The 2018 offseason was a tough one at best for the Steelers. They lost two of their best offensive weapons to trade and free agency. With nine picks in the 2019 draft lets see how they make up for it.
The Steelers are set at quarterback, still putting out Ben Roethlisberger. He is on the tail-end of his career but they drafted his replacement in 2017 with Mason Rudolph. James Conner took over last season for Le’Veon Bell and was a seamless fit. Drafting insurance for him would be wise. The team also lost Antonio Brown via trade but JuJu Smith-Schuster played lights-out last season. He will be looking to fill those shoes.
The team drafted James Washington last season as an early round pick and should be expecting him to make a leap. They also added veteran Donte Moncrief through free agency who has shown to be productive with good quarterback play. At tight end the team has Vance McDonald, who is finally looking like a starting tight end option. The offensive line is one of the better groups in the NFL ranking 15th in run blocking and 4th in pass protection in 2018.
The defense needs to get better. Pittsburgh fields one of the worst linebacker groups in the NFL. T.J. Watt is a stud on the outside but he is really the only high-caliber option of the group. Vince Williams is good but not the answer and Mark Barron is injury prone. On the line, the Steelers have a decent group having two good players in Cameron Heyward and Javon Hargrave.
Joe Haden is still a great cover corner but he is not getting any younger. Artie Burns looks to be more of a back up or depth option at this point. Terrell Edmunds is a versatile and solid safety option and Sean Davis has been a bright spot since his addition. Now lets see where the Steelers go with their picks.
Round 1, Pick #20 Greedy Williams, Cornerback- LSU
Greedy Williams is the consensus number one corner in the 2019 draft. He measured in at 6’2 and 185 Lbs. while running a 4.37 second 40 yard dash at the combine. With great route recognition and balance on his feet Williams is great staying in stride with route breaks and his length allows him to make plays on the ball.
In two years and 24 games with LSU he totaled 71 tackles, 1.5 for a loss, 19 passes defended and eight interceptions. Six of his eight interceptions came in his Freshman year. The only reason that stat dropped in 2018 was simply because he was not targeted as much. Cornerback is a huge need for the Steelers and it is wise to grab the best one in the draft.
Round 2, Pick #52 Vosean Joseph, Linebacker- Florida
Joseph seems a little undersized for the NFL but he fits the mold of the Deone Bucannon type linebacker. Both stand at 6’1 but Joseph actually weighs in at 10 pounds heavier than Bucannon. Joseph is very explosive and has great closing speed. He can switch directions and has good hip movement which aids him in coverage. He had a solid Junior season where he racked up 93 tackles, nine for a loss, four sacks, five passes defended and a fumble recovery.
There is a lot of negative tape out there on Joseph but the positives really jump out. If he can be more consistent then he can make a real impact in the NFL. Since the Steelers lost Ryan Shazier they have not been able to fill his shoes. Joseph has the same explosiveness and athleticism as Shazier and he is worth the gamble, especially for the Steelers.
Round 3, Pick #66 Lonnie Johnson, Cornerback- Kentucky
Not only did the Steelers grab the best corner in the draft but they grab another top five corner in the third round. Johnson has great size at 6’2 and 213 Lbs. and ran a 4.52 second 40 yard dash. He is also in the 80th percentile in terms of wingspan having a 77 1/2 inch wingspan. Smooth hip switch and long reach allow him to stifle opponents at the line proving especially great play at the goal line.
Having drafted two cornerbacks with starting talent in this draft could allow the Steelers to move Joe Haden to the slot. Haden is a very aggressive corner but stands at 5’11. It is always a gamble starting two rookies on the outside but both would be SEC tested. However they go about the lineup, this pick should alleviate any worry on the position moving forward.
Round 3, Pick #84 Darnell Savage Jr., Safety- Maryland
The Steelers have a solid safety tandem in Terrell Edmunds and Sean Davis. This should not make them second guess drafting another one here. Many defenses in the NFL are playing three safety sets with pass heavy offensive schemes happening more regularly. Savage is not getting the hype some of the other guys in the draft are but he is just as good.
His height of 5’11 is not an issue as he plays bigger than his stature. Savage ran a 4.36 second 40 yard dash and had a 39.5 inch vertical at the combine. It was that great closing speed and solid ball skills that allowed him to post eight career interceptions. Savage also plays well in coverage from the slot and it is that versatility that should move the Steelers to make this selection.
