Steelers 2017 First-Round Targets

Ordinarily, my time writing for Steelers Depot has been filled with more concrete matters. I have for the most part left the vast majority of the pre-draft heavy lifting to the rest of our writing staff, particularly Alex Kozora, who is probably an honorary BLESTO scout at this point or something.

However, I have always made an exception every year in writing a column in which I list a handful of whom I believe to be the Pittsburgh Steelers’ most likely targets in the first round of the draft. I had Ryan Shazier on my list in 2014, but not Bud Dupree or Artie Burns the past two years, so it doesn’t always go as planned.

I did already post a mock draft, the first one that I have published on the site, detailing my pick for the Steelers’ selection in the first round—as well as every other round—but here I broaden the scope while trying to narrow the choices down to a small handful of names that I feel are the most likely. This differs from my ‘also considered’ nominees in the mock.

Takkarist McKinley, OLB: The Steelers biggest long-term need on defense is the outside linebacker position, and McKinley, in spite of his injury history, is one of the top talents. They brought him in for a pre-draft visit,and the 250-pounder checks a lot of the boxes they look for here physically with great speed and long arms.

T.J. Watt, OLB: Perhaps nobody ticks more boxes at the outside linebacker position than T.J. Watt, and though they didn’t bring him in, they did meet with him elsewhere. He is still somewhat raw, but so have been their last couple of first-round picks. They can do with some upside with James Harrison still here.

Jabrill Peppers, S: I’ll admit I’m not the biggest fan of Peppers in the first round, because I think it requires too much projection, and the failed drug test is a concern. But it’s hard to argue against his physical traits and his makeup. Not to mention his willingness to do whatever you ask of him and give it everything.

Jarrad Davis, ILB: The Steelers lost a starting inside linebacker. The last time that happened they drafted Shazier. Davis is quite a specimen in his own right the way Shazier is, but can serve in the buck role. He could potentially be a day-one starter, though that won’t necessarily be the case.

CB Marlon Humphrey, CB: The draft positioning for Humphrey has been all over the board, but despite my better judgement, I not only am leaving him here, I mocked him to the Steelers at 30. I have a feeling he’s going to go high the way Eli Apple did a year ago. He’s somewhat limited based on relatively little experience, but he has all the tools to develop him.

Chidobe Awuzie, CB: Solid in terms of size and speed, Awuzie offers versatility at the cornerback position that could potentially get him onto the field pretty early should he be the pick. I think his height might make him slightly more attractive than Tre’Davious White, but White would be the next person on this list.

Feel free to call me a fool for leaving off the player you know the Steelers are going to draft, and to remind me next year that I got it wrong three years in a row.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Jeff Papiernik

    I like all except Takk McKinley, but I understand the interest is there. I agree with all the others. Those are at the top of my list. Obi is as well but I realize he probably won’t be the pick and if he was, would be a little bit of a reach.

  • Charles Mullins

    Sign me up for Watt if he is on the board.

  • Steel City Slim

    Personally I’d rather see them try to trade down (yes, I know they would need a trade partner). Seems like quite a few of those guys will still be available early in the 2nd round and it doesn’t seem like there would be alot of dropoff from late 1st to early 2nd. If a player who was projected to go higher in the draft, like McCaffrey (just an example) slips all the way to the end of the 1st round, there may be a team wanting to move up to get him. But if they stay at 30 I’m hoping for a pass rusher or corner.

  • dhorst88

    Give me a db or lb and I’m happy…just as long as it isn’t jarvis jones 2.0

  • NYCSteelCurtain

    I think Takk is going to be a beast in the NFL. I know the injury is a concern but the guy’s acceleration is great.

  • Chad

    I wish the hype train surrounding Melifonwu had sustained, are you thinking he just won’t fall to us?

  • SteelerTony

    Subtract McKinley
    Add Obi, Budda, and Tre White.
    My preference is Awuzie or Davis.
    Too many good edge rushers available in 2-3 to take one in the first imo

  • D.j. Reynolds

    I think the G. Conley stuff hurt my plan, but I was hoping for a Marlon Humphrey or Tre White at the the end of Rd. 1 and the best remaining Edge (hopefully Rivers or Lawson or Willis) toward the end of Rd. 2. This was my hope. Now I think the DB’s will go earlier and I’m just not sure there is a 1st rounder if both Humphrey & White are already gone.

    Realistically, I think the Steelers want one of H. Reddick, J. Davis, or Z. Cunningham in round 1. If any are there, I think the Steelers take him. Or, they will surprise us all and take Watson or Kizer. Not what I want, rather just what I think may play out.

  • D.j. Reynolds

    I prefer CB in rd. 1 if the value is there as I think one of Willis, Rivers or Lawson will be there at the end of RD. 2.

  • Steelers12

    obi melifonwu

  • Andrew

    Trade back, grab Rivers, then grab best secondary (S/CB) in second and third.

  • JT

    I still think WR/TE is a legitimate option. And a large amount of the fanbase will freak when it happens.

