Pittsburgh Steelers Big Board: Round One

Today is finally the day. Round one of the NFL Draft. All the speculation, opinions, debates, put to rest. In these last hours before things kick off, I want to take one last look at what the Pittsburgh Steelers’ big board could be. Of course, their board includes players at the very top. We won’t do that here, sticking only with the players who are have some level of probability of falling to 25. I am going to create this list based off what the team is most likely to do, rather than what I would prefer them do.

With the 25th pick, the Steelers select…

1. Noah Spence/OLB Eastern Kentucky: Though he was never brought in for an official visit, the Steelers have reportedly kept in contact with him throughout the draft process. You don’t do that to someone who is off your board entirely, so I can’t believe the off the field concerns are weighing so much against him that he won’t be considered.

Spence is a long shot to fall, I don’t see him getting past the 20th pick, but it isn’t impossible. His stock has leveled off into that squarely-in-the-middle range. If one or two wonky things go down (and it’s the draft so, duh), he could wind up in Pittsburgh’s lap.

Outside linebacker hasn’t been a position the team has invested in during the pre-draft process but Spence’s drop would be unique. Not too dissimilar to Bud Dupree last year. He is one of the best pure pass rushers in the draft, showing the ability to flatten and get upfield. I see enough of an arsenal as a pass rusher to indicate he has a plan and with more reps, he’ll be even more effective.

There are concerns about him, why I’ve always pegged him lower than most, but in this weak edge class, and the 2017 and beyond need for edge rushers, the fit makes sense. Again, unlikely to be there, but the #1 player on your board rarely is.

2. William Jackson III/CB Houston: I’ve gone back and forth on who should be in the two hole, Jackson or Andrew Billings, but from a team-standpoint, it sounds like the Steelers have more interest in the secondary than defensive line. Either player makes sense from a talent/value perspective. Jackson’s triangle numbers are excellent, he’s a playmaker, and fits the team’s zone scheme pretty well. Not the most active tackler, as I wrote yesterday, but he isn’t contact-shy.

3. Andrew Billings/NT Baylor: Though they didn’t bring Billings in for a visit, another reason why he’s below Jackson (juniors usually brought in, seniors don’t have to be), the interest in him is obvious. You don’t send the farm to Baylor’s Pro Day, have him dine with Joe Greene, unless you’re seriously mulling him over. Tough against the run and offering pass rush value, he’s one of the few nose tackles who check those marks. 50/50 if he’ll make it to the team’s pick.

4. Karl Joseph/S West Virginia: The most common pick, including from yours truly, around these parts. We’ve gone through all the reasons why Joseph could be the guy: team need, Joseph’s talent, the interest shown in him. Don’t need to rehash it all again. Confident, though less so than last week, he’ll still be on the board.

5. Eli Apple/CB Ohio State: Though he’s gotten a bad rap from myself and others, we can’t sit here and say there is no chance Apple will be the pick. We wrote yesterday that Gerry Dulac believes this is their pick. Up front, there is no guarantee Apple will last, many mocks have him going in the teens, and even if he falls, I’m not convinced Pittsburgh will take him. The lack of a pre-draft visit for an underclass corner is concerning if history has any clout.

6. Keanu Neal/S Florida: The one my gut still nags me about. Though Joseph is the better player, I’m not looking to debate that, Neal is a year younger with more than 20 fewer starts than Joseph. Hard to compare the two. If the team feels Neal is coachable, I can see them taking him here. Tony Pauline and others have repeatedly said the team has interest, confirmed by their pre-draft visit with him. He’s the first player on this list I can say with complete confidence will be there at 25.

7. Mackensie Alexander/CB Clemson: Though a reporter prompted the question, Kevin Colbert’s comments Monday about cornerbacks needing to have confidence speak directly to Alexander’s strength. No one has more of a swagger in this entire draft than him but he’s a football savvy guy who seems to love the game. His play on the field is pretty good, too.

8. Robert Nkemdiche/DE Ole Miss: This is a real wildcard. No idea where Nkemdiche is going to land, no real clue what the Steelers’ level of interest in. But they brought him in for a visit, no doubt a better chance to understand who he is as a person. Though wildly inconsistent even on the field, there’s no denying he has first round talent. This would drop every Steelers fans’ jaw, but hey, I think it’s on the table.

9. Vernon Butler/NT La Tech: Though there is only a loose connection to Butler, a meeting at the Combine, Butler makes sense for most of the reasons Billings does. Butler has additional height and length, making him a more ideal fit to play the five, something Billings probably wouldn’t do a ton of. I’m just worried I’m higher on the pick than the Steelers are.

