Steelers Draft Big Board: Top 32 Pre-Combine rankings

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 01: Quinnen Williams #92 of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts after sacking Jake Fromm #11 of the Georgia Bulldogs (not pictured) in the first half during the 2018 SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 1, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 01: Quinnen Williams #92 of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts after sacking Jake Fromm #11 of the Georgia Bulldogs (not pictured) in the first half during the 2018 SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 1, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The top 32 players the Pittsburgh Steelers are watching during the 2019 NFL Draft Combine.

The Steelers Big Board is a look at how I feel the Pittsburgh Steelers draft board should look at this point taking into account talent, scheme, team needs, and any other factors affecting draft placement. The majority of the players listed early will not be available for the team to select as long as they don’t trade up, but the Big Board reflects how I feel the team should rank the entire top tier of prospects.

1. Quinnen Williams, DT Alabama

Quinnen Williams could arguably be the best player in this 2019 draft class. He possesses a rare blend of size and athleticism that make him a good fit on any defense. He isn’t a traditional nose tackle in a 3-4 defense, but in today’s NFL, the traditional nose tackle is much less important. He can move around and make plays all over the interior and I believe he is athletic enough to slide out to a 5 technique in certain sets and situations. He is the type of player that will have a huge impact on a defense disrupting everything and putting pressure on the quarterback from the inside.

2. Devin White, ILB LSU

Devin White is an incredible athlete for the linebacker position he has an elite size-speed combination and good instincts to read and react. He would immediately slot in next to Vince Williams in the middle of the Steelers defense and would bring a playmaking element they were missing last season. He can cover the mismatch tight ends like Rob Gronkowski that have given the Steelers problems in the past and will make a bunch of the exciting plays that fire a defense up.

3. Josh Allen, OLB Kentucky

Josh Allen was going to be an early round draft pick heading into this season due to his length, athleticism, and potential, but with an outstanding breakout senior season he has vaulted himself into the top ten conversation. I have him number three on my big board because he fits perfectly as an outside linebacker in Pittsburgh’s 3-4, a position that is a bit of a concern with questions about the teams’ commitment to keeping another Kentucky outside backer in Bud Dupree, on the roster long term.

4. Nick Bosa, DE Ohio State

Nick Bosa has to be high on the list due to sheer talent. He projects best as a 4-3 defensive end and doesn’t quite fit the preferred scheme of the Steelers, but if he was somehow available you can’t pass on his talent and superstar potential despite injury concerns.

5. Rashan Gary, DE Michigan

A former number one overall recruit, Rashan Gary could be a bit polarizing in college because he never seemed to absolutely dominate like some expected him too. He does have the size and athleticism to be a dominant defensive end in the Steelers defense and has the tools to be incredibly disruptive at the next level. His lack of high-level sack production is concerning but shouldn’t scare too many teams off early in the first round.

6. Deandre Baker, CB Georgia

There are two cornerbacks in this draft class that stand out as the top pair at the position. Many draft experts have LSU’s Greedy Williams ranked higher than Deandre Baker and I would not be surprised if he is selected earlier. I prefer Baker simply because he looks to have a higher floor and is stronger against the run. For a Steelers team that needs immediate help at corner, Baker would immediately be one of the best at the position.

7. Andraez “Greedy” Williams, CB LSU

My preference for Deandre Baker should not be seen as a knock on Greedy Williams and praise for Baker. I expect both to be top corners at the next level. The 6’3” Williams is great in man coverage, largely due to smooth athleticism and tremendous length. He is slender and needs to add strength to hold up against the run but he has incredible upside.

8. Jonah Williams, OL Alabama

The offensive line isn’t nearly at the top of the list when it comes to team needs for the Steelers, but it should not be overlooked. They could look to get younger at multiple positions and Jonah Williams is versatile enough to slot in at guard or tackle. There are many good offensive linemen on the Steelers roster but Williams would immediately be one of the top five.

9. Ed Oliver, DL Houston

Houston’s Ed Oliver was once thought to be the top prospect in this draft class but he didn’t take the step forward many expected him too. He hasn’t had the sack production of some of the other defensive lineman in this class but he is still a dominant athlete and a disruptive force. He has a great first step and has outstanding acceleration to get into the backfield before offensive lineman can get into him. He does impact opposing quarterbacks with pressure even though it hasn’t translated into astronomical sack numbers.

