Friedlander: Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 Mock Draft (First and Final Version)

Welcome to NFL Draft Day 2022 !!! Just when you thought it was safe and all the mock drafts were done… I couldn’t resist throwing my hat in the ring with a mock draft of my own. But fear not, Steelers fans. This is just a quick romp through 7 rounds with a few predictions, a couple of pop culture references, and no quiz on scheme.

Let’s start with the disclaimers:

  • This draft is based on WHAT I THINK THE STEELERS WILL DO, NOT WHO I WOULD DRAFT.
  • I totally cheated. I waited until the last possible moment so that I have the advantage of knowing all the free agent signings, all the Combine and Pro Day results and attendees and all the wisdom that Dave Bryan and Alex Kozora have shared in the past few weeks of downright brilliant podcasting.
  • I am assuming that any trades will be made with future draft capital (2023 and beyond). Because my Magic 8 Ball told me “Signs point to yes”.
  • I am doing this for you entertainment and mine. I will probably still be completely wrong but it’s fun to rant about draft picks.

With that said, HERE WE GO!

PICK 1:20 QB MALIK WILLIS (LIBERTY)

Look, I don’t have a clue if Willis will be a dominating franchise quarterback for years to come or a merely project that didn’t work out. And no one else knows either. Here’s what we can say: you would have to be hiking with Jared Leto and no cell phone to miss the intense interest that the Steelers have in this potential diamond in the rough. They haven’t been coy about their top draft choices for years and they sure weren’t this time around either. Mike Tomlin may as well have shouted it from the mountain top. Dave and the Kozora Detective Agency have done all the homework on the patterns that identify who the team will take in the first round (Pro Day visits, dinner, visit to Pittsburgh, etc).

In the past few days, reports suggest that multiple teams are open to trading down, which could lower the price for Pittsburgh. I have absolutely no idea what the Steelers would need to offer in a trade to move up and get Willis or if he could actually fall to the 20th pick, as some recent insiders have suggested. All the evidence indicates that Willis is their guy, so I’m working on the assumption that Kevin Colbert will do what it takes to secure their QB1 of the future and the final move of the GM’s career.

Also considered:

DT Jordan Davis (Georgia) – How on earth do you not take him if he slips to the 20th spot? !!!

S Lewis Cine (Georgia) – Meets all the criteria for a Steelers first round pick (all the right visits, significant talent at a position of need).

PICK 2:20 (52nd overall) S JAQUAN BRISKER (PENN STATE)

Five words, folks: Brisker. Can. Cover. Tight. Ends. And aren’t we all so so very tired of seeing our Steelers LBs and DBs getting torched by opposing tight ends year after year?

Leadership? Check. Good communicator? Check. Plays hard and aggressive? Check. Good football IQ? Check. Oh, and there were multiple Steelers defensive coaches present for his pro day, including DBs Coach Grady Brown. Brisker’s tackling issues will allow this player to drop to the second round. Good news for the Steelers, since that can be fixed. And with veteran Terrell Edmunds coming back on a one year deal, Brisker isn’t under pressure to start right away and can develop some consistency while playing special teams.

Also considered:

WR Skyy Moore (Western Michigan) – A Pittsburgh native with tons of talent but it’s too soon for a receiver.

EDGE Drake Jackson (USC) – Could he be the next Alex Highsmith?

Note: I didn’t consider mock draft favorite WR George Pickens (Georgia), more for the possible character issues (the team has learned that lesson) than the injury history.

PICK 3:20 (84th overall) CB COBY BRYANT (CINNCINNATI)

For months, I really thought the third round would be the place to draft a wide receiver and even talked about it in a Terrible Take. But this is a deep draft when it comes to receiver talent and good cornerbacks are tougher to come by. So I have the Steelers selecting one of our own Owen Straley’s favorites. Because Owen plays DB and is ridiculously smart. Oh, and Bryant is a really good DB. Even playing across the field from superstar CB Sauce Gardner, Bryant still impressed and should be a valuable addition in Pittsburgh. There was a huge Steelers contingent present for the Cinncinnati Pro Day (Tomlin, Colbert, Khan, Hunt and others) and you could argue that they were there to see QB Desmond Ridder. But they most certainly got a good look at Bryant, too.