  • Biggie

    I think this is extremely accurate list. I have everyone of them plus TreDavious White.

  • Jon Crissinger

    exactly why would someone trade up to 30? ATL is probably looking for an edge/lb and if there’s one good enough to trade up for, Pitt might as well take them. If its for QB they can trade with ATL or they might even trade above Pitt with the interest they’ve shown in prospects.

  • Brian Tollini

    If Awuzie had been brought in or if they even met with him at the combine I think he would my best guess at Steelers #1 overall. He is exactly what they need in the secondary and that pick just makes so much sense.

  • MoSteel

    I think you’re spot on. If one of those five is there at 30, I think they pull the trigger. I could see them going Josh Jones or Budda Baker over the QBs though if they’re available (which I would prefer)

  • Andrew

    I have a sinking suspicion Pittsburgh is showing interest to spike a trade. I could be very, very wrong, but the FO seems content with the QB situation. They believe Ben is gonna be here for a few more years. I think they’re strongly considering trading back cause they really want Rivers. I wouldn’t be the least surprised if he is taken at 30

  • Michael James

    Why do you identify Awuzie as a potential target? Don’t get me wrong, I would like the pick, but they have literally shown zero interest in him.
    Again, I would like him, but there are many other potential first-round prospects were the Steelers showed much more interest.

  • KiJana Haney

    Andrew if they traded by to lets say 40 they would be able to still get rivers and they would accrue another third round draft pick

  • KiJana Haney

    Because they want the fifth year option for players especially quarterbacks

  • Zhan 使美国再次伟大

    Overrated…

  • Steeler4l1f3

    I agree 100%. Think they are looking for an extra 3rd rounder.

  • Pricopea

    Obi, Awuzie, Davis or Watt

  • Jonas

    I definitely agree that they need to go defense. Jarrad Davis would be my pick if available, but all these options are legit.

  • Grizzly Adams

    My gut says it’s Marcus Maye… MT + KC pro day, pro day dinner, pre-draft visit…

  • Terrible Towlie

    willis is gonna be what everybody talkin bout….he’s gonna be good

  • Matthew Marczi

    I’m not a fan of McKinley either, personally, in the first round.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I would be very open to a trade-down possibility, though that could change by the time we get down to 28 or so depending on who’s left.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I do think he will probably go earlier, though I’ve also recently found myself having concerns about playing too tall.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Sure, it’s an option, but I don’t think it’s more likely than any that I listed, and a lot of that has to do with (in my opinion) the unlikelihood of a Njoku or Ross falling that far. I’ve seen Davis making it that far, but I don’t know if he actually will.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I would have put White down but I didn’t want to make the list too long. I usually try to list five but felt compelled to do six this year because of so many variables. Realistically White may be as likely as the other CBs I listed.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Albeit a very small presence, they were at his pro day. Especially when it comes to the first round though there can be a lack of serious correlation depending on who falls. Pre-draft visits are only one indicator but I believe only like 30 percent in recent years have actually come in.

  • Steelers12

    How so?

  • Jon Crissinger

    Did you even read what I put? They can trade up with teams other than Pittsburgh. And because of the smoke Steelers put out for QBs, they would want to trade in front of them not with them for a QB (thinking Pitt will draft them if they are there at 30). If pittsburgh is willing to trade that means they dont want a QB and they can trade with ATL in front of NO

  • Jon Crissinger

    To spike a trade? If they think Pitt really wants a QB they’ll trade in front of steelers not with them…

  • JT

    Certainly fair. Happy to stop guessing and see who falls tonight.

  • SoCal Steeler

    Pretty good list, Mathew. My guess is that it’s Takk and he only falms to us because of his injury. You can always add several more names no matter what round it is,. Can’t waIt!

  • RickM

    I think they are all very reasonable. I personally think Colbert has already crossed Peppers off his list as he’ll be heavily criticized if he fails a drug test with the Steelers. Colbert’s too cautious to take that risk. I also think McKinley and Humphrey will be long gone unfortunately, so that will leave Watt, Davis and Awuzie. I’d probably be happiest with either Watt or Davis. Guess I have to read up more about Awuzie.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Aren’t we all, haha. Months and months of reading tea leaves.

  • Charles Mullins

    I win.

  • D.j. Reynolds

    Hopefully the Steelers win, and I sincerely hope Watt turns out to be a HOF’er!

    This post was (unfortunately) probably my best prognostication on the draft. If we had gone upper-echelon CB in the first round, there were plenty of Edge guys that fell (including all 3 mentioned in my post). I just don’t think the Steelers felt there was a 1st round corner on the board at 30. I suspect that if Humphrey or Tre White had made it to 30, then it would have gone the other way and lots of people would be complaining less today (with a higher corner and a good Edge that fell to the 3rd).

    Go Steelers and T.J. Watt!!! Please show me and everyone else this was the right pick.

  • Charles Mullins

    The need was much greater at edge than it was at corner. Hopefully TJ is the game changer that we need. Between Bud and TJ we should be set.

  • D.j. Reynolds

    I completely agree on all of that.