roughly 27% of the time, so having a plug-and-play 6’6 322 pound LT that hasn’t allowed a single hit on the QB so far through 299 pass-blocking snaps and is quick and powerful off the line of scrimmage should upgrade the whole unit and in turn help the entire offense, especially when he’s replacing a guy who has allowed three sacks and has been penalized six times in just 535 total snaps. Not to mention, he is only 19 years old and is going to keep progressing in the NFL.
Round 2, Pick 39(Via Chicago): Josh Downs- Wide Receiver From UNC
The son of former Giants first-round pick Gary Downs and nephew of former NFL cornerback Dre Bly, Josh Downs was raised in a football family. The 5’10, 180-pound wide receiver has dominated at UNC through 2 different QBs: Sam Howell, who was chosen in the fifth round of last year’s draft by the Washington Commanders, and Drake Maye.
Through his first seven games this year, he has 63 receptions for 693 yards and 8 TDs, which is on pace to outperform his stat line from last year. Josh primarily plays in the slot, a desperate need for the Steelers after they traded away Chase Claypool, who played in the slot role for them earlier this season. However, the two could not be more different. Claypool uses his size to make more contested catches, but Downs uses his route-running skills and elite hands to get separation and make catches no matter where the pass is thrown.
Round 3, Pick 68: Justin Flowe- Inside Linebacker From Oregon
The “other” Oregon linebacker might be even more talented than the guy currently starting over him: Noah Sewell. After adding Jalen Carter in the first round, the Steelers will add to their defense. While playing just serviceable this year in pass coverage, Flowe has proven to be one of the best run-defenders and most athletic players in the entire draft.
He has 47 total tackles, three for loss, and a forced fumble in nine career games. But therein lies the issue with him. He has only played nine games because he suffered a torn meniscus in 2020 and a foot injury in 2021. However, so far in 2022, he’s been dominant and completely healthy, so if he keeps this up, he can continue rising up teams’ draft boards.
Round 4, Pick 103: Malachi Moore- Cornerback From Alabama
With Malachi Moore, the Steelers would be betting on his crazy high upside. As a freshman, he was one of the best CBs in all of college football, lodging 44 tackles, three interceptions, six pass deflections, and a forced fumble. Despite that, he has not looked like the same player this year after his injury last year. He still has the extraordinary ball skills and talent he had as a freshman but looks less confident and way more inconsistent.
Mike Tomlin and the rest of the coaching staff shouldn’t have a problem turning him into a great player, as they always seem to maximize struggling defensive backs’ strengths and disguise their weaknesses. He also has experience playing on special teams, so he could offer added value if they need him to play there.
Round 7, Pick 199: DJ Turner- Cornerback From Michigan
DJ Turner could not be more different than Malachi Moore. While Malachi is more of a project and way more athletic, DJ has a higher floor due to his fundamentals and instincts. Also unlike Malachi, DJ has played two straight full seasons since becoming the starter in 2021. His ceiling isn’t very high, which is why he isn’t getting much hype from other teams, but he has been a consistent force for the Wolverines and could potentially be that for the Steelers for years to come.
Round 7, Pick 225: Travis Dye- Running Back From USC
While this pick is not a Najee Harris replacement, it could give Pittsburgh a change of pace back, like what Tampa Bay has decided to do with Rachaad White and Leonard Fournette. Especially with Benny Snell likely going into free agency after this year, a running back makes too much sense with this pick. Since 2019, Travis Dye has not had a season in which he finished with under six yards per carry. He is also an essential option in their passing game, as he already has 20 receptions for 194 this year.
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