Now that the Day One festivities are over, rounds two and three of the NFL Draft are coming up in only a couple hours. With that in mind, and understanding it is even tougher to project these rounds than the first (which I/we were all wrong about), let’s give it a shot. In rounds two and three, the Pittsburgh Steelers take…
1. Vonn Bell/S Ohio State: It feels pretty unlikely that Bell lasts to pick 58, especially knowing that Karl Joseph and Keanu Neal went higher than expected. But Bell is a Buckeye, has good starting experience, and had a productive career. He isn’t the hard hitter those aforementioned players are but a reliable tackler who just needs to play faster. Given the Steelers’ interest in safeties, bringing in 12 for pre-draft visits, it’s hard to think this team will go anywhere but safety.
2. Andrew Billings/NT Baylor: But if the Steelers don’t go safety, for whatever reason, the defensive line is the next logical spot. Billings dropped out of the first, a surprise to me and something I was clearly wrong about, but seeing him fall to 58 obviously isn’t a sure thing. But with the depth in this class pushing guys like him, Chris Jones, Jarran Reed, and A’Shawn Robinson down, I can’t rule anything out. The interest in him has been clear and the value would be excellent.
3. Sean Davis/S Maryland: Big, fast, desire to by physical, and productive. That was the skinny on Artie Burns and you can say the same about Sean Davis. Davis has great feet and explosiveness with the versatility to play corner or safety, though I – and most people – see him in the latter spot. Brought in for a visit so there’s a strong connection here.
4. Justin Simmons/S Boston College: I know Simmons is viewed as a third round pick, and with the depth in this class, maybe he slips. But he has those two traits Kevin Colbert mentioned Monday: hearts and smarts. He’s also a plus athlete and an experienced senior, a nice contrast to the rawer Burns. He profiles as a centerfield safety and the team already has that with Mike Mitchell, making this fit a little less desirable.
5. Darian Thompson/S Boise State: His poor testing numbers drop him down but he had a heck of a career and fits really well as a strong safety. The Steelers obviously have interest, bringing him in for a visit, so we can connect the dots, too.
6. Sterling Shepard/WR Oklahoma: Possible wildcard here. Shepard was one of just two receivers brought in for a visit and if Pittsburgh wants him, they’ll have to burn their 58th pick. We’ve laid out the reasons why receiver is an underrated need. If the team
1. Javon Hargrave/NT South Carolina State: Seeing all the nose tackles drop makes me think Hargrave will be part of that group which gets naturally pushed down. Could be excellent value at 89 and the Steelers’ interest has been very clear.
2. Pharoh Cooper/WR South Carolina: Again, some dot-connecting here based on team interest, bringing him in for a visit. Though Cooper didn’t test particularly well, his return background shows a dynamic player and a real team need for Pittsburgh. Mike Tomlin almost exclusively prefers offensive players to handle all return duties.
3. Deon Bush/S Miami (FL): Should the Steelers pass up a safety in Round 2, Bush could be their guy in Round 3. He’s got enough speed, better in coverage than people think, and a monster hitter. He’s a 32 game starter who forced nine career fumbles. Two Hurricanes in the first two days? That might be a first but isn’t out of the question.
4. Jerald Hawkins/OT LSU: Hawkins was one of the few offensive linemen to be brought in and is generally viewed as a second or third round pick. Tackle might not be a pressing need but Hawkins is a 37 game starter in SEC competition. At 6’5, 305 pounds with 34+ inch arms, he has the size Pittsburgh covets.
5. Ryan Smith/CB North Carolina Central: Many might not think about slotting him here but after the Steelers took Burns, throw what we “knew” right out the window. He doesn’t have near the length Burns does but has the speed, height, and though he’s coming from the FCS level, has a ton of starting experience. Return value, though again, Tomlin prefers those guys come from the offensive side, but it’s a bonus.