Players in this mock were selected based on Matt Miller’s Final Seven-round mock draft. What this means is that since Justin Gilbert was selected 10th overall by the Detroit Lions, he was not available for my pick in the first round.
In addition to using the draft board, I also consider which players the Steelers brought in for pre-draft visits.
(Note: A * indicates that the prospect was brought in for a pre-draft visit.)
1. (15): *Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The pick came down to Darqueze Dennard or Odell Beckham Jr. As much of a weapon that Beckham would be for the offense, the Steelers can find a quality receiver late in the draft. Dennard has potential to be a top cover cornerback and will step up against the run. He may not start as a rookie but will see time on passing downs and should start by his second season.
Alternates: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU; Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
2. (46): Louis Nix, NT, Notre Dame
As tempting as Kelvin Benjamin was at this point, the nose tackle position is too important to the defense. Louis Nix should be an anchor in the middle and will help make all of the players around him better. His presence will help solidify the run defense, and he will occupy blockers to free up space for the linebackers to rush the quarterback.
Alternates: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State; Scott Crichton, OLB, Oregon State
3. (97): *Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
Back-to-back members of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will quickly help rebuild Pittsburgh’s defense line. Stephon Tuitt has potential to be a dominant player as a 5-technique defensive end. He will help form a powerful duo with Cameron Heyward and should be considered a steal at this point of the draft.
Alternates: Carl Bradford, OLB, Arizona State; Jerick McKinnon, RB, Georgia Southern
4. (118): Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin
Jared Abbrederis is a tough, productive receiver who could develop into a No. 2 or 3 receiver in Pittsburgh’s offense. He doesn’t have great speed, but his football smarts and route-running ability make him a worthwhile prospect.
Alternates: Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona; Dri Archer, WR, Kent State
5. (157): De’Anthony Thomas
The Steelers need a change-of-pace running back, and De’Anthony Thomas is exactly that. He was an electric playmaker in college, and the Steelers would look for him to fill that role in the NFL. Not only could he contribute as a running back, but he could also aid in the return game and line up in the slot as a receiver.
Alternates: Justin Ellis, NT, Louisiana Tech; Arthur Lynch, TE, Georgia
5. (173): *Ross Cockrell, CB, Duke
Ross Cockrell should excel on special teams as a rookie and will give the Steelers a legitimate late-round developmental option at cornerback. He could develop into a nickel cornerback as soon as his second season.
Alternates: Jordan Zumwalt, LB, UCLA; Shaquil Barrett, OLB, Colorado State
6. (192): *John Brown, WR, Pittsburgh St.
John Brown is a speedy receiver from a small school. His ceiling is a slot receiver in the NFL, and he can also contribute on special teams.
Alternates: Taylor Hart, DE, Oregon; Brent Urban, DE, Virginia
6. (215): Michael Schofield, OL, Michigan
I always look to add at least one offensive lineman per draft. Michigan has a history of producing quality lineman, and Michael Schofield will come to the NFL with the ability to play guard or tackle.
Alternates: Vinnie Sunseri, S, Alabama; A.C. Leonard, TE, Tennessee State
7. (230): *Rob Blanchflower, TE, Massachusetts
Tight end isn’t a need, but given the depth issues at this position last year, it is time to look for a potential backup for Heath Miller—even if he is only a blocker.
Alternates: Glen Stanley, LB, Albany State; Beau Allen, NT, Wisconsin