10. Devin Bush, LB Michigan

I love Devin Bush as a football player. He isn’t very big which makes it hard to rank him higher as a prospect but he has almost every other trait teams look for in a modern linebacker. He is fast, instinctive and athletic with the ability to cover on passing downs and make plays sideline to sideline to sideline. He is limited because of his length and there is concern about his ability to stay healthy at his stature but that shouldn’t be enough to scare off the Steelers at pick 20 if they get the opportunity to select him.

11. Dwayne Haskins, QB Ohio State

As the college season progressed Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins silenced doubters, again and again, solidifying himself in the conversation to be the first quarterback off the board. The Steelers likely don’t want to take a quarterback in the first round but Haskins is talented enough to force their hand if they get the opportunity.

12. Brian Burns, OLB Florida State

Another elite athlete rushing the passer from the edge Brian Burns out of Florida State has sky-high potential. He has the length and speed off the edge to get drafted very early in April. He needs to add weight, he’s only around 230 pounds at 6’5’’, to compete with NFL lineman. He currently relies on his athleticism to win and will struggle early on when linemen get into his pads but he has the potential to be a dominant force with more weight and development.

13. Cody Ford, OL Oklahoma

Another offensive lineman who’s true NFL position isn’t set in stone, Cody Ford out of Oklahoma played right tackle on one of the best offensive lines in the country last season. He could slide inside to guard or stay at his college position on the right side.

14. Kyler Murray, QB Oklahoma

Another quarterback who played himself into the first round conversation this past season, Kyler Murray was one of the most exciting players in college football. He recently did his best to silence doubts about his commitment to football over baseball, if he continues to reinforce this in meetings with teams, he could be the first quarterback off the board in April. It is unlikely that there is another player out there that will excite a fanbase as much as Murray will when his name is called.

15. Jachai Polite, OLB Florida

If the Steelers are concerned with Bud Dupree’s production and future with the team they will ample players to target as a replacement. Jachai Polite out of Florida doesn’t have the elite length possessed by players like Brian Burns but he has every bit of the athleticism and explosion to succeed at a high level. He plays much bigger than he is and should easily overcome his lack of ideal size.

16. Christian Wilkins, DT Clemson

The list of elite defensive tackle prospects continues with Christian Wilkins of Clemson. There are concerns about all of the Clemson defensive lineman due to the amount of talent surrounding them making it impossible for opposing offenses to dedicate the necessary resources to stopping any one of them but Wilkins possesses elite tools that should make him an immediate impact player at the next level.

17. Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, WR Oklahoma

“Hollywood” Brown wouldn’t be able to replace all of Antonio Brown’s production if Pittsburgh chooses to move on from him this offseason but he would make the offense incredibly scary. He could have a similar effect to what Tyreek Hill does for the Chiefs. I’m not making that comparison merely because they are both fast but because I can see Brown utilized in similar ways. Hill is moved all over the field and given the ball in a myriad of ways because of his home run ability. The simple presence of Hill opens up the field for other players and if utilized correctly Brown could do the same.

18. Josh Jacobs, RB Alabama

James Conner had a breakout season in 2018 and will likely be the bell cow back in Pittsburgh again in 2019. The Steelers, however, have to at least take a look at Josh Jacobs. He has the potential to be a dominant weapon in any offense. He is explosive, powerful and elusive and is a major threat in the passing game.

19. T.J. Hockenson, TE Iowa

Another player that could contribute in both the passing game and rushing attack, T.J. Hockenson is a very well rounded tight end prospect. He is a very aggressive and willing blocker in the run game, has elite size and good athleticism making him a very difficult matchup for defenses to contend with. I could see him immediately passing Vance McDonald on the team’s tight end depth chart.

20. Jawaan Taylor, OT Florida

The trend of versatile offensive lineman continues here with Jawaan Taylor out of Florida. He is capable in pass protection despite needing some refinement. The real appeal for Taylor comes in the run game. He is strong and aggressive making him a dominant run blocker in college, which should carry over into the pros.