10. A’Shawn Robinson/DE Alabama: Another first round talent brought in for a visit, the driving force behind him being on this list. Most in the amateur draft scouting circle aren’t big fans of his but seeing him fall to 25 would present some decent value. Hard to think of many more reasons beyond this, and this pick seems extremely unlikely.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • Garrett Hunt

    Boooo do one with 25 names including players at the top. You probably wouldn’t have said Dupree or Decastro would be there.

  • PittsburghSports

    You really think if all these players are available, that they’d go Spence? I’m not buying it. I’ve been a fan of Spence since he played at Ohio St. and it pained me to leave him off my board, but with his red flags there was no visit, no private workout, nor anyone notable from PIT at his pro day. I think Spence is probably my #1 choice, but the Steelers? I think he’s outside their top 5. Billings and WJ3 are their top guys.

  • The Notorious TOM

    Billings please.

    I’d also live w/ Jarran Reed, just no A’Shawn pl0x. (AND NO DBs!!!) #Dlineorbust also, why isn’t Nassib considered a first round guy? I know he only had one year of production but so do a couple other consensus first rounders and Carl took home a gang of trophies. I’d love to have Nassib.

  • Big D

    Billings if there, if not trade back for Joseph or M Alexander

  • Big White

    That list looks pretty legit. I would add one name to it being Reggie Ragland. I know ILB isn’t exactly a pressing need, but with Timmons entering his 10th season he may be in that conversation for “best player available”. I’ve been hearing he may slide tonight over concerns that he’s a 2 down linebacker which is not entirely accurate. Granted he may not see the field in 3rd & 17, but without a doubt would be an asset on 3rd/4th and short.

  • The Notorious TOM

    Imagine if Darron Lee was there? He and Shaz would wreak havoc back there.. Unfair amounts of speed in our LB corp.

  • The Notorious TOM

    SD pretty much had the Dupree pick nailed from the jump last year actually.

  • Bob Francis

    Glad to see you list V. Butler. With all the Billings love, at least from Depot, I’m surprised not more love for Butler (although you did pick him in that mock draft exercise). I’ve seen Butler higher on many Top 50 or Top 100 lists of prospects than Billings. With the S and CB depth likely available in Rounds 2-4, I’d be thrilled with Butler in 1. Impact player, meets maybe the biggest need on the roster…

  • Big White

    That might happen. There are really only about two or three teams that prize Lee, if they go in another direction he most certainly would be worthy of consideration. I think he’s gone at #17 to the Falcons, but we’ll see. They might take Ragland.

  • RickM

    I love the order of preference and rationale for it. Good job.

  • Big White

    Absolutely love Butler. Very seldom do you see a guy that big have that much wiggle.

  • falconsaftey43

    I like Nassib, but I think he’s a 2nd-3rd rounder. He’s got great length and motor, uses his hands well. But he’s not a great athlete, and he spends a good amount of time on the ground. Not a great scheme fit for a lot of teams as well, as he’s pretty much just a 4-3 end.

  • The Notorious TOM

    Fair, I was under the impression that big Carl had a future as a 5-tech. Thanks.

  • Brian Tollini

    I’m sticking with Joseph, Billings, WJIII…in that order. Joseph in Black & Gold just seems right. That’s as good a reason as any (to me).

  • Tom Jackson

    Nice list, Alex. Pretty defensable even if someone would disagree with it IMO because there good reasons for it. Btw where is the report they kept in touch with Spence throughout the process? Haven’t read that and it’s a very interesting little nugget tbh with you. Wish I would’ve known that.

  • Dorian James

    I would love to have any of those guys on that list.

  • Zarbor

    Yeah, after the issues with MB, its hard for me to believe we would take Spence. I would be shocked though his pass rush skills would be ideal. Its moot point since I don’t think he makes its down to #25. Giants, Buffalo, Redskins. He’s going to one of them. I pick Redskins.

  • Al Webber

    Reed and Ragland definitely need to be on the list.

    It’s also not beyond the realms of possibility that one or two highly ranked prospects fall. ILBs often fall, and Myles Jack’s knee might push him into the teens. That might push Lee into the Steelers range. There were rumours about Hargreaves failing a drug test as well that might lead to a fall if they are true. Conklin might be BPA if he’s still there.

    There’s also the thing that Colbert was quoted on a couple of years ago about using the first round to find “special talents” if they are available. If someone falls who they feel can be a special talent to build around – someone who is a game changer – then they might well go for talent over need. If you think one of the DLs is the next JJ Watt then you draft him even though you already Heyward and Tuitt.

  • Agustin-ARG

    A. 1st round Joseph and 2nd Hargrave or 1st Billings and 2nd Thompson or Fuller?
    B. If Jackson Billings Joseph all off the board: Robinson or Apple?

