Steelers Mock Draft: Pittsburgh adds depth at inside linebacker
The Steelers have several positions they could look to address in the 2020 NFL Draft. Here’s why Ohio State linebacker Malik Harrison makes sense.
The Steelers have a lot of difficult decisions to make this offseason. Bud Dupree and Javon Hargrave are both unrestricted free agents, and it still remains to be seen whether or not Pittsburgh can get a deal done with either player before the free agency period starts.
On the offensive side of the ball, things aren’t looking particularly good. Though Ben Roethlisberger will be returning in 2020, Pittsburgh’s offensive line is among the oldest in the league and there are questions at tight end and running back.
Though looking for offensive help with their second-round pick is certainly a possibility, I have the Steelers going with Ohio State linebacker, Malik Harrison, with the 49th overall pick.
Harrison possesses nearly everything Pittsburgh looks for in a high draft choice. Though they typically like to go with underclassmen, Harrison is a productive, big school player with solid athleticism.
The Steelers are no stranger to drafting Ohio State players high under Mike Tomlin, and they have done so three times in the first two rounds since 2011 (Cameron Heyward, Mike Adams, and Ryan Shazier). Though Harrison isn’t near the athlete that Devin Bush was coming out of college, he moves well for his size, and would be a terrific complement to the smaller Mack linebacker.
At 6’2 1/2” and 246 pounds, Harrison is ideal for the Buck linebacker position and could be an excellent eventual replacement for Vince Williams. Unlike Williams, however, Harrison has the ability to stay on the field all three downs. While he’s not known for his coverage ability, Harrison is competent in dropping back into zone and has had 8 pass defenses and an interception in coverage over his last two seasons.
Along with coming from an excellent football program, Harrison fits the bill of an early Steelers pick because of his outstanding production. Over the past two seasons as a starter for the Buckeyes, Harrison has compiled 156 tackles, 25.0 tackles for a loss, and 6.0 sacks. His remarkable numbers indicate that he does much of his damage at or behind the line of scrimmage, and could be a force against the run for the Steelers.
Vince Williams still has two years remaining on his contract, and they can’t get out of his deal this season because of the way his contract was structured. However, Mark Barron is set to be the 9th highest-paid player on the Steelers, and Pittsburgh could instantly save $5.25 million by cutting him this offseason.
The Steelers aren’t guaranteed to draft a linebacker this April, but a player like Malik Harrison makes sense for a number of reasons. He could be a viable option early in the draft for Pittsburgh.