By: Thomas Frank Carr
The Pittsburgh Steelers had a solid draft by all-accounts, addressing their major needs on defense, and getting two playmakers to augment their potent offense.
In the first round, the Steelers selected Wisconsin outside linebacker TJ Watt with the 30th overall selection. The pick is partly due to the fact that Watt was the last pass rusher that was considered a borderline first round grade. Watt was a bit of a reach at 30, but the Steelers filled a need with a competent player. Watt only played one year at his position in college, but was good enough to be selected to the AP All-American 2nd team. He’s a hair-on-fire style player who flies to the football, has long arms to disengage from blockers and bends the edge well as a pass rusher. With time and development, he could be a fantastic compliment to Bud Dupree.
Pittsburgh selected USC’s JuJu Smith-Schuster with the 30th pick in the 2nd round. Schuster has strong hands, great agility and the ability to make catches underneath as well as deep. He doesn’t have the speed to be a consistent deep threat but he is by no means slow.
Corner Cameron Sutton became the next Steeler in the 3rd round. Sutton doesn’t have the physical tools to be drafted higher than he was, but is an excellent corner prospect with great hips and feet to turn and run with slot receivers. He can be a sub package player early, but will have to add more weight in an NFL training program to make an impact on a regular basis in the NFL.
The Steelers also picked up a hometown hero in Pitt’s James Conner. We haven’t seen the best of this junior tailback, who is still recovering physically from cancer. The 6’1” 233 pound back is a powerful runner, but can make people miss and is still regaining some of his elusiveness that made him such a dynamic prospect early in his career. He’s a fantastic compliment to Le’Veon Bell.
In the 5th round, the black and gold selected Utah’s Brian Allen. Allen is a huge corner at 6’3” 215 and might translate to safety in the NFL. He’s got good speed and high points the ball very well with a massive frame. However he is very still in his movements and doesn’t have the flexibility to get low and change direction with receivers. His size and speed allow him to be an excellent candidate for special teams however.
Speaking of special teams, the Steelers took a long snapper in the 6th round in Louisville’s. While long snapper isn’t a high priority, it’s a vital part of the team and the Steelers need to find the heir apparent to Greg Warren.
Finally with their last pick in the 7th round, the Steelers selected outside linebacker from Western Michigan Keion Adams. Outside linebacker is a huge need for the Steelers who addressed the position twice in the draft. At 6’2” 245, Adams is small for the position, but is a skilled pass rusher who has plenty of moves and plays with great intensity.
Steelers fans should feel good about this crop of players. This year the Steelers bucked their own trend of drafting athletes that were still learning their respective positions and went with good football players, regardless of their size or speed.