It’s safe to say that 2021 was a year in which the Pittsburgh Steelers overachieved. Despite their obvious team flaws, they found a way to win some ugly games and finish with a 9-8-1 record. Mike Tomlin did an admirable job with what he was given, but it’s time to strengthen the roster in the 2022 Draft.

The first wave of free agency is over, and after making a few moves to add some roster depth, the focus is now on the NFL Draft. Currently, the Steelers find themselves picking at number 20 in the first round. Opportunities are available for Pittsburgh to either trade up or pick the best man available at 20. Here are some ways they can address Round 1 of the draft, based on their team needs:

Quarterback

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The post-Big Ben era begins, as Pittsburgh begins their search for a new signal caller to deem as franchise QB. Whether or not they find that person in the 2022 draft, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take a chance on a rookie this year.

The Steelers already signed Mitchell Trubisky to a 2-year, $14 million deal, but he is by no means a lockdown starter. He showed flashes of what he could do in Chicago, but inconsistency was always his problem. If Trubisky starts off hot, that gives Pittsburgh a chance to sit the rookie down and play things patiently. If, and/or when Trubisky gets cold, they can plug in the rookie to provide a spark.

The Steelers are locked in on Malik Willis, but unless they trade up, he probably will not be available. Carolina, Seattle and Atlanta are quarterback-needy, so by the time Pittsburgh selects, Willis will likely be studying the playbook of one those three teams. Kenny Pickett will probably be gone as one of the more highly-touted QBs as well. It’s more likely that the Steelers will have to choose between Sam Howell, Matt Corral or Desmond Ridder at pick 20, if they’re desperate for a QB.

Wide Receiver

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Pittsburgh’s wide receiver depth chart took a massive hit, thanks to Juju Smith-Schuster and James Washington parting ways this offseason. Their current group of receivers are underwhelming, outside of Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson. Unless if they pick up another quality WR, Pittsburgh will be entering 2022 with Anthony Miller starting in the slot.

The 2022 draft class has a diverse set of receivers capable of filling particular roles. Want a bigger, more physical receiver who can win in traffic? Treylon Burks has the size and strength to do that. Want a 6’4″ pass-catcher who can win with length? Christian Watson is the guy for the job. How about a speedster who can take the top off the defense? Jameson Williams and Chris Olave are both guys that could fill that role. There isn’t a clear WR1 in this year’s draft, so there’s a chance they could end up with either of these guys at pick 20.

Offensive Tackle

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Offensive line was one of Pittsburgh’s biggest areas of concern heading into the offseason, and the Steelers have already began addressing it. In addition to re-siging Chukwuma Okorafor, they are bringing along James Daniels and Mason Cole to strengthen their interior. The OT position is where they are lacking, even with Okorafor still on the roster; perhaps they could go after a guy like Trevor Penning in the draft.

Trevor Penning’s film shows his nasty temperament. He’s a prick that will play hard until the echo of the whistle. Similar to a guy like Ryan Jensen, if he can get away with some extra shoving after a play, he’ll do it to get in his opponent’s head. Even if he is not a day one starter, Penning will give Okorafor and Dan Moore a run for their money.

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While there are some minor things that will need to be coached out of Penning (throwing defenders in the backfield, turning his shoulders in pass pro, lunging at the second level etc.), the level of aggressiveness he plays with is hard to be taught. Pittsburgh employed a run-heavy attack last season; a guy with Penning’s physicality matches with what the Steelers want to do on offense. 

Defensive Line

(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

Pittsburgh lost a lot of depth on the defensive line last year. Tyson Alualu and Stephon Tuitt would have been key playmakers if they played last year, but neither of them suited up in 2021 due to injuries.

While we haven’t seen what they look like post-injury, having Alualu and Tuitt back alongside Cam Heyward will strengthen their depth at the DE position. However, Pittsburgh seems to be lacking that depth at NT.

Mike Tomlin does not believe Jordan Davis will be available at pick 20, but if he were to fall, Pittsburgh would be foolish not to give him any consideration. Davis is big and powerful, with a violent punch. He can bully blockers and plug running lanes effectively. The biggest concerns involving Davis is his stamina and his lack of productivity as a pass rusher, but his upside still makes him worthy of a high draft pick. Nobody in the 2022 Draft fits the bill of a space-eating nose tackle as well as Jordan Davis does.

Safety

(Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

With Terrell Edmunds on the FA market and likely to leave, Pittsburgh will need to find a new strong safety. Minkah Fitzpatrick, as a free safety, is amongst the best in the league. He’s a center fielder who consistently makes QBs pay for testing him downfield. Miles Killebrew is currently slated as the team’s starting strong safety; it would be a surprise if Killebrew still had that position by August.

While Edmunds never lived up to his expectations as a first round pick, he was still a competent box safety who could cover in the slot and be physical in the run game. Lewis Cine stands out in the 2022 draft as a physical safety who can play that same role. Draft scouts worry about his lack of size, but Cine plays with high intensity and will attack downhill with authority.

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I would like to thank you for taking your time to read this article. For more sports-related content, head over to Belly Up Sports. We have articles, op-eds, and podcasts available on our website. Disagree with anything here? Want to continue this discussion? You can find me on Twitter @RevKoka.

About Author

Rev Koka

American with proud Nigerian roots. Former student-athlete. WCU alum. MMA and football enthusiast. Offensive line lover. Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Waver of the Terrible Towel.

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