21. Oshane Ximenes, OLB Old Dominion

Oshane Ximenes is a small school player coming from Old Dominion which should make him a relative unknown for a lot of football fans. He was a dominant pass rusher in 2018 racking up 12 sacks but could scare some teams off coming from a smaller school and he may take some time to develop at the next level

22. Mack Wilson, ILB Alabama

The third inside linebacker prospect to make the list, Mack Wilson is a solid athlete and very instinctive. I don’t think he’s the caliber of sideline to sideline playmaker that Devin White and Devin Bush are but he has good size, can cover and is very athletic even if he’s not quite as explosive as the other two. He’s a three-down linebacker in today’s NFL, something that is very hard to find.

23. Byron Murphy, CB Washington

Unlike a lot of the players on this list, Byron Murphy out of Washington doesn’t necessarily check off all of the physical boxes in terms of prototypical size and speed. He does, however, have fantastic instincts and ball skills as well as the versatility to play both inside and out. He may not be a lockdown corner in man coverage but Murphy is a guy that can get his hands on the football and turn teams over at the next level

24. Dexter Lawrence, DT Clemson

Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence is a guy who looks the part of a true nose tackle, at 350 pounds. He is more than that in my opinion. A true nose tackle is asked to eat up blocks to free up teammates and plug the middle against the run. Lawrence however, is an incredible athlete for his that is capable of beating offensive lineman with impressive agility.

25. Noah Fant, TE Iowa

The second Iowa tight end in this class with the potential to go in the first round is Noah Fant. He is a tremendous athlete and should wow scouts in pre-draft workouts with his explosiveness. He isn’t the blocker that his teammate, T.J. Hockenson is, which is why I have Hockenson slated higher for Pittsburgh, but I could see Fant being the first taken of the two due to his potential as a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.

26. D.K. Metcalf, WR Mississippi

D.K. Metcalf was building a fantastic resume to be the first wideout taken in April before suffering a season-ending neck injury in October. Metcalf will participate in the pre-draft process and should impress scouts with the ideal size, speed, and athleticism of a number one wide receiver. If everything looks good during the pre-draft medical checks he should end up as a hot commodity in the first round.

27. Julian Love, CB Notre Dame

Julian Love could be the best interior cornerback in this class. He is limited physically by his height and there are questions about his speed which make it hard to project him on the outside in the NFL draft. He doesn’t really fit what I think the Steelers need to be looking for at corner in this draft but he is a very good player that likely won’t make it out of the first round.

28. Irv Smith Jr., TE Alabama

Irv Smith Jr. out of Alabama is another balanced tight end who can do a lot of different things very well. I don’t think he’s quite the athlete that Noah Fant is, and isn’t quite the nasty finisher in the run game that T.J. Hockenson can be. He is however very talented and very versatile in his skill set. He should be an NFL starter right away.

29. Dre’Mont Jones, DT Ohio State

Ohio State’s Dre’Mont Jones makes this list because of his outstanding interior pass rush ability. He can get penetration and disrupt an offense with ease. The main drawback to his game is his inability to stand up offensive lineman and plug gaps. If a team is looking for someone to shoot gaps and wreak havoc on passing downs though, Jones is the guy to do it.

30. Andre Dillard, OT Washington State

Andre Dillard out of Washington State is the first true left tackle I have on this list. I like Alejandro Villanueva a lot but if the best player at one of the premium positions in the NFL is available when Pittsburgh is on the clock they need to at least take a look. Dillard moves really well and is an elite pass protecting left tackle, which should make him a coveted prospect on draft night.

31. Montez Sweat, OLB Mississippi State

Montez Sweat is another long, athletic pass rusher on the outside. He is fantastic rushing the passer due too his speed and quickness bending the edge and pass rush moves that are advanced for a college player. He falls down this list a little bit because he needs to get stronger and stand up a little better in the run game. There is also concern that he likely didn’t face as much attention in college as other prospects due to the talent with him on the line at Mississippi State.

Next. 4 mid-round options for the Steelers. dark

32. Jeffery Simmons, DT Mississippi State

Jeffery Simmons out of Mississippi State was a likely top fifteen pick before tearing his ACL getting ready for the NFL Combine. He could  fall out of my top 32 at some point but I’m keeping him here based on sheer talent. Simmons also has off the field concerns that could damage his draft stock, but when healthy, he has the talent to be a top ten pick.