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Pittsburgh Steelers April Scouting Report
Rick Moses
4/22/2019

The NFL draft will be held from Thursday April 25 through Saturday April 27 in Nashville TN. Expect the Steelers to again focus on defense, although free agent signings mean they have the option to consider the best athlete/player available on the first two days. Below is a list of team needs, most desperate first. Players the Steelers talked to at a post season all star game, the combine, their pro day and/or took an official visit to Pittsburgh are listed alphabetically. When there is overlap a prospect is listed only once, official visits and then the pro day/combine taking precedence in that order. These are not necessarily exhaustive lists, someone could have been missed. Some of the visits were likely just the Steelers doing their due diligence on players that have some question-mark, on and/or off the field. Just because someone was not specifically talked to or asked to visit is far from a reason to think they will not be strongly considered in the draft.

 

ILB: Both ILB Vince Williams and ILB Tyler Matakevich are two down run stuffers at BUCK linebacker. They are adequate at best, yet not the real problem. A versatile, three down MACK linebacker to replace ILB Ryan Shazier is the main need. Finding someone will not be easy. Last year ILB LJ Fort came on as the season progressed out performing free agent signee ILB Jon Bostic. Fort left as a free agent for the Redskins. Aging veteran ILB Mark Barron was signed as a stopgap. ILB Devin White or ILB Devin Bush would be excellent replacements. Neither is expected to be available with the 20th pick after eye popping combine performances. Both should be off the board by the Bengals pick at 11, the Packers pick at 12 on the outside. Could a trade up be possible? The Lions are reportedly interested in trading out of the 8th pick. Would they be willing to move all the way down to the 20th pick?

 

Official Visit: ILB BJ Blunt - McNeese St, ILB Gary Jackson - Texas, ILB Ben Burr-Kirven - Washington, ILB Ulysees Gilbert - Akron, ILB David Long - West Va, ILB Quincy Williams - Murray St

Combine: ILB Devin White - LSU, ILB Mack Wilson - Alabama

East/West Shrine: ILB Joe Dineen - Kansas

 

OLB: Only OLB TJ Watt is adequate on the edge. OLB Bud Dupree has disappointed for four seasons. His fifth year option was picked up seemingly more in desperation than because of actual value. Primary backup OLB Anthony Chickillo was resigned for depth. Last year's seventh rounder OLB Keion Adams spent the year on injured reserve. On the off chance OLB Brian Burns falls to the 20th pick he would have to be considered. DE Clellin Farrell does not appear to be an option. He is more 4-3 end, lacking the athleticism to play in space which is necessary in the Steelers scheme. The other top edge rushers will be long gone. A day two pick could be used on the position.

 

Official Visit: OLB Ben Banogu - TCU, OLB Jordan Brailford - OK St, OLB Andrew VanGinkel - Wisconsin

Combine: OLB Jachai Polite - Florida, OLB Chase Winovich - Michigan

East/West Shrine: OLB Justin Hollins - Oregon

 

CB: The signing of free agent CB Steven Nelson to pair outside with CB Joe Haden and CB Mike Hilton in the slot makes the talent level at corner adequate at least. CB Cam Sutton is the main backup. Former first round CB Artie Burns just never developed. He'll still probably make the roster for his third season. Haden isn't getting any younger, has been injury prone. Nelson has only one good year under his belt. He was better in the slot earlier in his career. Hilton will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. Adding a shutdown corner for the future is a good idea for any team. CB Byron Murphy, CB Deandre Baker and CB Greedy Williams if the front office believes his tackling issues were at least in part caused by his shoulder problems could all provide value at 20. There are quite a few good second day options at the position.

 

Official Visit: Baker - Georgia, CB Sean Bunning - Central Michigan, CB Justin Layne - Michigan St, Murphy - Washington, CB Rock Ya-Sin - Temple

Combine: CB Greedy Williams - LSU

Senior Bowl: CB Amani Oruwariye - Penn St

 

WR: Trading all pro WR Antonio Brown obviously leaves a hole at receiver, just not a gaping hole. WR JuJu Smith-Schuster was elected team MVP last season by his teammates. Last year's second round WR James Washington showed some flashes in the final quarter of the season. WR Donte Moncrief was signed to a two year deal. Having QB Ben Roethlisberger throwing him the ball should be a nice change after playing with QB Scott Tolzien, QB Jacoby Brissett, QB Blake Bortles and QB Cody Kessler the last two seasons. WR Ryan Switzer and WR Eli Rogers are decent if not particularly explosive slot receivers. They will directly compete with each other for playing time, perhaps a roster spot. Kevin Colbert has a history of hitting on day two and three receivers. Brown was a sixth rounder.

