Steelers 2022 NFL Mock Draft: Roundup of B/R Staff, Kiper and Expert Picks

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistApril 18, 2022

Steelers 2022 NFL Mock Draft: Roundup of B/R Staff, Kiper and Expert Picks

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    The Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to reload and return to the postseason after making the playoffs in 2021. They will have to do so without longtime starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who retired in the offseason.

    The Steelers have made some quiet but effective moves, adding the likes of James Daniels, Myles Jack and Mason Cole. However, there's plenty of work left to do after ranking 21st in scoring, 20th in points allowed and dead last in run defense a year ago.

    Pittsburgh has an opportunity to improve in the NFL draft, in which it has seven draft choices and one in each of the first three rounds. Every one will be important, but fans will be most anxious to see what the Steelers do with the 20th pick in Round 1.

    Opening night is always an exciting affair, and the Steelers could go any number of directions with their selection April 28. While it's hard to nail down exactly what they will do toward the back end of the first round, we can get an idea of what they might do by examining the expert predictions. That's precisely what we'll do here, beginning with the pick from the Bleacher Report Scouting Department.

B/R Scouting Department: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

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    The B/R Scouting Department mock draft was crafted by a group of experts—Brandon Thorn, Brent Sobleski, Cory Giddings, Derrik Klassen and Nate Tice—and based on what the group believes teams will do, not its prospect rankings.

    Trades were not included as a part of the B/R mock.

    At No. 20, the B/R staff paired Pittsburgh with Northern Iowa offensive tackle Trevor Penning. While Penning is the 30th-ranked prospect on the Bleacher Report big board, he's a logical choice for the Steelers, even if picked a little early.

    "Penning's nasty demeanor and competitive toughness fit the gritty, blue-collar city of Pittsburgh to a tee while providing an upgrade at a critical position," Thorn said. "The Steelers could put Penning at either tackle spot and it would be an improvement."

    Pittsburgh struggled to open up rushing lanes and didn't give Roethlisberger a ton of time in the pocket last season. These are problems the Steelers can address by taking Penning. The pick may represent a slight reach, but tackles like Penning and Central Michigan's Bernhard Raimann aren't likely to be available when the Steelers are back on the board in Round 2.

    With Daniels, Cole and Penning in the fold, the Steelers could expect more consistent play along the line in 2022.

ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

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    Mocks from ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. have become industry staples and a regular part of the pre-draft media blitz., His most recent includes predictions for the first two rounds and also allows for trades. His picks are based on a combination of prospect rankings, team needs and insider buzz.

    Kiper mocks Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett to the Steelers at No. 20.

    While there is no sure thing in this year's quarterback class, Pickett isn't a surprising mock-draft choice. The Steelers need to replace Roethlisberger long term, and Mason Rudolph is not the answer. Pittsburgh did add Mitchell Trubisky in the offseason, but it also lost former Ohio State star Dwayne Haskins when the 24-year-old died earlier in April.

    In Kiper's mock, Pickett becomes the primary competition to Tribusky for the 2021 starting job:

    "Best-case scenario is that he becomes a Derek Carr, and his floor is an Andy Dalton, which isn't a bad quarterback by any means. Pittsburgh can win with that. Still, those two were taken in Round 2 and didn't have Round 1 expectations surrounding them. If Pickett falls into the Steelers' laps here, he'd be tough to pass up. And he has a little more upside than Mitch Trubisky."

    Pickett in the first round may be a reach—he's the 60th-ranked prospect on the B/R board—but quarterbacks are regularly overdrafted because of their positional value. There's a real chance that Pickett is gone long before the 20th selection.

    In Round 2, Kiper paired the Steelers with Alabama receiver John Metchie III.

The Athletic's Bruce Feldman: Penning & Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

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    Kendall Warner/Associated Press

    The Athletic's Bruce Feldman takes an interesting approach to the mock draft exercise. While he does predict what he believes a team will do, he first speaks to coaches, college football insiders and NFL sources to form his opinions—and he includes relevant quotes as part of his article.

    Feldman also included trades in his mock and has the Steelers making one at the back end of Round 1. At No. 20, he has Pittsburgh taking Penning, just like the B/R staff.

    Things get interesting at No. 30, where Feldman has the Steelers trading back into the first round and grabbing Liberty quarterback Malik Willis. It's fascinating for a couple of reasons.

    For one, Willis isn't widely expected to last until the end of Round 1. He does in Feldman's mock, though, with Pickett being the first QB off the board at No. 6. It's also intriguing because Feldman believes that the Steelers will be aggressive in landing their next signal-caller.

    Willis has the potential to be a good one.

    "We couldn't tackle him. He's got a cannon. From a true physical ability thing, he was special. He throws an amazing tight spiral. I mean, it comes out of his hand and it pops," one college coach told Feldman.

    That makes two quarterbacks and two predictions of Penning out of three mock drafts. That's not quite enough consistency to suggest a lock in Round 1, but the Steelers' needs are clear. Pittsburgh needs to find its quarterback of the future, and it needs to continue retooling the line in front of him.

    If the Steelers can address those needs in the draft, they will remain contenders for the foreseeable future.

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