Prospects for Steelers to Avoid in 2021 NFL Draft

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistApril 14, 2021

Prospects for Steelers to Avoid in 2021 NFL Draft

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    The 2021 NFL draft is going to be crucial for the Pittsburgh Steelers' to make the most of next season. 

    With Ben Roethlisberger saddling up for potentially his last ride, the Steelers don't have much margin for error in their quest to make one more Super Bowl run with their star quarterback. That means they have to come away from this draft with a few immediate contributors, and they don't have draft capital to waste. 

    The Steelers have one pick in each of the first three rounds and an additional compensatory pick in the fourth. Day 3 picks are always a gamble, so it's going to be really important they get something out of each of those picks through the first three rounds. 

    That means shying away from some prospects who either carry additional injury risk, might be more project than prospect, or just don't project to be of value based on their potential role with the team. 

    Each of these three prospects might have potential but should be avoided when Pittsburgh gets on the clock. 

Landon Dickerson, G/C, Alabama

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    Roger Steinman/Associated Press

    There's a lot to like about Landon Dickerson. Watching him play at Alabama, he certainly demonstrated an attitude, leadership and the skills to play multiple positions. He took snaps at all five spots for the Crimson Tide over the course of his career. 

    The Steelers need help on the offensive line. This would seem like a perfect match. 

    Unfortunately, Dickerson's health history should have the Steelers looking elsewhere for help on the interior. 

    Throughout his time at Florida State and Alabama, Dickerson has suffered a season-ending ACL injury twice, a season-ending ankle injury once and another injury to the other ankle that kept him out for most of the season in 2018. 

    Maybe that's bad luck. Maybe Dickerson will put it all together and cash in on his immense talent. But that's not a risk the Steelers should be willing to take. They need help to protect Big Ben and clear running lanes for an inexperienced backfield. 

    Dickerson can't do that if he's on injured reserve. 

Jayson Oweh, Edge, Penn State

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    Barry Reeger/Associated Press

    It's easy to fall in love with Jayson Oweh's physical profile. It doesn't seem possible that a 6'4", 259-pound man can run a 4.37 40-yard dash or have an 11-foot broad jump, but here we are. In terms of physical tools, Oweh has it all

    The Steelers could use additional youth on the edge, too. Alex Highsmith is going to be called upon to help replace Bud Dupree's production, and the Steelers would be wise to add another option through the draft. 

    Oweh shouldn't be that option right now, though. Despite all of those physical gifts, the Penn State product was held to zero sacks in seven games in 2020. There's a lack of polish to his game that will likely keep him from making an immediate impact. 

    Lance Zierlein of believes he could become a "Pro Bowl rush linebacker," but he still sees limitations in his game right now.

    "He's slow getting off the snap, which dulls the early advantage he should be able to generate with his wicked get-off as a rusher," the draft analyst noted. 

    The Steelers need to find guys who can contribute right away. If Oweh is going to figure out how to use his gifts to produce, it isn't happening in 2021. 

Jaelan Phillips, Edge, Miami

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Unlike Oweh, we've seen Jaelan Phillips post strong production. After starting his career at UCLA, he finished with the Hurricanes and posted 15.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks across 10 games, with three passes defended for good measure. 

    Unfortunately, the medical aspect of things is going to give teams pause and should have Phillips severely downgraded on the Steelers' board. 

    Phillips never could get on the field consistently for the Bruins. He missed time for ankle injuries as well as a wrist injury and a concussion across two seasons in Los Angeles. He suffered three concussions at UCLA and even retired briefly for medical reasons. 

    You can point at the ankle and wrist injuries as fluky. One occurred in a moped accident. But the concussions should be a legitimate concern, and it's hard to imagine any medical check making NFL teams feel any better about it. 

    Phillips is going to be worth the risk to someone eventually just based on his skills and production. But the Steelers don't have the extra picks to make a calculated risk like that. They have to find immediate contributors, and Phillips' medical history should be enough to scare them away.