Steelers Draft News

Steelers draft news on players that the team is looking at drafting. This includes players that the Steelers have met with during pre-draft meetings. It also includes players the team talked to during the NFL Draft Combine and players the team has seen at pro day workouts. News could relate to the player’s test scores, workouts, drug tests, meetings with the team or how they would fit in with the team. The Pittsburgh Steelers have always built their teams through the NFL Draft rather than through free agency. Therefore, the players they look at for the draft are the potential future of the organization and an important part of the Steelers off-season news.

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The Number One Reason You Should be Excited the Steelers Drafted Joshua Dobbs

There has been a lot of talk about the Steelers draft picks in the fourth and sixth rounds. Fans are wondering why the Steelers drafted quarterback Joshua Dobbs in the fourth round. Dobbs was one of the last picks in the fourth round. Then six of the first eight picks of the fifth round were all players that fans may have been happier with.

Tight-ends Jake Butt, George Kittle and Jordan Leggett were all drafted at the start of the fifth. As were defensive-backs Desmond King, Damontae Kazee and Corn Elder. The Steelers, however, chose to go with Joshua Dobbs, but Steelers fans have plenty of reason to be happy with that decision.

Recent History of Late Round Quarterbacks

One reason to not be excited is the Steelers recent history in drafting late-round quarterbacks. Since the year 2000 the Steelers have selected seven quarterbacks in the NFL Draft, including Dobbs. That list includes Ben Roethlisberger and not much else.

In 2000, the Steelers selected another Tennessee quarterback in Tee Martin. Martin never caught on the NFL, but he almost won a championship in the CFL, which is something. Martin now works as a coach and was Juju Smith-Schuster’s wide receiver’s coach at USC during 2016.

In 2003, the Steelers selected Brian St. Pierre, who served as a back-up for multiple yearsin the NFL. Then there was Ben Roethlisberger, which was one of the best selections the Steelers have ever made. Next, came Omar Jacobs and Dennis Dixon. Neither of whom could bring their college abilties to the NFL field.

Finally, we have Landry Jones, the Steelers current back-up and then Dobbs. That isn’t the best track record in quarterback picks, but if you are playing the law of averages the Steelers may be due for another hit at quarterback after a decent number of misses.

The Potential of Joshua Dobbs

Image result for joshua dobbsEveryone talks about how the Cleveland Browns can’t find a quarterback. The problem, though, is that those quarterbacks are never given much of a supporting cast. Without anyone around you it is going to be hard for anyone to be successful.

As for Dobbs he could potentially take over as the Steelers quarterback in the next three years. That could result in him playing behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Having the best running-back in the NFL, if the Steelers re-sign Le’Veon Bell. And he will have a solid corps of wide receivers with Antonio Brown, Juju Smith-Schuster, Eli Rogers and Martavis Bryant, if he is re-signed. Having those players around him will make the transition into the NFL much easier on Dobbs.

Also, if you are a fan of Todd McShay’s draft analysis you should be really excited. If McShay is right about Dobbs the Steelers got a steal in the fourth round. McShay thought, pre-draft, that Dobbs could sneak into the late first round. He also, post-draft, called Dobbs the Steelers best draft pick.

The Biggest Reason Why You Should Be Excited

Image result for ben roethlisbergerThe biggest reason you should be excited about Dobbs is that the Steelers waited until round four to pick a quarterback. When Ben Roethlisberger hinted at retirement it came as a shock. No one is expecting Roethlisberger to retire for a couple of more years, but the reality that the time is coming was something no one wanted to face.

The Steelers, no doubt, talked with Roethlisberger after his comments to get an idea of his real retirement plans. If they thought he was planning to retire in after next year they likely would have drafted a quarterback earlier. They may have even tried to move up for someone like Pat Mahomes, who they showed a lot of interest in pre-draft.

Pittsburgh, however, decided to wait it out and drafted Dobbs in the fourth. At that point they probably didn’t expect him to still be around and he was, likely, too good of value on their board to pass up. The best thing about all of this, though, is the Steelers didn’t see a major need for a new quarterback. That means they think Ben Roethlisberger will be around for at least a couple more years, which also means the Steelers have a really good chance at making a run at ring number seven.

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Steelers Draft Winners: Defensive Lineman L.T. Walton and Tyson Alualu

The Steelers starting defensive lineman are set. Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt will start at defensive side. They will line up on either side of nose tackle Javon Hargrave. Last year, however, the Steelers only played their base 3-4 defense about 25% of the time. That means back-up lineman L.T. Walton and Tyson Alualu will see plenty of playing time.