Also considered:

WR Christian Watson (NDSU) – The entire Depot crew loves this player and he’ll probably be great. But I just don’t see the Steelers picking him.

S Nick Cross (Maryland) – If I hadn’t gone safety in Round 2, he would have been my guy.

TE Jelani Woods (Virginia) – LOVED this player at the Shrine Bowl. He’s a beast and he’ll be amazing. The Steelers just have too many needs to look at tight ends this year.

PICK 4:33 (138th overall) WR BO MELTON (RUTGERS)

I have to admit, I started watching Rutgers tape to check out one of my Shrine Bowl favorites, RB Isaih Pacheco. But even with some not-so-fabulous QB play, it’s easy to see why Bo Melton got invited to the Senior Bowl. At 5110, Melton is no giant but he still checks of every box in the Kozora “what the Steeler look for” Rubik’s Cube. He’s fast. Really fast. 4.34 40 fast. He breaks tackles. He returns kicks, and with Ray Ray McCloud leaving, that job is open. He had a RAS of 9.2. He did even better with our stats whiz Clayton Eckert’s “Interest/Athletic Score”. And yes, I will be devastated and probably spend several days moping when another team takes my draft crush Baylor’s WR Tyquan Thornton. But this mock draft isn’t about what I want.

Also considered:

LB Darrian Beavers (Cincinnati)-Off-ball linebacker is a need.

OT Cordell Volson (NDSU) – Good chance that Volson moves to guard but he has talent and versatility.

PICK 6:29 (208th overall) EDGE JEFFREY GUNTER (COASTAL CAROLINA)

I’ll be honest. The first thing I thought of when I started checking out this OLB during practice at the Shrine Bowl was Ready Player One. But thanks to Depot’s Josh Carney, who picked him out early on as one to watch, I grew to appreciate what Gunter could offer on the field as well. It’s impossible to project his draft position and “experts” (I use this term loosely) have him going anywhere from the fourth to seventh round. There’s a good chance that despite a high RAS he will still be available on Day 3. If so, the Steelers will likely bring him to Pittsburgh.

Also considered:

RB Pierre Strong (NDSU) – Another North Dakota State player whose draft stock has been on the rise.

RB Ty Chandler (North Carolina) – Coming off his super senior year, he is probably too old for the Steelers but would be a great addition as a three down back.

PICK 7:04 (225th overall) LB DAMONE CLARK (LSU)

The bad news is that Clark, coming off spine surgery for a herniated disc discovered during his NFL Combine physical, may miss his entire rookie season. But seventh round picks don’t always make the roster anyway, so it makes sense to spend the pick on a player who may be a significant contributor once he recovers. He is expected to return to form but he could spend the 2022 season as a “redshirt”. The Steelers brought in ILB Myles Jack and still have Devin Bush for one more year even if they don’t pick up his fifth year option, so there is time for Clark to work his way onto the roster.

Also considered:

WR Josh Johnson (Tulsa) and WR Charleston Rambo (Miami -FL) -If either of these receivers were available, they would be great value.

T Jean Delance (Florida) – Added depth for the OL but just not enough value.

PICK 7:20 (241st overall) H-BACK CONNOR HEYWARD (MICHIGAN STATE)

No surprise to finish off the third day of the draft. The younger brother of defensive captain Cam Heyward (who has been campaigning hard on little bro’s behalf) has been the closest thing to a lock for the Steelers, as Alexa DellaRocco explained in her Terrible Take last Saturday. He brings athleticism, versatility, and the brother/bloodline that Tomlin and Colbert can’t seem to resist (see: Watt, Edmunds, and Davis brothers). He can contribute as a runner, a blocker, a receiver out of the backfield and a special teamer.

Also considered:

Ha ha. There was never any thought of taking any other player here.

Well, there you have it. Were there players I would have preferred? Sure, and some of them will go undrafted and land on my UDFA wish list. But based on history, habit, and position need, this is my roll of the dice for what the Steelers will do when they’re on the clock.

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