The Steelers turned their eyes away from contract squabbles with LeVeon Bell just long enough to put together another of their annually solid Draft efforts. That would be in spite of what Big Ben seems to think of it.
One of the biggest tasks at hand for the organization was bolstering their Defense after the loss of RYAN SHAZIER to his frightening neck/cervical injury. And in light of that task I will defend the somewhat surprising selection of TERRELL EDMUNDS/Va Tech in Round 1 at Pick 28. By the time the Combine and private workouts were over EDMUNDS was pretty much in every team’s Top 100 as a prospect. His athleticism is outstanding and his family genes are also superior. If you look carefully at Tech game tape you will clearly see that TERRELL may be a natural fit for a Nickel-LB spot at the pro level. His 4.46/40 approximates that of Shazier. My guess is that by the middle of the 2018 season EDMUNDS will be handling all the business that Shazier has handled in the past. Their need for him as a S was greatly diminished with the VFA signing of MORGAN BURNETT away from the Packers. He should excel on Special Teams as well, if they can afford to play him on those units.
During the early hours of the Draft the team traded enigmatic wideout MARTAVIS BRYANT to the Raiders. BRYANT is a big time deep threat, but has been a headache for the team off the field. Dealing with Knucklehead BELL may have been enough for the team to deal with, so BRYANT was sent packing. In Round 2 the team drafted WR/James Washington/Oklahoma State. He doesn’t replace BRYANT’s skill set, but should fit nicely into the team’s offensive schemes with his sure hands and great run-after-catch ability. In 2017 he caught 74 balls, for 1549 yards and 12 TD. He recorded 39 TD during his Okie State career. That 2017 average of 20.9 ypc, speaks to his explosiveness with the ball in his hands. Also shows exceptional ability to adjust to the throw and win contested throws ala last year’s Steelers’ rookie sensation JUJU SMITH-SCHUSTER.
It was the 3rd Round selection of Washington’s college teammate MASON RUDOLPH/QB that set Big Ben off a bit, when he questioned the need for another back-up QB with Landry Jones already in place as his back-up. Folks, I have watched JONES come into games to fill in for an injured Roethlisberger and he’s not good enough to start in the NFL. RUDOLPH might be a better answer. He’s a big (6’045″/235) pocket passer, who is mobile enough to move in the pocket to extend plays. In college last season he completed 65% of his throws for 4904 yards and 37 TD. Yes 37 TD, and only 9 INT by the way. Sorry Ben but now that you are playing the Brett Favre-like game of mentioning retirement just about every off-season, this was a calculated pick for the not too distant future. I would also editorialize by saying RUDOLPH is a solid value at Pick at 76.
The team grabbed a couple more Offensive pieces before they were done. CHUKWUMA OKORAFOR/OT/Western Michigan the raw but massive (6’6/330) OT out of the MAC at Pick 92, just before the end of Round 3 on Friday was their next selection. He’s a raw talent who actually played better in 2016 than last season. His 10 1/4″ hands and 34 1/2″ long arms are textbook for an OT. With a couple of seasons of NFL coaching and spot appearances this man-mountain could replace MARCUS GILBERT out at RT in a year or two. In Round 5 the team selected JAYLEN SAMUELS OF NC STATE who is an offensive Swiss-Army-knife. SAMUELS can handle snaps at RB, FB, TE, H-B and be an ace on Special Teams. As the NFL moves to a more positionless game this kind of versatile performer is a roster must. Great value at the Pick, IMO!
Sticking to Day 3 of the Draft, the team also buffered depth on the defensive side of the ball with their 5th and 7th Round Picks. Both of these players put in their time at winning college football programs, both of which play a lot of pro style ball. In Round 5, Pick 148 they grabbed my 114th ranked player in S/MARCUS ALLEN/Penn State. This big hitter will earn his pay on Special Teams initially, but has sub-package potential with time. In college he was primarily an in-the-box performer, but if he can respond to pro coaching his 4.52/40-speed at 215 lbs. could eventually earn him time on the field as a sub-package S. The team roster showed a definitive lack of quality depth along the DL. Pick 246, JOSHUA FRAIER, could provide an upgrade on the Nose. The big guy, 6’3/315, played well in spurts along a very deep DL rotation at ‘Bama. He’s a plugger, who when he gets a good jump off the snap, can penetrate a bit. I believe he has better body flexibility than current back-up NT Daniel McCullers.
A very solid effort on the Steelers part. They got talent and covered a lot of depth needs with these 7 guys. You can also bank on at least 2-3 URFA, from an impressive signings list, making the roster and contributing in 2018. This is how the Steelers do things, and it works for them as the standings indicate most years.