Many expected the Steelers to look for defensive line depth in the draft, but they passed on the position altogether. That should make Walton and Alualu happy, because their chances of making the roster just got a lot better.

Former Top-Ten Pick Alualu

Image result for tyson alualuAlualu was projected as a late-first, or early second round pick in 2010. Then, the Jacksonville Jaguars surprised everyone by drafting him with the tenth overall pick. Alualu had his most productive season a year ago and now joins the Steelers defense with a chance of being a big-time contributor.

Steelers fans know that defensive lineman in this scheme aren’t the big names or flashy guys. They get a few sacks and help stuff the run, but their job is to take on blocks to free up the linebackers. Alualu may be looked at as a bust in Jacksonville, but he could turn into a very valuable role player in Pittsburgh.

The Future of the Steelers Nose Tackle

Javon Hargrave is the future at nose tackle. The Steelers also are moving more and more away from using a nose tackle. They will need a back-up nose tackle. Right now that position is taken by Daniel McCullers, but he hasn’t shown the growth many expected from him at this point in his career.

Image result for LT WaltonThe Steelers have brought in about 4 players to compete for that job, or a spot a defensive end depending on the players abilities. The most well-known of those players is Roy Philon who was in camp with the team last year.

Defensive Line Depth Chart for 2017

Javon Hargrave will be the top Nose Tackle. He will also be the first lineman brought in for sub packages. The Steelers top defensive ends will be Heyward and Tuitt. Behind them will be some combination of L.T.Walton, Tyson Alualu and the young players brought in to compete.

As for the back-up nose tackle, that job currently belongs to Daniel McCullers, but there are a decent number of young players, who will be in camp, that can take that job for themselves.

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Steelers Draft Losers: Running-back Knile Davis

Knile Davis is a dangerous return man. He had to know coming to the Steelers that carries in the back-field would be limited. That’s because Le’Veon Bell doesn’t come off the field very often. Unfortunately, after the Steelers drafted James Conner in the third round they just showed their level of confidence in Davis backing up Bell.

Image result for knile davisKnile Davis’ Role with the Steelers

Knile Davis has had fumbling problems in his career, but he is a very good return man. With the addition of James Conner, being a return man could be Davis’ job in Pittsburgh. He will also have a chance to compete with Conner to be the team’s back-up running-back, but teams draft players in the first three round to be contributors and Conner is no different.

Davis will receive carries at some point this season, but his biggest impact will come in the return game. The Steelers can finally take Antonio Brown off of punt-return duties and they have a dangerous player to return kicks.

James Conner’s Rookie Impact

Image result for james connerConner is the perfect compliment to Le’Veon Bell. Bell is a shifty and patient runner, who may just be the best dual-threat running back in the NFL. Conner, on the other hand, is a between the tackles power-runner.

NFL.com compared Conner to former-Falcon’s running-back TJ Duckett. He will run defenders over and get the tough years. As a rookie Conner will likely be used as Bell’s primary back-up. He also could see carries in short-yardage and goal line situations.

The Running-Back Depth Chart for 2017

Le’Veon Bell has the top spot cemented. Behind him will be a solid training camp battle between Davis and Conner for the second spot. Davis has the experience, but Conner was the bigger investment.

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Steelers Sign 9 Undrafted Rookie Free Agents

The Pittsburgh Steelers signed nine undrafted rookie free agents following the 2017 NFL Draft:

NamePositionHeightWeightSchool
Nelson AdamsDT6-3287Mississippi State
Christian BrownDT6-3295West Virginia
Ethan CooperOG6-2322Indiana-Pennsylvania
Francis KallonDE6-5295Georgia Tech
Keith KelseyLB6-0233Louisville
Scott OrndoffTE6-4253Pittsburgh
Nick SchuesslerQB6-3196Clemson
Rushel ShellRB5-9227West Virginia
Terrish WebbDB5-10190Pittsburgh

Right now the Steelers roster is at the maximum of 90 players. As they begin signing their draft picks to contracts they will have to cut players from the 90-man roster. Steelers GM Kevin Colbert said that current roster player will be released at that point, because these undrafted free agents are looked as improvements to the roster.

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Steelers Select Keion Adams 248th Overall; Classic Tweener OLB

The Pittsburgh Steelers have selected long-snapper Deion Adams with their final pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Adams played his college football at Western Michigan as a defensive end. However, he does not have the size to play end in the NFL. Therefore, the Steelers will be trying to convert Adams into an outside linebacker in their 3-4 defense.

