The Big Ben era is now over with the retirement of Steeler legend Ben Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh has to start fresh. Last season was a weird year, because even though Pittsburgh finished 9-7 it didn’t seem like a real winning season. Mike Tomlin and company have to now rally and find the next wave of Steelers to usher in a new era of football for the storied franchise.
That new era will have to come through the draft and for all intents and purposes push Pittsburgh into the new age. They will have to land on the prospects they pick and bolster their ranks. Here is who they should target.
Round 1, Pick 20: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
It’s easy for Pittsburgh to fall into the allure of taking a QB on day one, but with a lackluster cornerback room they should look to get better at the position.
Kaiir Elam is a great mirror coverage corner and has all the tools to be a shut down boundary defender at the next level. With Joe Haden no longer on the team they need a new lead man which is where Elam is best.
His overall makeup means he can trail the opposition’s best weapon, allowing players like Minkah Fitzpatrick to play to their strengths and revive the once revered Steelers’ defense.
Round 2, Pick 20: Bailey Zappe, QB, Western Kentucky
Round 3, Pick 20: Michael Clemons, Edge, Texas A&M
A new era means finding the next “guy” under center and Pittsburgh will have a pretty good crop to choose from on day two of the draft.
The player that fits the blue collar mold of Pittsburgh is Bailey Zappe out of Western Kentucky. He is smart, gritty and has the arm talent to make all the NFL throws. He can also extend plays with his legs, though he is not much of a runner. Even though Pittsburgh brought in Mitchell Trubisky, Zappe can sit and learn for year and be ready to take the mantle in 2023.
The Pittsburgh calling card has always been getting to the quarterback and hard hitting. One player that personifies that is Michael Clemons out of Texas A&M. Clemons has the size, strength and athleticism you want when you play in a division of dual threat quarterbacks and he shows it every play. He seems to always apply pressure and is relentless in his pursuit of the ball carrier. Having him in Pittsburgh would give them another body to throw at opposing offensive lines in passing situations and a possible staple in their defense for the future.
Round 4, Pick 33: Ainias Smith, WR, Texas A&M
Round 6, Pick 29: Thomas Booker, DT, Stanford
Round 7, Pick 34: Kolby Harvell-Peel, Safety, Oklahoma State
Round 7, Pick 39: Tyler Goodson, RB, Iowa
Day three could be filled with Diaper Dandies as Dick Vitale would say for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Players like Ainias Smith and Kolby Harvell-Peel could make their presence felt early on in their NFL tenures.
Smith is a multi-talented receivers cut from the Deebo Samuel cloth. His speed and hands could give him a chance to compete for a spot in the slot or as a gadget player for the Steeler offense.
Harvell-Peel is safety who can do it all and more. He is a natural strong safety and can cover the backend like a free safety, which could open up some possibilities of confusing opposing offenses with Fitzpatrick as a running mate. With no clear cut starter at the strong safety position, he would have a solid chance to implant himself in the line up as a mainstay.
Booker and Goodson are two players that will provide notable depth at key positions of need. Booker is a rotational piece at interior defensive line that can stuff the run and get after the QB with pressure from the inside. Goodson being a shiftier back with good hands could be a solid option to be a third down scat guy.
All in all this could be the draft that solidifies another decade of winning for the Steelers’ franchise.