Round 4, Pick #123 Elijah Holyfield, Running Back- Georgia
Elijah Holyfield probably should not have run at the combine or his pro day. Had he not he would probably still be in the second round conversation. When you are a running back that runs a 4.78 second 40 at the combine and then 4.86 at his pro day, do not expect a high pick. One thing at the combine that was impressive was his strength as he put up 26 reps on the bench press. That was good enough for third among all running backs who tested.
Even though Holyfield ran slow, it does not negate his production in 2018. He was able to post 1,018 rushing yards at 6.4 yards per carry and seven touchdowns. When watching his tape Holyfield definitely does not look that slow. He has great patience and solid cutting ability to hit his gaps. In the fourth round the Steelers are willing to take a chance on a once considered day two running back. He would add nice depth and change of pace, as slow as it may be, for James Conner.
Round 5, Pick #142 Terry Beckner Jr., Defensive Lineman- Missouri
Terry Beckner Jr. has made a living behind the opposing teams line of scrimmage. During his collegiate career he put up 120 tackles, 32 tackles for a loss, 13.5 sacks, four passes defended, one interception, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. Beckner has a great inside swim move which he uses to beat centers and guards and shows quick feet. His play shows good strength and has a motor with endless pursuit.
Beckner needs to get in better shape to be a starter in the NFL but the talent is there. He has the size to play nose tackle, just under 300 Lbs., but will likely be best suited for 3-4 defensive end. In the fifth round he is definitely a talent that the Steelers can work with.
Round 6, Pick #176 Deshaun Davis, Linebacker- Auburn
Deshaun Davis is an inside linebacker that excels in run defense. He does have some speed and athletic limitations and is slightly undersized for the position but can have a role. During his three years as a starter he recorded 257 tackles (112 his Senior year), 29 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks, six passes defended and two fumble recoveries. Davis is a downhill player and never shies away from contact.
When it comes to the Steelers inside linebackers they are quite thin. Even if Davis is not able to fix his deficiencies he can still be a run down player or gunner on special teams. With the use of more safeties in the NFL, three-down linebackers are starting to be less and less necessary.
Round 6, Pick #209 Andrew Wingard, Safety- Wyoming
If there is something that Wingard thrives in it is tackling. He seems to be involved in almost every tackle on the field. So much so that he is 11th in tackles on the all-time FBS list. In his collegiate career he totaled 454 tackles, 25 tackles for a loss, four sacks, eight passes defended, 10 interceptions, five forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
If Wingard sees the field he most likely plays box safety on passing downs or is a replacement safety. What Wingard can really bring to the team is adding his tackling prowess to special teams. Adding that sort of tackling as a gunner could make him an annual special teams pro bowler.
Round 7, Pick #221 Jazz Ferguson, Wide Receiver- Northwestern St
Ferguson was a former four star recruit that signed with LSU. He did not see the field his Freshman year and barely his Sophomore year only to fail a drug test. Academically he was not doing his share either as he was failing to finish all his work. Ferguson then transferred to Northwestern St. in 2017 and redshirted the entire year.
In 2018 he finally saw the field and put up 66 receptions for 1,117 yards and 13 touchdowns. His size and speed makes scouts drool for the receiver position. At 6’5 and 227 Lbs. Ferguson ran a 4.45 second 40 yard dash with a 37 inch vertical. At the price of only a seventh round pick, the off field risks are worth the potential reward.
The Steelers attack their weakest position on the team grabbing two of the top five cornerbacks in the draft with Greedy Williams and Lonnie Johnson. The second weakest position on the team was linebacker. The team added Vosean Joseph in the second, Deshaun Davis in the sixth and tackle machine box safety Andrew Wingard in the sixth as well. With the additions at these two positions the defense should be considerably better.
They did not stop there though on defense. They also grabbed combine standout and versatile safety Darnell Savage Jr. in the third round to add to the solid group of safeties. To add to the defensive line they grabbed Terry Beckner Jr. out of Missouri to bring in depth.
On the offensive side they added Elijah Holyfield in the fourth who was once considered a second round talent. With their final pick they add Jazz Ferguson, a once highly recruited and huge bodied wide receiver. If this guy can keep his off the field issues in order he could be a stud and the steal of the draft.
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