NFL.com compares him to current-Steeler Arthur Moats. Adams will join first round pick TJ Watt on the Steelers linebacker depth chart.

Consensus on Keion Adams

NFL.com Overview on Keion Adams: “Adams is an elusive pass rusher who wins with athleticism and foot quickness, but who may lack the size and length to be considered an every-down edge player in a 3-4 front. Adams has pursuit quickness around the field and can be very disruptive when allowed to shoot gaps against the run, but he will have to prove he can set a strong edge and hold his ground at the point of attack if he wants to become anything more than a situational rusher.”

What to Expect from Keion Adams

 

Keion Adams has an uphill battle. Seventh round picks are extreme long-shots to make opening day rosters. Adams is going to have to show that he has the potential to become something if he wants to win a roster spot. That, and he will have to prove to be an asset on special teams.

The fact that the Steelers selected him here rather than wait to try and sign him as an undrafted free agent means they see something in him.

How this Pick Affects the Team

The Steelers need to boost their pass-rush. James Harrison isn’t getting any younger and Jarvis Jones can now be called a sure-fire bust.

Bud Dupree looks like he could be the real deal. The hope is that TJ Watt will join Dupree in that category. For Adams the uphill battle begins now, but if he can show good pass rushing skills he could find himself a job in the next year or two as a back-up at outside linebacker.

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Steelers Select Colin Holba 213th Overall; First Time Since 2004

The Pittsburgh Steelers have selected long-snapper Colin Holba in the sixth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. The last time the Steelers drafted a long-snapper was in the sixth round of 2004.

Holba is probably the best long-snapper in this draft class, but drafting a long-snapper just seems like an odd choice. Especially when the Steelers have a solid veteran long-snapper in Greg Warren.

Consensus on Colin Holba

NFL.com Overview on Colin Holba: “Has the placement and velocity necessary to be considered as a late-round pick in the draft.”

Holba has good velocity on short and long-range snaps. His biggest issue is that he needs to add some size. Defenses can’t line themselves up over the top of the long-snapper. However, they can try to penetrate the gaps on either side of the snapper. This was one of the areas of weakness for Holba in college.

What to Expect from Colin Holba

 

This pick has the possibility of going one of two ways. Either Holba wins the long-snapping job or he doesn’t. If he wins the job he will take over for Greg Warren and Warren will be looking for a new job. If he doesn’t win the job he will be let go.

No team is going to hold onto two long-snappers and no long-snapper is going to make a practice squad. That means Holba is going to have to prove himself to win the job and take over for Warren.

How this Pick Affects the Team

The Steelers either will or will not have a new long-snapper this year. It will be either Holba or Warren at long-snapper in 2017. Holba would have a smaller salary cap number, but the difference isn’t big enough to be a contributing factor in who the team chooses.

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Steelers Draft Joshua Dobbs 135th Overall; Big Ben’s Successor

 

The Pittsburgh Steelers have selected quarterback Joshua Dobbs, out of Tennessee, in the fourth round. A quarterback became almost a certainty in this draft when Ben Roethlisberger hinted at retirement. Now, the Steelers are hoping they have their quarterback of the future in Dobbs.

Joshua Dobbs may be the smartest quarterback in this draft. He is an aerospace engineering major and has all the traits of a NFL starting quarterback. Dobbs has been compared to Dak Prescott as a dual-threat quarterback. He has a big time arm and great speed.

Consensus on Joshua Dobbs

NFL.com Overview on Joshua Dobbs: “Dobbs is hardly incompetent as a passer, but he hasn’t shown as much growth with his ball placement and accuracy as scouts had hoped to see from this former four-star prospect. Dobbs has decent size and is an outstanding runner outside the pocket which could appeal to a team looking for a developmental quarterback with play-making ability.”

Dobbs has the arm and ability to be an NFL quarterback. He needs to work on his base when throwing and work on some mechanical things. His accuracy has been his biggest issue, but the Steelers have time to work with him. Pittsburgh met with Dobbs multiple times and clearly they liked what they saw.

Last year Dak Prescott was selected with the 135th pick. Dobbs goes 135th to the Steelers. These two have similar traits and the hope is that Pittsburgh got an equally talented quarterback.

What to Expect from Joshua Dobbs

Dak Prescott was forced into duty last year for the Cowboys due to injury. The hope for Dobbs is that he will take this year to soak it all in and learn from Ben Roethlisberger. Next year Dobb can take over as the back-up to Roethlisberger. Once Big Ben is ready to walk away Dobbs can step in as the full-time starter. Given, of course, that he continues to develop.