 

Official Visit: WR Miles Boykin - Notre Dame, WR Andy Isabella - UMass, WR Diontae Johnson - Toledo, WR Dillon Mitchell - Oregon

Combine: WR AJ Brown - Mississippi, WR Marquise Brown - Oklahoma, WR K'Neal Harry - Arizona St, WR DK Metcalf - Mississippi, WR Riley Ridley - Georgia, WR Deebo Samuel - South Carolina

Pro Day WR Greg Jennings - West Va, WR David Sills - West Va

 

TE: The Lions paid big money for the outlaw, backup TE Jesse James. Depth is needed at the least for two tight end sets. TE Vance McDonald is in the last year of his deal. TE Xavier Grimble signed his restricted free agent tender. Next year there could legitimately be nothing left on the depth chart.

 

Official Visit: TE Alize Mack - Notre Dame, TE Foster Moreau - LSU, TE Josh Oliver - San Jose St

East/West Shrine: TE Kendall Blanton - Missouri

 

S: Last year's big ticket free agent S Morgan Burnett could not stay healthy, was not happy with his role. He has been released. The Steelers reached in the 2018 first round for SS Terrell Edmunds. He developed adequately. FS Sean Davis is in the last year of his contract. He lacks top ball skills often leaving corners on an island when he fails to help as a single deep safety. Depth behind both is thin. The hope is last year's fifth rounder S Marcus Allen can help. There has been talk of moving third year CB Brian Allen to free safety.

 

Official Visit: S Ugo Amadi - Oregon, S Dravon Askew-Henry - West Va, S Stephen Denmark - Valdosta St, S Darnell Savage - Maryland

Combine: S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson - Florida

Pro Day: S Taylor Rapp - Washington

 

OL: The decision to trade OT Marcus Gilbert for a sixth rounder and cap relief made sense especially considering he played only 12 games total in the last two years due to suspension and injury. OT Matt Feiler was fine on the right side replacing Gilbert last season. OT Gerald Hawkins returns from injury to join 2018 third round OT Chiki Okorafor as the primary backups behind OT Alejandro Villenueva and Feiler. The offensive line need is more for depth and the future inside. OG BJ Finney is the only adequate backup behind OG Ramon Foster, OG David DeCastro and C Maurkice Pouncey. Foster and Pouncey especially aren't getting any younger.

 

Official Visit: OG Garrett Brumfield - LSU

Pro Day: OT Cody Ford - Oklahoma

East/West Shrine: OT Oli Udoh - Elon

 

RB: Can RB James Connor stay healthy? He and RB Jaylen Samuels provide a decent enough duo. Both can be feature runners and have the ability to contribute in the passing game. Adding a more traditional third down back wouldn't be the worst idea. Waiting until the second pick of the third round or day three to take a flier on a back is the likeliest scenario.

 

Official Visit: RB Damien Harris - Alabama, RB Travis Homer - Miami FL, RB Ty Johnson - Maryland, RB Miles Sanders - Penn St, RB Jordan Scarlett - Florida, RB Mike Weber - Ohio St, RB Kerrith Whyte - Florida Atl

Combine: RB Justice Hill - Oklahoma St, FB Alec Ingold - Wisconsin

 

DL: The starters are set with NT Javon Hargrave, DE Cam Heyward and DE Stephon Tuitt. Backups NT Daniel McCullers and DE Tyson Alualu were resigned. Neither McCullers nor Alualu are exciting options, possible future starters. Taking a day three developmental prospect is likely.

 

Official Visit: DE Charles Omenihu - Texas

Combine: DE Anthony Nelson - Iowa

Pro Day: DE Dare Odeyingbo - Vanderbilt, DE Immanuel Turner - Louisiana Tech

Senior Bowl: NT Isaiah Buggs - Alabama, DE John Cominsky - Charleston WV

 

ST: The special teams fell apart last season. PK Chris Boswell struggled after signing a big money extension. P Jordan Berry continued to be one of the worst punters in the game. How he won the job coming out of camp over P Matt Wile remains a mystery. Wile was signed by the Vikings and performed well. Serious competition for both Boswell and Berry would make sense. Past experience suggests both are more than likely to return. The return game was mediocre at best. Kick returns have been de-emphasized with the new kickoff rules. Switzer is steady yet lacks explosiveness as a punt returner.

 

QB: Talks to extend QB Ben Roethlisberger remain active. No whispers of him possibly retiring came out this off season like the last two years. QB Josh Dobbs and QB Mason Rudolph have been drafted the last two years. Rudolph remains the presumptive quarterback of the future.

 

A Steelers seven round mock draft follows. The Steelers currently have ten picks including six on the third day and three in the sixth round. There is no way ten rookies are making the roster and that ignores the rookie free agent or two that almost always impresses in camp. Expect some player(s) to be targeted in the mid-rounds with at the least a sixth rounder included to trade up. A trade up in the first round seems less likely.

