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.
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, 24th overall: Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
Every Pittsburgh Steelers mock draft will likely give them an offensive tackle or running back. Alejandro Villaneuva remains a free agent, but a return to Pittsburgh still feels unlikely. Both tackle spots are areas of weakness and while one draft pick won’t solve both problems, there is a chance Samuel Cosmi would play both positions in a potential Steelers’ career.
The athleticism and size is everything you could ask for in a prototypical left tackle. He also started for three seasons at tackle in Texas, so there is plenty of experience and familiarity with a pass-oriented offense. But 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 and an anchor on the offensive line for a decade.
Second round, 55th overall: Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina
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
There’s always at least one player from the Division II or II levels who finds his way up draft boards. While Wisconsin-Whitewater isn’t one of the most recognized football programs in the nation, it has a phenomenal history at the DIII level. A big part of the team’s success, this bully of a lineman on their offensive line.
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.
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: Ambry Thomas, CB, Michigan
- Fourth round, 140th overall: Shaka Toney, EDGE, Penn State
- Sixth round, 216th overall: Brady White, QB, Memphis
- Seventh round, 245th overall: Simi Fehoko, WR, Stanford
- Seventh round, 254th overall: Manny Rugamba, CB, Miami (OH)
What do you think about our Pittsburgh Steelers mock draft? Let us know in the comments below.