2017 NFL Draft: Steelers Mock Draft Offseason Version 1.0

After a season that fell just short of Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl aspirations, who will Pittsburgh look to in the draft to help reach the title game in 2017?

Oct 8, 2016; Tempe, AZ, USA; UCLA Bruins defensive lineman Takkarist McKinley (98) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

All good things have to come to an end.

Even though Pittsburgh failed to reach the Super Bowl and lost in a relatively uncompetitive game against New England, this season was great.

The Steelers took major strides, notably the development of their young contributors, and strung together consecutive playoff victories for the first time since their Super Bowl loss in 2010. I am proud that our Steelers made it all the way to the AFC Championship game, and I look forward to seeing them hopefully win it next year as well.

With our attention turning towards the off-season, lets take a look at a quick Steelers Mock Draft to see how the Steelers can continue to improve in 2017.

Round 1: EDGE Takkarist McKinley, UCLA

Takkarist McKinley is a versatile, Senior defender who could wear many hats for Pittsburgh’s defense. With experience at ILB, DE, and playing off the EDGE as a stand up OLB, McKinley could serve as a versatile chess piece in Keith Butler’s defense.

Similar to Ryan Shazier, McKinley wins with outstanding athletic abilities, including quickness to shoot gaps, impressive COD skills, and sideline to sideline range. He is a high effort player who, despite his rawness, finds a way to consistently impact games. As an EDGE rusher, McKinley flashes an outstanding speed-power conversion and above average play strength.

Where he needs to develop is his ability to maximize his natural athletic talents. His pad level is often too high and this affects his ability to get off blocks and hold ground in the run game. Off the EDGE, McKinley could serve to improve his hand usage to create softer edges and develop a deeper arsenal of pass rushing moves.

Once he reaches the league, McKinley will certainly experience a development period similar to Bud Dupree. However, he has all the traits and abilities you desire in a 3-4 EDGE. His athleticism and high motor are exactly what Pittsburgh needs.

Round 2: CB Rasul Douglas, West Virginia

Next up, in round 2 I grab a prototypical Senior CB for Pittsburgh, Rasul Douglas. He led the nation with 8 interceptions in 2016 and fits perfectly in both man and zone coverage schemes.

Douglas possess ideal size with his 6’2″ 204 lb. frame and checks all the boxes athletically, in terms of long speed and quickness. The Senior Bowl standout wins with his physicality and length. He consistently uses his length to disrupt WRs at the catch point, and has the closing burst to close on passing lanes. Douglas fits best  in an off man or zone coverage scheme, where he could play in space and maximize his natural ball skills.

In terms of his weaknesses, Douglas could stand to improve against the run. Despite his larger size, he shows inconsistent effort and willingness. Also, he could improve upon his open field tackling abilities. Additionally, Douglas needs to improve upon his footwork in press man. He gets a little sloppy at moments and will give up separation in man coverage.

Round 2 might be a little too late to select Douglas, but in this Mock he was available. This pick would be a steal for Pittsburgh.

Round 3: EDGE Derek Rivers, Youngstown State

In round 3 Pittsburgh grabs another Senior Bowl riser in Youngstown State EDGE Derek Rivers. Rivers dominated against small school competition, largely due to his size. At 6’4″ 250 lb, Rivers has the ideal profile for a 3-4 EDGE.

Rivers has a special combination of size, speed, agility, and strength. He carries his weight well and is explosive off the edge. He has a great first step, and then shows the ability to bend the edge with flexibility and corner. His hand usage is impressively active at moments, flashing a violent club/rip to work through contact with power. Additionally, finishing on pressures is no problem for Rivers due to his violent tenacity and closing burst.

Rivers could improve upon dropping his pad level, as he often doesn’t play with enough leverage. He has room to improve against the run, where he is blown off the ball at moments, loses gap responsibility, and is slow to get off blocks.

The real question is can Rivers excel against a higher level of competition? Similar to Javon Hargrave, he shows all of the traits you desire on tape, just not against NFL level competition. He showed up in Mobile for the Senior Bowl and looked like he not only belonged, but was possibly the most dominant EDGE on the field. I would take a risk on River’s upside in Round 3.

Round 4: WR Jalen Robinette, Air Force

Haven’t heard of Jalen Robinette? Most haven’t, but I promise you this kid is the real deal. I love Robinette at this stage of the draft for Pittsburgh, as he has the tools to develop into a dominant downfield threat.

His overall game and routes are raw, but he flashes ridiculous ball skills and has the speed to stretch the field. A profile on Robinette’s game will certainly be up on Still Curtain later this off season.

Round 5: TE Eric Saubert, Drake and RB Corey Clement, Wisconsin

In Round 5, I grabbed a small school Senior Bowl TE, Eric Saubert. Saubert shows a great size/speed combo and has a game similar to Ladarius Green. He is a threat over the middle and shows great leaping abilities and body control to make contested catches.

With the Round 5 comp pick that will likely be coming Pittsburgh’s way, I grabbed a RB. Corey Clement isn’t the flashiest of backs but would perfectly complement Le’Veon’s game. He is a tough, downhill runner who certainly has an NFL skill set.

Round 6: DL Tanoh Kpassagnon, Villanova

Round 6 I go upside with Tanoh Kpassagnon. He didn’t play against NFL level competition at Villanova but he flashed NFL level traits. His game is raw but with a little grooming he could be a nice rotational DL for Pittsburgh.

Round 7: RB James Conner, Pittsburgh

In Round 7 with the local hero sitting at the top of the board, how could you not give him a chance? James Conner is perhaps the toughest player in CFB, and if given a chance there is no doubt in my mind he could carve out a role no the Steeler’s roster.

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