Steelers Draft Q&A: Breaking down top candidates and potential sleepers

Michael Carter #7 from North Carolina of the National Team. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
Michael Carter #7 from North Carolina of the National Team. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images) /

The Steelers have solid draft capital in 2021. Here are some top candidates they could be eying and some potential sleepers they could target. 

The NFL Draft is less than three months away, and fans are starting to take a deeper dive into some prospects who could be on Pittsburgh’s radar in 2021. The Steelers have a lot of draft needs to fill this offseason with 19 unrestricted free agents about to hit the market.

After logging over 40 hours of film study over the past several weeks, I’ve decided to do my first Steelers draft Q&A of the 2021 offseason. Here are the questions that were submitted to me via Twitter and the responses that I gave for each:

Steelers Draft Q&A

Question: I really like Michael carter the running back, do you think he can be a good pick for the Steelers?

Answer: Michael Carter is one of my favorite day-two prospects in the class. He’s a bit smaller than the Steelers typically like, but great film and an explosive playmaker. Played with another great back at NC in Javonte Williams, but was still dominant. Reminds me of Tony Pollard.

Question: Would you give up a future 1st and 3rd pick as well as the 1st this year to move up to the top 10 to get Lance?

Yes. Nothing is more important than finding a franchise quarterback, and Lance has all the tools you could ask for. There’s obviously still risk involved, but it’s worth the chance to get a QB with his upside. You won’t find one of those where Steelers are always picking.

Question: When Tyson Alualu was injured there was a huge drop off in talent between him and his depth, [Henry] Mondeaux, [Carlos] Davis, etc., Have you seen any mid to late-round interior d-linemen with more upside than the depth currently offered?

Answer: It’s not a great class for interior defenders, but there are some guys with upside in the mid-rounds. Tommy Togiai and Jay Tufele would be an upgrade over Pittsburgh’s depth, but all of these guys might be over-drafted in a poor DT class.

Question: Do you think there is a TE outside of the top three with starting potential?

I doubt it. Hunter Long is solid but unspectacular. I think you might get a Dalton Schultz-level player out of him, but that’s about it. Kenny Yeboah is another that the Steelers reportedly like, but I see him as a number two.

Question: Tommy, if we go best player available, who do you think we take at 24?

Answer: If Steelers were drafting strictly based on BPA, some of the best (possible) available players might be LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, CB Jaycee Horn, EDGE Jaelen Phillips, and LB Zavien Collins. Offensively, the top four quarterbacks and top three receivers will be gone. There are a bunch of offensive linemen who will have a late-first or early-second grade, but these defenders will be higher on my board.

Question: When you watched game film was [Kyle] Trask similar to [Mason] Rudolph?

Yes. Too similar for my liking. Trask is a better version and played well against very good competition, but the same type of quarterback. I’ll pass on him.

Question: What are your favorite RB prospects ranked by the round you’d take them in?

For me, Travis Etienne is the only running back I would consider in the first round because of his speed and receiving ability. I like Javonte Williams and Najee Harris a lot in the second round, but both players are likely to be gone by that point. Michael Carter is a potential steal of the draft in the third round, and Kenneth Gainwell is a solid late-day-two option. Kylin Hill is currently my favorite day-three running back and I also like Trey Sermon in the fourth. Chuba Hubbard, Demetric Felton, and Spencer Brown are all possible day three options if Steelers miss out.

Question: Who are some replacements for Pouncey that you like?

I’m not opposed to Creed Humphry as early as round 1. He’s not flashy, but great tape and he was excellent at the senior bowl. I like Landon Dickerson in round 2 (he could slip because of medicals), and Quinn Meinerz in round 3. Outside of them, not sure if you are getting a starter. Maybe Ohio State’s Josh Myers or Kentucky’s Drake Jackson.

Question: There is skepticism surrounding the rushing attack situation in Pittsburgh. Some blame the running back unit, some others blame the offensive line. Which would you say is more at fault, and who could the Steelers acquire to help fix this problem?

Answer: We’ve seen James Conner have success in 2018. Steelers RBs aren’t great, but they are not as bad as what they played in 2020. The OL needs to be fixed, first and foremost, and Pittsburgh needs to improve their deep passing game to help the run.

Question: Who do you think is rising up draft boards the most?

Answer: North Dakota State OT Dillon Radunz flew up draft boards after his performance at the Senior Bowl. As did Wisconsin-Whitewater center, Quinn Meinerz. I also think it’s a stretch that QB Mac Jones even falls to pick 24 at this point, and I’ve heard he can go as high as pick 15.

Question: What mid-round running backs would be a fit for the Steelers?

I know Michael Carter is on the small side, but he’s a beast. He and Kenneth Gainwell are both great RD3 options if either is available at that point. I really like Kylin Hill in round 4.Obviusly, Javonte Williams and Najee Harris would both be big upgrades over what they have, but they are both likely gone by the early-second round. Oklahoma’s Rhamondre Stevenson is a giant bruiser who I like on day three.

Question: OL/TE you don’t want to miss out on, and OL/TE you see as a sleeper?

Answer: I think TE Pat Freiermuth is a legitimate, long-time starting tight end in the NFL. Must be in consideration if he falls to the second. I would trade up several spots for OT Christian Darrisaw if he slips. Very thin TE class. I like a few small school offensive linemen in mid-rounds like OC Quinn Meinerz, OT Walker Little, OT D’Ante Smith, and OT James Hudson.

Question: Is it worth trading up for trey lance assuming he goes 15-20?

Answer: Absolutely. However, I’m not sure if he makes it out of the top 10. Anywhere after pick 10, Steelers should be doing whatever they can to move up. Can’t have success without a franchise passer.

Question: What would our biggest need be in this draft? Also, do you see any sleepers that may fall late and would be a great fit in Pitt?

Answer: Honestly, the biggest need is probably center. Maurkice Pouncey has been horrible over the past two years (OT and RB aren’t far behind). I would really like Quinn Meinerz in RD3 if he fell that far. He had a dominant performance at the Senior Bowl. But there are only two centers that I project as instant starters: Creed Humphrey and Landon Dickerson.

Question: Do the Steelers take any defensive players and if so who and what round(s)?

Answer: They’ve taken a defensive player in the first round in 8 straight years (counting Minkah Fitzpatrick), but I think they go offense round 1 this year. I can see defense as early as round 2 or 3. I’d wager that at least 3 picks are on defense.

Question: In your opinion which positions would you prefer the steelers to draft the first 3 rounds? If cap space is fixed would you look to sign anyone in free agency?

Answer: I’m all for the best player available, but if I were to pick positions it would be OT, OC, and a skill position. I just don’t want a RB in round 1. Etienne might be the only player worth that pick, but I’d rather go with a money position… Steelers just need to sign their own.

Question: Depth issues were glaring as the season went on, how highly do you value getting LB and Edge help in this draft, and are there any names you would like to see brought in?

Answer: I wouldn’t be shocked if Pittsburgh addressed both. They could do either as early as day two. For edge defenders, I really like Ronnie Perkins, Cameron Sample, and Jordan Smith. Some of my favorite linebacker fits are Jabril Cox and Baron Browning.

Related Story. 3 reasons Steelers should pass the torch to Mason Rudolph in 2021. light

I will be doing more Steelers draft Q&As in the future. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @TommyJaggi where I can answer all of your Steelers and NFL Draft-related questions.