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Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 NFL Draft Recap

Hello Steel City,

The trio of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and the Pittsburgh Steeler’s very own Ben Roethlisberger has been in a combined 13 of the past 14 Super Bowls. That’s pure dominance from those three quarterbacks in the AFC. Looking at this upcoming season Peyton Manning is still retired, unless he pulled a Brett Favre. So, the assumption is that the AFC championship will be an encore of last year’s Steelers v. Patriots match-up. With the unfortunate passing of legend Dan Rooney along with the unknown playing career of Roethlisberger, the urgency and intensity of the Pittsburgh Steelers this season will be truly inspiring to watch. The Steeler’s offensive talent as a whole is one of the best in the NFL and has the potential to be the greatest show on turf 2.0. We’ll see if an AFC team can stand in the way of a Steelers v. Patriots rematch in the AFC championship, but until then expect Ben Roethlisberger to give it his all in his potential last season as a pro. The Pittsburgh Steelers acquired some play-makers on both sides of the ball to assist the team secure its’ supremacy in the conference throughout the draft. Let’s take a look at how these young prospects will produce this season.

-1st Round, Pick #30: TJ Watt – Linebacker (Wisconsin)

  • Of course everyone will automatically think and compare TJ Watt to his brother JJ Watt, but singling out TJ Watt for a moment you have to like what you see. He was blossomed into a natural leader for the Wisconsin Badgers during his time on campus. TJ Watt is a versatile linebacker that can rush a multitude of different ways or drop into coverage. Watt led the Badgers in sacks and tackles for loss last season and also added a single interception that was returned for a touchdown. The ageless wonder James Harrison continues to amaze on and off the field (check out any of his work-out videos) with his stout play, but has limited time remaining and wasn’t a full-time starter a season ago. The current depth chart indicates that TJ Watt is behind Harrison; however I fully anticipate it being around a 60/40 timeshare between the two. Watt will learn behind one of the all-time greats in Pittsburgh Steeler history and the organization will ease him into his eventual starting role.

-2nd Round, Pick #62: JuJu Smith-Schuster (USC)

  • We all know how great Antonio Brown is, but there is some uncertainty on the depth chart behind him. Martavis Bryant is still looking to finalize his reinstatement into the league following his suspension. Sammie Coates and Eli Rogers are still young players trying to find their way while Justin Hunter and Darrius Heyward-Bey have been journeymen throughout their career. The NFL has transitioned into a passing league and it’s always nice to have a plethora of talented wide-outs. Barring injury, JuJu Smith-Schuster has the talent to make this team and he’ll make his case for an important role in the receiving core in pre-season. Smith-Schuster is 6’2″ and uses every bit of that height, if he can play up to expectations the Steelers can kick him to the outside and put their best receiving play-maker Antonio Brown in the slot in three receiver sets. I mentioned earlier that this offense is explosive and one of the best in the league, JuJu Smith-Schuster will only help it produce.

-3rd Round, Pick #94: Cameron Sutton – Cornerback (Tennessee)

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers have a good core of serviceable NFL caliber corners on their roster, but none that really stand out and make you say wow. Outside of veterans William Gay and Coty Sensabaugh the corner group is rather young and still blossoming into their true potential. Cameron Sutton was a four year starter at Tennessee and regardless of the college, that’s pretty impressive to see in the South Eastern Conference (SEC). Playing in the tough nitty-gritty SEC only prepared him for what’s to come in the AFC North division. Sutton brings depth and play-making abilities to the Steelers secondary along with kick returns capabilities. William Gay, Ross Cockrell and Artie Burns are the presumed starters at the cornerback position, but Cameron Sutton can play his way into a prominent role within the rotation. Scouts knock Sutton for his average speed, but the Pittsburgh Steelers defense beats you with their toughness, in which Sutton possesses and will fit the defensive scheme perfectly.

