Mike Fanelli | February 22nd, 2020
When the Pittsburgh Steelers lost Ben Roethlisberger in week two, many expected the Steelers to finish with a bottom five record and draft his replacement in 2020. Instead, the team made the trade of the year, shipping off their first-round pick to the Miami Dolphins for unhappy safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. At the time, the Steelers were 0-2 and many wondered if the Steelers had just traded away a chance at Tua Tagovailoa for a safety. Instead, the duo of Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges managed to keep the Steelers in the playoff race till the final Sunday of the regular season.
The Steelers ended up trading the 18th overall pick (along with some middle-round pick swaps) for Fitzpatrick. In his first season with the Steelers, Fitzpatrick made the Pro Bowl and was named First-Team All-Pro. Needless to say, the Steelers easily won that trade. Thanks to other trades (some smart and others not so smart), the Steelers have just six draft picks this year, including a third-round compensatory pick for losing Le’Veon Bell in free agency last year.
To help with this mock draft, I used the Fanspeak mock draft simulator.
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Round 2, Pick 49: Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama
Star defensive lineman Javon Hargrave had a breakout season in 2019. He had 60 total tackles and seven tackles for a loss. He also registered four or more sacks for the second straight season. However, the Steelers are projected to be tight against the cap, and with big money invested in Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, the Steelers are likely to let Hargrave walk in free agency next month. Davis would be an excellent replacement as he can play multiple spots along that defensive line and use his big frame to get off double team blocks and make plays.
Alabama DT Raekwon Davis uses every bit of his 6-6, 310 pound frame. pic.twitter.com/nCFR95QolX— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) June 19, 2019
Round 3, Pick 102: Trey Adams, OT, Washington
The Steelers traded their own third-round pick to the Denver Broncos when they moved up on draft night last year to select Devin Bush. This selection is the compensatory pick for losing Bell in free agency last year. The offensive line had ups and downs in 2019, and starting right tackle Matt Feiler is a restricted free agent. If the team lets him leave, they will need a new starter. Even with Feiler back, Alejandro Villanueva will turn 32 years old next season and is entering the last year of his deal. Adams was once viewed as a first-round pick but has struggled with injuries over the last couple of seasons. If he can stay healthy, he is a steal at this point in the draft.
Round 4, Pick 121: Jared Pinkney, TE, Vanderbilt
Since Heath Miller retired in 2015, the Steelers have patchworked the tight end position. A couple of years ago the Steelers traded for Vance McDonald and last year they traded a fifth-round pick for Nick Vannett (a mistake at the time and in hindsight). Now, McDonald could be a cap casualty and Vannett is a free agent. Even if McDonald is back in 2020, he will turn 30 years old this offseason and isn’t the long term guy at the tight end position. While the draft class lacks star power names, there are several good middle-round tight end prospects this year. Pinkney opened some eyes down at the Senior Bowl last month, including his ability to locate the ball in the air and make plays along the sideline.
Round 4, Pick 132: Cam Akers, RB, Florida State
The last two years have been an interesting run for James Conner. After being thrown into the starting role in 2018 (with Bell holding out), he finished the year with over 1,400 scrimmage yards and made the Pro Bowl. However, in 2019, Conner struggled to stay healthy and finish games. He had just four rushing touchdowns after having 12 the year before. Now he enters a contract year and the Steelers may not be ready to hand him a new deal. Adding Akers would provide insurance if Conner can’t stay healthy again this year, while also offering a potential starting back in 2021. The duo of Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell Jr. is not enough to keep the Steelers from spending another mid-round pick on a running back.
Round 6, Pick 198: Steven Montez, QB, Colorado
For anyone who watched Rudolph and Hodges struggle last season, we know neither is the heir apparent to Big Ben. With limited draft picks, the Steelers can’t afford to burn an early pick on finding his replacement. However, in the sixth round, the Steelers can take a shot on Montez. The fifth-year senior finished his Colorado career with over 9,700 passing yards and a solid 1.9 touchdown to interception ratio. Montez may not turn into Big Ben’s heir apparent but he has a big arm and offers upside. This late in the draft, the Steelers should roll the dice on the former Buffalo.
Round 7, Pick 232: Juwan Johnson, WR, Oregon
The Steelers have a nice young trio at wide receiver with JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Diontae Johnson. However, none of the three is taller than 6’1”. Johnson would give the Steelers’ wide receiver group some size. At 6’4”, Johnson had a great season during his lone year in Oregon. After being a post-graduate transfer from Penn State, Johnson finished the year with 467 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. JuJu will be a free agent after the season and while the team should lock him up to a long term deal. Selecting Johnson brings the team some size and depth at the wide receiver position.
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