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 into 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 the scheme.

Let’s start with the disclaimers:

  • This draft is based on WHAT I THINK THE STEELERS WILL DO, NOT WHO I WOULD DRAFTGeneral Chat Chat Lounge
  • I’m totally cheated. I waited until the last possible moment so that I could know 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 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 ‘m doing this for you entertainment and mine. I would probably still be completely wrong but it would be 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 dominant franchise quarterback for years to come or just another project that didn’t work out. And no one else knows either. Here’s what we can say: You have to be hiking with Jared Leto and no cell phone misses the intense interest that the Steelers have in this potential diamond in the rough. They have been coy about their top draft choices for years and they weren’t sure 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 which team will take the first round (Pro Day visits, dinner, visit to Pittsburgh, etc.).

In the past few days, reports suggest 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 move up a trade 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 his QB1 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) – The Mets are the Steelers’ first-round pick for all the criteria (all the right visits, significant talent at a position needed).

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

Five words, folks: Brisker. Can. Cover. Tight. Ends. And aren’t we all so 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 the mock draft favorite WR George Pickens (Georgia), more for 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 to draft a wide receiver and even talk about it in a terrific take. But this is a deep draft when it comes to receiver talent and good cornerbacks are tougher to come by. So I have one of our Steelers select 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 should still be impressed and should be a valuable addition to Pittsburgh. There was a huge Steelers contingent for the Cinncinnati Pro Day (Tomlin, Colbert, Khan, Hunt and others) and you could argue 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 every box in the Kozora “What the Steeler look for” Rubik’s Cube. He’s fast. Really fast. 4.34 40 fast. He tackles breaks. He returns kicks, and with 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’ll be devastated and probably spend several days moping when another team takes my draft crush to Baylor’s WR Tyquan Thornton. But this mock draft is not what I want.

Also considered:

LB Darrian Beavers (Cincinnati) – The off-ball linebacker is a necessity.

OT Cordell Volson (NDSU) – Good chance that Volson moves to guard but 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 a 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 rounds. There is a good chance that despite a high RAS he will still be available on Day 3. If so, the Steelers will 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’s 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 a spine surgery for his dislocated disc during his NFL Combine physical, may have missed his entire rookie season. But seventeen 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 it’s 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 surprises 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 support) has been the closest thing to a lock for the Steelers, as Alexa DellaRocco explained in his 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 needed, this is my roll of the dice for what the Steelers will do when they’re on the clock.

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