Steelers may ‘overreach’ in the NFL Draft like they did for Burns, Edmunds

Eric Stokes #27 of the Georgia Bulldogs. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Eric Stokes #27 of the Georgia Bulldogs. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

The Steelers hold the 24th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, but here’s why they could throw us a curveball. 

Too often, we think we have this whole NFL Draft thing figured out. In 2017, the Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons, and Dallas Cowboys all needed an edge defender, and they took one… Just not the right one. When T.J. Watt fell into Pittsburgh’s lap, that pick seemed all too easy. However, what about all of the times in recent years when the Steelers simply threw us a curveball?

In 2016, Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert apparently panicked when William Jackson III was taken one pick before them by the Cincinnati Bengals. This resulted in Pittsburgh taking a third-round graded cornerback to fill an area of need in Artie Burns. Two years later, they threw everyone through a loop when they opted to take Virginia Tech safety, Terrell Edmunds, with the 28th overall pick, and most believe he was taken at least a round too high.

We have had our share of first-round surprises in the past, and though I hate to say it, 2021 could prove to be another year in which the Steelers ‘overreach’ in the first round of the NFL Draft.

Clearly, this is something that I hope does not come to fruition, but it’s not hard to see how this could happen. Kevin Colbert expressed in his pre-draft press conference that the Steelers have a number of needs and that they will consider multiple positions early in the draft. If we look at some of the players who typically ‘check the boxes’ for Pittsburgh as round one selections, we could see how they could be fooled into taking certain players early.

Which players could the Steelers ‘overreach’ on in round one?

Every team has certain boxes that must be checked in their first-round picks, and the Steelers are no different. Studying their past drafts, it’s clear that they value things like athleticism, youth, and players from Power 5 schools with their top selection.

Based on this, it’s entirely possible to see how Pittsburgh could fall for a player like Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes in the first round. At nearly 6’1” and 194 pounds, Stokes clearly has the desired size to be a starting outside cornerback in the NFL and his 4.31 speed is enticing. Because he is an athletic underclassman from a great football program, he’s a player who could potentially join the list of guys who were taken too high by the Steelers in the NFL Draft. With Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton both gone, Pittsburgh could surprise us with a cornerback who checks nearly all of their boxes.

Penn State edge defender Jayson Oweh is another player who could cause the Steelers to potentially reach in the NFL Draft this year. While I’m not opposed to taking gifted athletes at important positions, Oweh’s average tape and concerningly poor production are red flags Pittsburgh could possibly ignore thanks to the number of boxes he checks as a first-round pick.

Some other possible selections based on traits and boxes checked include players like OT Alex Leatherwood, CB Asante Samuel, LB Baron Browning, or even TE Pat Freiermuth. All of these players are considered to be second-round prospects by most, but they check enough boxes to potentially get the Steelers interested with the 24th pick.

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The NFL Draft is always such an interesting time. Unfortunately, the Steelers have really left us scratching our heads after the first round a few times in just a handful of years. Let’s hope they don’t ‘overreach’ for players like Artie Burns or Terrell Edmunds who check most of their boxes.