How this Pick Affects the Team

Landry Jones, the current back-up quarterback, hasn’t shown the ability to take over the team as a starter. He is capable to filling in when needed, but the Steelers clearly aren’t comfortable moving forward with him if Roethlisberger retires.

Quarterback in the NFL may be the most important position in pro-sports. When a team loses a guy like Roethlisberger, which the Steelers will in the next couple of years, they need someone in waiting. Dobbs was brought in to be that guy.

Here’s to hoping that Dobbs becomes the next franchise quarterback in Pittsburgh. But for now I’d like to see Roethlisberger play a couple more seasons and make at least one more playoff run at ring number seven.

 

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Steelers Draft James Conner 105th Overall; The New Fan Favorite

James Conner just became a fan favorite in Pittsburgh for another reason. The former Pitt Panther is now the newest Pittsburgh Steeler. Conner has had quite the year: he overcame cancer, won the ACC player of the year award and now got drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“Every team received a copy of my clean scan, so questions were kept to a minimum,” Conner told USA TODAY Sports this week regarding his battle with cancer. “The thing most people told me was, ‘Congratulations.’ They knew my story.”

For those who don’t know Conner’s story here is a great piece on the running back by ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi:

Consensus on James Conner

NFL.com Overview on James Conner: “Physical, battering-ram style runner who makes the hitting a two-way affair. Conner’s lack of speed and reactive quickness could limit his role as a pro, but his heart, work ethic and ability to keep the chains moving could make him a red-zone specialist with the ability to handle some third down duties as well.”

James Conner won’t have to do much. Le’Veon Bell is one of the best in the business and is rarely off the field. Conner will, however, have the option to pick up carries when Bell needs a rest. Conner is also a nice complement to Bell as the heavy hitter off the bench. Much like Jerome Bettis used to be the heavy hitter behind Willie Parker. Conner can come into games late when the defense is tired and just keep pounding at them.

What to Expect from James Conner

I wasn’t sure when it was going to happen, but it seemed a sure thing that the Steelers would be drafting a running back. James Conner was an easy choice. He is a great character guy and the Steelers have seen him plenty since he is a local kid.

Conner joins Bell and free-agent signing Knile Davis on the Steelers running back depth chart. Davis and Conner will battle for back-up duties. As of right now I would expect Conner to get every chance to be Bell’s back-up. I also expect him to win that job and become a fan favorite regardless of his playing time in 2017.

How this Pick Affects the Team

The Steelers just made a lot of people in Pittsburgh happy. They also are a tight-end away from being pretty much set on the offensive side of the football. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Steelers go all defense the rest of the draft outside of drafting a tight-end at some point. Perhaps they will also grab an offensive lineman for depth, but defense has some depth issues to be resolved as well.

In terms of impact Le’Veon Bell is the guy. Conner likely won’t see the field much, but this pick has a huge impact on the community. Fans are going to be really happy to see Conner stay in Pittsburgh. This could be one of the top jersey sales for the Steelers in 2017.

This pick also, in all likelihood, gives the Steelers a solid one-two punch at running-back for many years to come.

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Steelers Draft JuJu Smith Schuster 62nd Overall; Solidify WR Corps

I decided today to put together list of players I think the Steelers may be looking at for round two and three. It was probably luck, but I guessed right on Juju Smith Schuster as the Steelers wide receiver pick for the second round.

Pittsburgh didn’t really need a wide receiver after Martavis Bryant was reinstated. There is, however, the fact that at any point the Steelers could lose Bryant to another suspension. Therefore, the team must have decided that wide receiver was a big enough need to pick one in the second round.

The other thought process may be that Smith Schuster was the best player left on the Steelers board.

Consensus on JuJu Smith Schuster

NFL.com Overview on Smith Schuster: “Smith-Schuster will get dinged for his lack of speed and separation but he reminds me of Anquan Boldin with his strong hands, physical approach and ability to win the combat catches. JuJu is missing some of the speed traits teams want from their WR1, but he could become a high-volume, possession target with the size tto win some 50/50 throws down the field. Teams who have a speed merchant at one spot would be wise to take a look at Smith-Schuster as a physical counterpart.”

Smith Schuster is the perfect complement to Antonio Brown and Bryant. Bryant is the deep play guy, Brown is the do-everything guy and Smith Schuster will be the tough guy in the middle of the field. Smith Schuster is a big physical receiver and plays similar to Anquan Boldin. He gets good body position and makes all the catches.

