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Pittsburgh Steelers mock draft: Latest 7-round 2021 NFL Draft projection

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Updated: April 25, 12:25 PM EST

The Pittsburgh Steelers were quiet in free agency, re-signing JuJu Smith-Schuster and letting several key starters on the defensive side depart. Now, coming off a disappointing finish to the 2020 season, Pittsburgh needs a strong haul from the 2021 NFL Draft to retain its claim as one of the best teams in the AFC.

It’s fair to say the team that started 11-0 was a fluke. Losses to the Washington Football Team, Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns highlighted many of this team’s underlying issues. Among them, the offensive line and running game were an abject disaster and Ben Roethlisberger is in a physical decline.

Pittsburgh would love to find its long-term heir to Big Ben, but that’s nearly impossible to accomplish with the No. 24 overall pick. So, with Roethlisberger coming back for another go, the Steelers must dedicate their top draft selections to building an offense that can succeed whether the 39-year-old quarterback is healthy or not.

Read More: Pittsburgh Steelers to pursue long-term deal with T.J. Watt, projecting potential contract extension

With the help of The Draft Network’s simulator, let’s dive into our Pittsburgh Steelers mock draft.

Pittsburgh Steelers mock draft: Reshaping the offense

First round, 30th overall: Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas

  • Pittsburgh Steelers mock draft trade: Buffalo Bills send 30th pick, 93rd overall pick for 24th pick, 254th overall pick
Pittsburgh Steelers mock draft
Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Every Pittsburgh Steelers mock draft will likely give them an offensive tackle or running back, with recent buzz suggesting Najee Harris is likely the target. Maybe Pittsburgh is willing to draft a running back that early, but this organization should recognize offensive line is a greater need and a far more valuable position.

Read More: Pittsburgh Steelers GM high on surprise Ben Roethlisberger successor

Samuel Cosmi’s athleticism and size are everything you could ask for in a prototypical left tackle. He also started for three seasons at Texas, so there is plenty of experience and familiarity with a pass-oriented offense. He is still a work in progress with his technique, often letting quicker edge rushers beat him off the snap and allowing them to disengage quickly. 

Cosmi can start at right tackle as a rookie, keeping him away from a few of the NFL’s best pass rushers. He also won’t have the pressure of protecting Roethlisberger’s blindside, so the experienced quarterback could easily spot an incoming defender in the moments when Cosmi has lapses. With some quality coaching, Cosmi could be at left tackle in 2022.

Second round, 55th overall: Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina

Pittsburgh Steelers mock draft
Dec 5, 2020; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels running back Javonte Williams (25) with the ball in the second quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Benny Snell is not the answer to Pittsburgh’s woes in the running game, far from it. This organization’s history is filled with running backs who didn’t just run people over, but embraced the physical nature of the position. While Najee Harris is an enticing all-purpose back and Travis Etienne is explosive, getting Javonte Williams in the second round would be even better.

PFF has compared Williams to Aaron Jones and for good reason. Jones thrives because he finds that one hole, burst through it and finds a way to stay on his feet no matter what. Whether it’s running over a defender or maneuvering out of the tackle, Williams is seemingly impossible to bring down.

Some will have concerns about him only having one big season, coming this past year with 22 total touchdowns and over 1,400 scrimmage yards. It should be considered a good thing that he only had 366 carries in three seasons with the Tar Heels. Williams can be the featured running back in Pittsburgh’s offense and with our upgraded offensive line, he could thrive.

Third round, 87th overall: Quinn Meinerz, iOL, Wisconsin-Whitewater

Pittsburgh Steelers mock draft
Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh can’t stop at just one offensive linemen, it must completely overhaul the position. While there’s always some risk drafting prospects from small programs, Quinn Meinerz could be an impactful player at the next level. Given the Steelers’ history of developing quality blockers, we like this fit even more.

He put on a show at the Senior Bowl, putting scouts and teams on notice. But it wasn’t just his work in one-on-one battles against Power 5 stars and future NFL talent that made an impression. This 320-pound lineman showed off his athleticism with a 4.92 40-yard dash.

It’s very possible that the best is yet to come for Meinerz, working with NFL coaches and having access to those resources could do wonders. But even early in his career, he has the chance to be a bulldozer on the interior. If the Steelers want to return to a more physical style of football, Meinerz is the player who can help them accomplish that.

Third round, 93rd overall: Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford

Steelers mock draft
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers needed help at cornerback weeks before the 2021 NFL Draft, the Justin Layne arrest just made this an even bigger weakness on the defensive side. Thanks to the trade down with Buffalo, Pittsburgh gets to roll the dice on a cornerback with first-round talent.

Adebo, ranked 76th on our NFL Draft big board, opted out of the 2020 season. It was a big risk to take, given he had a down year in 2019. Stanford’s 6-foot-1 defensive back flashed outstanding cover skills as a freshman and he seemed to have a nose for the football. His stock has plummeted since that 2018 campaign, but the combination of size, length and athleticism is impossible to ignore.

NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein compared Adebo to Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting. There are plenty of mistakes that come with risk-taking defensive backs, especially since Adebo has a lot to learn about the position. But the Steelers need ballhawks in their secondary and that’s what Adebo does best.

Pittsburgh Steelers mock draft: Day 3 targets in 2021 NFL Draft

As we mentioned earlier, there isn’t another quarterback worth reaching for with a top-100 pick once the top-five talents (Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance and Mac Jones) are off the board. As a result, it’s best to kick the can down the road and the position can be addressed in the 2022 NFL Draft.

After investing top picks on reshaping the offense, Day 3 can be used to fill out the depth chart on a defense that shouldn’t need to carry this team as much in 2021.

  • Fourth round, 128th overall: Dayo Odeyingbo, EDGE, Vanderbilt
  • Fourth round, 140th overall: Osa Odighizuwa, iDL, UCLA
  • Sixth round, 216th overall: Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas
  • Seventh round, 245th overall: Cornell Powell, WR, Clemson

What do you think about our Pittsburgh Steelers mock draft? Let us know in the comments below.