    My bold pick prediction: Reed or Rankins wil drop for our 1st pick

  • Zhan 美国第一

    Me, too.

    I like Butler over Billings. More flexibility to play anywhere on a 3-4 front.

    I see Billings as strictly a NT.

  • Donte Williams

    no billings can play the nose or the end

  • CP72

    I like both players. I like Billings lateral quickness slightly better.

  • Donte Williams

    joseph could drop to #58 pending how folks have him listed as far as his medical issues with the knee is it 80% 60% 50% who knows well i dont know but it will be a dream billings or WJ3 in the first Joesph or Bell in the second that would be a dream come true

  • Daniel

    “A” scenario much better

  • Zhan 美国第一

    He’s just a shade over 6 feet tall. Don’t like his length.

    Butler’s arm length is much better, too.

    We simply disagree. I think Billings would disappoint at end.

  • Daniel


  • Daniel

    Joseph won’t last n the 2nd, if we want em we need to take him in the 1st

  • Zhan 美国第一

    I don’t see any evidence of that.

    The worst thing that you could say about Butler is that he doesn’t have ideal speed.

  • John

    I really think the list is more as follows:

    Hargeaves if he falls somehow.

    Apple, Jackson, Alexander, Joseph and Neal in some order. I cannot tell you the order.

    I don’t think we draft anyone other than one of those six. We will see though.

  • Nicholas Allen Cotner

    He isn’t lasting to 40 let alone 58

  • WeWantDaTruth

    Neal is more likely a 2nd round talent, IMO. If the Steelers don’t take Joseph in 1st round, maybe Neal in the 2nd? Joseph’s knee injury has me a little nervous, and while a big hitter, he is a little light.

  • CP72

    Anyone think Mackinsie Alexander could make it to 58?

  • Nicholas Allen Cotner

    Doubt it, but I would be more than okay with him being the 2nd pick we make.

  • Big White

    Doubt it. Teams are drafting a 3rd corner earlier each year. Even a team with 2 solid starters would probably love to have him as a passing down nickel.

  • srdan

    Nailed in a way that “he could drop and he is the pick if he does, but I don’t see him getting past new orleans”.

    But yes, they did.

  • Daniel

    He is light but he hits hard..he laid out a 289 lb running back

  • srdan

    But Martavious is a good example of not really knowing what you’re getting. He was a fourth rounder because he was raw, not becasuse he was ever in trouble. Noah has had his troubles early, and based on recent actions has tried to better himself already. In a way, wouldn’t you rather get someone that has already had experience with this adversity?

  • srdan

    Well I think you will enjoy tonight then!

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    If he passes us, then I’m thinking 30 to Carolina.

  • Alex Kozora

    Jon Ledyard was told by Spence the Steelers have shown a “ton” of interest.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I think I want Joseph more than anyone, but I understand this ranking. We’ll see tonight! Wonder how many rants if we take Mack! I’d chuckle to myself! Lol!

  • Jollyrob68

    Red flags and all he’s proven that he’s changed his life around. He also sent them all of his drug test.
    Unlike Martavis he has changed and matured.
    I’d take him (Spence) because they’re still relying on Harrison which means they need help.

  • Matt Manzo

    There are those that think he could play end for us! Even jump to OLB every now and then.

  • Matt Manzo

    Ashawn is the only one I’d be pissed about!

  • Big White

    Hopefully STEEELERS DEPOT will have an open thread later today asking for our own personal 7 Round Mock. The person closest should get some free Steelers gear, opening day tickets, etc……… 🙂

  • Garrett Hunt

    True, but I just mean I don’t see much of a point in the big board if you don’t have all the options there. Like what if Lawson slips to us. He would be my pick in a heartbeat!

  • Zarbor

    I hear you. I was speaking from the Steelers perspective. Personally, its 6 one way, half a dozen the other. Whether we know or don’t know, all that matters is what they do after being drafted. We all knew Manziel issues yet he can’t seem to change. That’s my only fear with Spence. Not buying he handled adversity well at Eastern Kentucky.

    His drug (ecstasy) issue is less of a concern than his ability to stay out of trouble in the media off the field. Hey he might be a Dez Bryant type knowing his issues and keeping it clean for the most part. I would take the risk hoping guys like Cam can help him out. Realistically we have no chance of getting him.

  • Darth Blount 47

    I also like Nassib, but no way at 25. When you see a picture in the dictionary next to the word “raw”, there is a pic of Carl. The guy, in my opinion, is one of the most intriguing prospects in this whole draft. If he goes to the right situation, I honestly believe he could be a dominant force. If he doesn’t, or simply can’t improve/polish his game, I think he washes out. He’ll be a fun one to watch in the next few years. Even more so, (obviously) if he goes to us in the 3rd or 4th rd.

