After failing to make the playoffs two years in a row, the Pittsburgh Steelers will look to rebuild in this year’s draft. Traditionally, the Steelers have been able to rebuild and add integral pieces to their team through the draft, prompting them to win six Super Bowl’s.
However, this draft is one of the most important ones for the Steelers, due in part because Ben Roethlisberger is aging and wants to win another Super Bowl before he retires. All is possible if the Steelers focus on four positional needs in this year’s draft: cornerback, defensive tackle, wide receiver, and offensive tackle.
In this 2014 NFL Mock Draft, I will project who the Steelers will pick rounds 1-7, as well as predicting if each drafted player will start immediately or not.
(Steelers do not have a third round pick in this year’s draft)
Pick 15 Overall
Mike Evans, WR, 6’5″ 225 lbs., Sophomore (RS), Texas A&M
Outside of Antonio Brown, there is no clear-cut second option for Roethlisberger to throw to on offense. With Emmanuel Sanders likely leaving via free agency, the Steelers should draft a receiver in the first round, something they haven’t done since 2006 (Santonio Holmes). Evans is tall, physical, and is able to grab jump balls in the air. At Texas A&M, Evans compiled 151 reception for 2,499 yards and 17 touchdowns in two years. Let’s also note that Evans was playing like this against top-tier SEC defenses. With this pick here, the Steelers add a lethal red-zone target that will also be able to get Antonio Brown open more. I’m not saying this pick is a “no-brainer”, but it will keep Roethlisberger happy, nonetheless.
- Instant Starter? Yes, Evans would be able to impact the Steelers offense immediately with his big-play ability.
Pick 46 Overall
Bradley Roby, CB, 5’11” 192 lbs., Junior (RS), Ohio State
After coming off a hot year in 2012, Roby slowly declined in 2013, dropping him to the second or third round in most mock drafts. Against Wisconsin this year, Roby was outran and outplayed by receiver, Jared Abbrederis, giving up 10 receptions for 207 yards. Roby continued to get outplayed by top receivers in the Big Ten, but his potential has never dropped. Roby is one of the fastest cornerbacks in this draft, running a 4.39 40-yard dash. According to CBS Sports, Roby’s fighting attitude and world-class speed has gained the attention of many NFL scouts. The Steelers weak link is their secondary and with Ike Taylor likely out the door, expect the Steelers to nab a cornerback in the second or third round.
- Instant Starter? Yes, but only if Ike Taylor is cut and Roby plays well in OTA’s.
Pick 114 Overall
JaWuan James, OT, 6’6″ 324 lbs., Senior, Tennessee
The Steelers offensive line performed well last year, at least far better than expected. After All-Pro center and leader of the offensive line, Maurkice Pouncey, tore his ACL the first game of the season, it looked like the offensive line was going to struggle. However, Ben Roethlisberger was able to throw for 4,261 (second highest of his career) and 28 touchdowns (second highest of his career). However, the weakest link of the offensive line is left tackle, the blind side of all right-handed quarterbacks. Enter Jawuan James, a mammoth of an offensive tackle, standing at 6’6″ and weighing in at 324 pounds. According to CBS Sports, James is surprisingly quick off the snap, showing the ability to slide to protect the edge against the variety of speed rushers he has faced in the SEC. James is a potential top-100 pick, but I have him dropping because of his poor run blocking. James would be able to fit right in and take over the left tackle position, with Guy Whimper likely being cut.
- Instant Starter? Yes, James already is pass-block ready and the Steelers are changing into more of a pass-first offense with Todd Haley in the fold.
Pick 145 Overall
Michael Sam, DE, 6’2″ 260 lbs., Senior, Missouri
Michael Sam recently announced that he was gay, prompting a blast in the media, becoming one of the first top-tier athletes to do so. Many speculated that Sam would drop significantly in the draft due to how he would affect the locker room, but I have him dropping because of his height. Sam, the reigning 2014 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, does not possess ideal length and struggles to separate from blockers once engaged, according to NFL scouts. The talent is there, but will it translate over to the NFL? After watching some of Sam’s film, he definitely wasn’t the most talented on his team, playing next to Kony Ealy, who is a projected first round pick. Also, there are questions on whether or not Sam can play weak-side linebacker in the NFL, which is why I have him dropping to the Steelers. Last year, the Steelers ranked 25th in sacks and 13th in total team defense. Starting defensive end, Brett Keisel, is 35 years old and is burnt out as far as pass rushing goes. Sam should fit right in with the Steelers here in round five. However, don’t expect him to make an early impact.
- Instant Starter? No, Sam will be at least a second string defensive end, but he could have the starting job mid-season if Keisel is injured or not playing well.
Pick 176 Overall
Deandre Coleman, DT, 6’5″ 315 lbs., Senior, California
At this point, teams will draft anyone just to fill in their positional needs. After deciding to not resign Casey Hampton, the Steelers gave the starting job to Steve McLendon, who totaled 33 tackles and forced one fumble. For a nose tackle, those aren’t bad stats, but it’s always important to have insurance just in case an injury happens. Deandre Coleman would be a great fit with the Steelers because of his height and durability. Coleman was able to play all 36 games in three years, something a lot of players are unable to accomplish in college. Coleman may never play for the Steelers and might not make the team, but it’s important to add depth to an injury plagued defensive line.
- Instant Starter? No, but with an impressive preseason, he could work his way into playing time.
Pick 208 Overall
Dri Archer, RB/WR, 5’8″ 174 lbs., Senior, Kent State
Archer is one of the most electrifying players in the country, utilizing his top-end speed to zoom right past defenders. Archer can play running back, wide receiver, kick returner, and punt returner. He can be compared to Chris Rainey, who the Steelers picked in the 5th round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Archer runs a 4.4 second, 40-yard dash, but has mentioned that he has ran it in 4.22 seconds. The Steelers could use Archer in many formations and could utilize him as a returner. Archer would be a formidable pick for the 7th round and could end up making an early impact for the Steelers.
- Instant Starter? No, Archer will never be a regular starter for any team because he does not have a specific position.