 

1) 20. TE Noah Fant - Iowa

 

The inside linebackers and edge rushers are likely to be gone. The top corner or two could also be off the board. Changing gears seems the prudent course if this is indeed the case. Fant is a weapon. His speed and athleticism would present a matchup nightmare. Not as good a blocker or all around tight end as his teammate Hockenson, he tries hard in all facets of the game and isn't completely over matched physically in any. Should Bush fall into the mid-teens a trade up using one of the extra third rounders needs to be made.

 

Others: Brown - Oklahoma, OLB Brian Burns - Florida St, Bush - Michigan, Ford - Oklahoma, Murphy - Washington, Williams - LSU, Ya Sin - Temple

 

2) 52. ILB Mack Wilson - Alabama

 

Strong, tough and fast with adequate size. Wilson fits the current prototype of a three down linebacker, exactly what the Steelers need. Early entrant that didn't really improve as a junior. Might be too mechanical, doesn't make many instinctive plays. Generally thought of as a first rounder at the beginning of the process. Hasn't had a great post season in position drills or reportedly interviews despite testing well physically.

 

Others: WR Hakeem Butler - Iowa Sr, CB Julian Love - Notre Dame, Omenihu - Texas, Savage - Maryland, Winovich - Michigan

 

3) 66. CB Justin Layne - Michigan St

 

Layne is a tall, long bump and run corner with excellent ball skills and awareness. Lacks only top recovery speed.

 

Others: Banogu - TCU, Isabella - UMass, Burr-Kirven - Washington, Harris - Alabama, S Amani Hooker - Iowa, ILB Germaine Pratt - NC St

 

3) 83. OLB Christian Miller - Alabama

 

A second Alabama LB. A leader. Superb athletic tools. Could contribute immediate. Season ended early in each of the last two years due to injury which of course causes concern. Scheme limited to the edge in an odd man front which also could cause him to drop here to the Steelers.

 

Others: Boykin - Notre Dame, ILB Blake Cashman - Minnesota, RB Darrell Henderson - Memphis, CB David Long - Michigan, Oliver - San Jose St

 

4) 122. WR David Sills - West Virginia

 

Former quarterback once famously offered a scholarship at 13 by Lane Kiffin at USC. Still developing as a receiver. Red zone threat thanks to height, body control, intelligence. Thin, not physical. Lacks top speed.

 

Others: Jennings - West Va, Gilbert - Akron, Hill - OK St, Mitchell - Oregon, DE Armon Watts - Arkansas

 

5) 141. RB Travis Homer - Miami FL

 

Better bouncing outside than between the tackles. Solid receiver. Ability in pass protection could get him on the field quickly as a third down back. Plus punt returner. Ability in punt coverage an added bonus.

 

Others: Brailford - OK St, Johnson - Texas, Long - West Va, Moreau - LSU, S Ken Webster - Mississippi

 

6) 175. DE John Cominsky - Charleston WV

 

Recruited as an option quarterback. Started for four years on defense after a redshirt. Hard worker. Needs pro coaching, more time in the weight room. Lacks pass rush explosiveness, technique. Probably more a candidate for the practice squad than the roster.

 

Others: ILB Tyrel Dodson - Texas A&M, Mack - Notre Dame, Udoh - Elon, Scarlett - Florida

 

6) 192. S Ugo Amadi - Oregon

 

Leader. Intelligent. Strong, tough and productive. Plus punt returner. Lacks top recovery speed and height, although long arms help. Sort of a corner/safety tweener lacking top corner athleticism.

 

Others: CB Rashad Fenton - South Carolina, Hollins - Oregon, ILB Leo Lewis - Mississippi St, RB Tony Pollard - Memphis

 

6) 207. P John Fox - Rice

 

Targeting a player and moving up in the fourth or fifth round at the price of a sixth rounder makes sense with ten total picks including six on the third day and three in the sixth round. Trying to find possibilities for all these late picks is difficult when doing a mock draft let alone actually drafting to fill the 80 man roster. This selection is more personal wish than legitimate possibility than the other day three projections. Fox is a strong legged punter known for his booming kicks. He needs work on placement which can be taught. Berry was resigned, but should in no way, shape or form be guaranteed a job. There is no way he should have been kept last year over Wile.

 

Others: Blanton - Missouri, ILB Chase Hansen, RB Wes Hills - Slippery Rock, Ingold - Wisconsin

 

7) 219. OT Josh Miles - Morgan St

 

A lottery ticket. Possess the necessary physical traits to develop inside or as a swing tackle. Lacks refinement, but took well to coaching at the Senior Bowl. Would feel better about a pick like this if Mike Munchack hadn't headed to Denver.

 

Others: Askew-Henry - West Va, Blunt - McNeese St, Brumfield - LSU, P Tyler Newsome - Notre Dame, Whyte - Florida Atl

 

End.

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