-3rd Round, Pick #105: James Conner – Running Back (Pittsburgh)

  • The Steelers did not resign back-up running back DeAngelo Williams this off-season, so the team needed to acquire one somehow. On the current roster the only notable players are Knile Davis and Fitzgerald Toussaint, which isn’t particularly anyone I would trust as insurance in case of an injury. Along with the questionable depth at the position, star running back Le’Veon Bell is holding out in hopes of a new lengthy mega-contract. I would expect to see Bell on the field by opening day, but this is a business and we frequently see teams move on from star players to save some money. Despite what the Bell situation looks like, this season he is still a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers and James Conner is the assumed back-up. The Pennsylvania native is staying home and didn’t have to move to far from his college either. Many of people know him from his inspirational defeat of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which makes James Conner a fighter and a tough kid along with his play-making abilities on tape. He’s quickly turning heads in training camp, which boasts good news to the organization. Le’Veon Bell has yet to play a full 16 game season, whether it is through injury or suspension, so Conner will be a nice addition if he can come in and be at least a change of pace guy for Bell or solid enough to fill in for a few games. I like the home-state kid and it makes for a great story, he was the top rookie in jersey sales after-all.

-4th Round, Pick #135: Joshua Dobbs – Quarterback (Tennessee)

  • I’m sure by now we’ve all seen the potential Ben Roethlisberger retirement talk by now. Well, true or not it is a concern to be worried about because Landry Jones is simply not the answer and the Steelers need to find someone to take over post-Roethlisberger. Joshua Dobbs may not be a flashy selection and needs to work on his mechanics (get it, because he’s an aerospace engineer major), but he is a talented young man that eager to learn and take the next step at becoming a good NFL quarterback. Dobbs is a smart guy who should take a backseat this season to really sit back and grasp the game behind one of the Steeler greats. Dobbs is mobile and has underrated arm strength. He didn’t always make plays with his arm in college, but the type of athletic ability can only be beneficial when used the right way. I personally like the selection and think he’ll be around longer than Landry Jones in the coming years.

-5th Round, Pick #173: Brian Allen – Defensive Back (Utah)

  • Brian Allen is a very raw prospect. He played wide receiver in high school and then was transitioned into a corner in college. Allen has good size at 6’3″ and speed running a 4.48 dash. During his short career as a defensive back he has experience as a safety and a cornerback. I don’t anticipate Allen making the team this season, but he’ll stick around the practice squad and work on his technique and play for a chance at the final roster next year.

-6th Round, Pick #213: Colin Holba – Long Snapper (Louisville)

  • Long snappers are football players too. You might laugh and make jokes now, but next time a snap goes over your punters head you’ll be wishing you had a new snapper. This selection isn’t overwhelmingly pretty or gets the fans excited, but it’s a smart business decision and plan for the future. The Pittsburgh Steelers long snapper Greg Warren turns 36 this year and doesn’t have many seasons left. Some scouts will say they could have gotten Holba in the last round or as a rookie free agent, but the Steelers saw something they liked and wanted to assure they sealed him up in here in the sixth round. Special teams are a third of the game and are just as important as offense and defense. Field position is important and teams need their ball handlers to be careful and precise with the ball. This prospect is the future long snapper of the Pittsburgh Steelers so embrace it and welcome him with open arms.

-7th Round, Pick #248: Keion Adams – Linebacker (Western Michigan)

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers have some aging veterans at the outside linebacker position, so restocking the depth is something they clearly wanted to address with their first and last pick of the draft. A team can never have too many pass rushers and Keion Adams brings just that. Coincidentally enough his NFL comparison is teammate Arthur Moats, so the Steelers obviously have a mold and want to stick with that type of scheme for a few more years to come. Unless Keion were to switch to the inside, it’s hard to find a scenario where he makes the final roster. With James Harrison, Bud Dupree, TJ Watt and Arthur Moats as the front runners as the top four outside linebackers, unless he can sneak into the fifth spot or the Steelers decide to replace Moats with his younger version, it’ll be tough for Adams to make this roster. Similar to Brian Allen, he can stick around the practice squad to build upon his techniques and play and try again next year where a spot ‘should’ be open if Harrison retires. We’ll see though, Harrison does pay a lot of money to keep his body in shape.

The Pittsburgh Steelers added some young guys to help contribute on defense for the upcoming season and some prospects that’ll be more of the developmental players. Nonetheless, the Pittsburgh Steelers should remain a dominate source not only in their division, but in the whole AFC in itself. If this is Ben Roethlisberger’s last year, I expect one of his best performances and a potential Super Bowl victory ending. These Steeler’s have a good chance at making it to at least the AFC championship again, but their Super Bowl dreams will ride on the young ascending defense. No, not the all-star trio of Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, but the defense; defense does win championships after-all. Until next time, have a great day!

-Austin Thomas


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