  • Darth Blount 47

    The guy is mocked in almost every draft to Atlanta. If he gets past them, he very easily could fall to us at 25. No question. I could totally see it.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Butler shocked me when I first looked at him. I was expecting a 325 pound fat boy. Instead he carries his weight well. You could do so many things with him and the upside is insane. I would love him on my team.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Billings at End ONLY in some sub package-funky formations, or to spell Tuiiy, or Hey. I wouldn’t expect to see him there very often. But having some ability to shift there is good to have. But I agree, Butler has the measurables and desire where you could likely move him all around consistently.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Hear me out on this… we often only trade up when we really see someone we can’t live without. I actually like quite a few of the Safeties for us in this draft. But is it/would it be crazy, if we walked out of this draft targeting a few of the higher guys and NOT drafted for depth? I mean, we have a limited amount of picks this year anyways. So why not, hopefully, grab Will Jack or Billings or Butler etc.. at 25. Then deal to get back up towards the end of 1 / beginning of 2, more likely if Joseph makes it past 25, and grab him too. Normally, I’d be more for getting as many quality picks as we can throughout. But is this the year to grab a couple of the more ready and talented guys and go for the gusto, since we are sort of in, “win now for Ben mode?” I know it is pretty un-Steeler to think like that, but imagine coming out of this draft with Billings AND Joseph. Or Will Jack AND Joseph. I’d almost not care how suspect the rest of the draft was after them.

  • Tom Jackson

    Would’ve loved to have known that before I put out that steelers mock today. Lol I’d just picked Dodd at 5 to have one Edge guy in place who could be a target at 25. And I actually am a big fan of Spence as a player. Oh well…

  • Darth Blount 47

    If Will Jack is there and we take Mack, I’ll rant! I’ll rant for days!!! (Then suck it up and begin to love Mack, lol)

  • Darth Blount 47

    We’d have ourselves one heck of a run stuffer… but outside of that, yeah, I too wouldn’t exactly be thrilled.

  • Biggie

    I’d be no in Rd 1 on Spence, Alexander and Nkemdiche. I’d be good with the rest. With the depth on defense in this draft I see no reason to consider either character guy (Spence, Nkemdiche) in the 1st round. I don’t like Alexander in Rd 1 either, he is a slot CB and we already have that in Gay, Golson. We need outside corners. I’m hoping for selection out of Jackson, Billings, Joseph, Apple, Butler.

  • Darth Blount 47

    It took me 3 hours just to come up with the Mock Contest guys… and you want us to mock all 7 rds??? … “Honey, hold all of my calls and cancel all of my appointments, I have a 7 rd mock to do. Oh, and tell the kids I love them and will miss them!” 🙂

  • Donte Williams

    that would be awesome i would love WJ3 Joseph combo you get two kats that can help the secondary I would love billings and joseph you get a dog for D-Line who can play and help out with Tuitt and Cam lets see what they do but i would not be made if we didnt land billings and drafted Hargrove from SC state

  • Darth Blount 47

    Yeah, I’ve contemplated what a draft would look like where they just load up on D-line and waited till late to hit both S and CB. It wouldn’t be my way of going, but it would be pretty interesting!

  • The Notorious TOM

    Haha no kidding

  • Jason Vancil

    I think he’s our guy at 1.25.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    While I think William Jackson has better ball skills and faster I think Mack covers better and a better tackler off top! I like them both, but there can only be one! #returnofthemack

  • PittsburghSports

    I would suspect he was a 4th rounder because he was both raw and had some red flags. It’s not like he just started smoking weed in Pittsburgh.

  • PittsburghSports

    I’m not disputing that. I’m disputing the Steelers interest, or lack there of. Wether he’s changed or not, he has red flags, and you want to sit him down and see what makes him tick. As far as we know, that just hasn’t happened.

  • pittfan

    Who has a 289 lb rb?

  • Jay

    Karl Joseph scares me in the first round because of his style of play, I would pass on him in the first.

    The steelers usually always suprises us in the draft. My surprise pick in the first round will be WR josh doctson

    My more of a realistic pick is NT Andrew billings, teams will regret passing on him mark my words

    I honestly don’t think CB is that much of a need in the first round, remember we have William gay, senquez, and one of my favorite players who I think will make a big leap this year Ross cockrell.

  • jujudoublestuff

    I wouldn’t be mad with Spence although i’d rather have Billings. If it’s Spence, hopefully Hargrave in the second.

  • Slab

    Any of the 4 left would be great in the 2nd! Even Alexander. CB would be good for a while if Burns, Alexander and Golson were all added…..