2015 Steelers NFL Mock Draft: 7 Rounds v19.0

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Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Unlikely to pick up effective pieces via the free agency process, the Steelers need an infusion of talent at the cornerback position. William Gay is still an effective player, but he is only signed through the 2015 season. Antwon Blake is an effective dime back, but his biggest contributions are on special teams along with B.W. Webb. Finally, Cortez Allen is a complete and total wild-card in terms of how much he can contribute after a disastrous 2014 campaign.

Although they have not selected a cornerback in the first round of a draft during the Kevin Colbert era (2000-present), 2015 could mark the year that a change is made in Pittsburgh. One cornerback for this fan base to watch when the Steelers go on the clock with their first round pick is Kevin Johnson of Wake Forest.

The former Wake Forest star possesses the size (6′ 188 lbs.), arm length (31″ arms) and aggressiveness to compete for playing time as early as his rookie campaign. In addition to those traits, Johnson has good straight line speed, fluid hips, terrific instincts (2012-2014: 35 PDs and 7 INTs), the type of ball-skills which create splash plays.

Overall, Johnson should fit in well in a zone-based or off-man defensive scheme which Pittsburgh and new defensive coordinator Keith Butler will likely run. The Steelers are in desperate need of cornerbacks who can change games by making plays on the ball, and Johnson would bring that much needed skill to the secondary.

As much as there is to like about Johnson, there are some pronounced deficiencies in his game at the moment. Although the former Demon Deacon has the height and arm length desired in professional cornerbacks, how much weight his frame can actually carry and remain an effective player is a cause for concern. 

Moreover, how strong Johnson can ultimately get and how well he can match up/re-route in press-man versus stronger receivers at the pro level will be important questions as well. Defending the run will also be an area of improvement for Johnson, and his tackling technique will need plenty of work when it comes to taking proper angles, block shedding and simply wrapping up opposing players.

I personally have an early second-round grade on the former Demon Deacon, but Pittsburgh’s front office, scouts and coaching staff seem to be smitten with him. Moreover, there are plenty of people who likely have first round grades on him as well. I certainly feel like there is plenty to like about Johnson as a cornerback at the professional level, and it would not shock me to see him be Pittsburgh’s first round selection.

Next: Round 2