What to Expect from Smith Schuster

Steelers fans get ready, because this offense is going to be very good. Ben Roethlisberger has weapons all over the field. Le’Veon Bell is the best two-way threat at running back in the NFL. Antonio Brown may be the best wide receiver in the game. Martavis Bryant is second, only to DeSean Jackson, in terms of deep-ball threats. And now Smith Schuster adds another weapon to the offense.

All that and I didn’t even get to the offensive line. This offensive line is probably top five in the NFL. Also, we have Eli Rogers, who is just going to keep getting better. Pick your poison NFL defenses, because you can’t possibly guard all of these guys.

How this Pick Affects the Team

The Steelers are definitely not a defense-first team anymore. This team is going to rely on offense in 2017. The defense just has to play well enough that the offense doesn’t get outscored.

This pick is also important as an insurance option. If Bryant makes another mistake the Steelers can turn to Smith Schuster next year. If Sammie Coates continues to have injury issues or Eli Rogers doesn’t progress as expected they have another option to turn too.

I am a huge fan of this pick. Smith Schuster is an absolute beast. If he ran faster he would have been a first round pick, but luck for Pittsburgh teams chose to pass on him because of the intangibles. However, the tap doesn’t lie. This kid can play football.

 

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6 Players the Steelers Should Consider in Round 3 of the 2017 NFL Draft

Pittsburgh started the process of shoring up the pass-rush with the selection of TJ Watt last night. The Steelers draft plans will continue to come into focus tonight as they make three more selections. Assumptions were that the team would have a balanced draft of offense and defense. I do, however, expect the team to go defense again in the second round. It would then make sense for them to turn to offense with on of their two picks in the third round.

A year ago the Steelers selected Javon Hargrave in the third round. Hargrave ended up starting the entire season for the Steelers defense. Another hit like that in the third round would be awesome. Here are some options the Steelers should be looking at in round three:

1.) Tim Williams – Outside Linebacker – Alabama

Williams may become “that guy” this year. How far will he fall? That question will likely be answered today, but he is a first round talent. Off-field issues are hurting his stock and he will be this year’s Randy Gregory.

The Steelers already drafted Watt in the first round, but they could look for more depth at outside linebacker. Williams may not be on their board due to off-field issues, but if he is and he lasts until the third round they may take a look at him.

2.) Jourdan Lewis – Corner – Michigan

Lewis is the type of guy that is being hurt by his size. If he was 2-3 inches taller he probably would already be off the board. Instead, he continues to wait to be drafted. There are a lot of corners and safeties still on the board and there is a chance some, like Lewis, could fall into the third round.

Pittsburgh has succeeded with short corners in the past and Lewis has the skills to be really good. Regardless of how tall, or short, he may be.

3.) Raekwon McMillian – Inside Linebacker – Ohio State

McMillian really shouldn’t make it this far. Some mock drafts have him in the third round, though, so I’ll include him. If he makes it to the Steelers they could take a look. Lawrence Timmons left in free agency and the Steelers always like to add linebackers. McMillian could be a nice piece behind Ryan Shazier and Vince Williams.

4.) Jake Butt – Tight End – Michigan

Ben Roethlisberger wants a new tight end. The Steelers signed Ladarius Green last off-season, but who knows what they will get out of him. Butt, like others on this list, shouldn’t have made it this far. Injuries this past season, though, hurt his stock and he will fall farther than he should. He is a good pass-catcher and got better at blocking as a senior. He could be the future of the Steelers tight-end position.

5.) James Conner – Running-back – Pittsburgh

DeAngelo Williams left in free agency. The Steelers did sign Knile Davis, but his fumble issues are a concern. It is expected that the Steelers will draft a running back at some point during the draft. So, why not draft the local kid? Conner has a great story and would be a nice complement to Le’Veon Bell in the backfield.

6.) Taywan Taylor – Wide Receiver – Western Kentucky

The Steelers draft plans likely include a mid-round receiver. They could use depth at receiver and also need options in case they chose to move on from Martavis Bryant after the season. Yes, Bryant is a great talent, but the possibility of another suspension is looming.

There are other options at receiver here, and I do like the second round options more, but Taylor is intriguing. He had a big time career at Western Kentucky and could be another mid-round wide receiver hit for the Steelers draft team.

Honorable Mention: Quarterbacks – Brad Kaaya (Miami), Joshua Dobbs (Tennessee) and Nathan Peterman (Pitt)

The Steelers are interested in drafting a quarterback. At some point in the draft they need to find another development project at quarterback. The third round seems like a good spot for that to happen. Kaaya, Dobbs and Peterman are all options here, but the real question is if any of these guys will still be on the board by the end of the third round.