Steelers 2022 mock draft: DB and OL dominate early rounds

Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback Ahmad Gardner (12). Mandatory Credit: Tim Flores-USA TODAY Sports
Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback Ahmad Gardner (12). Mandatory Credit: Tim Flores-USA TODAY Sports /
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Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback Ahmad Gardner (12) Ucf Knights At Cincinnati Bearcats College Football Oct 4 /

Steelers round 1:

CB. 1. player. Scouting Report. Pick Analysis. Cincinnati. AhmadGardner. 830

While it scares me to think of the Steelers drafting a defensive back in the first round given their track record, it may be necessary once April rolls around. The secondary has been exposed as of late and the team is losing two starters in Joe Haden and Terrell Edmunds next offseason. Though Cameron Sutton will continue to man down one corner spot, James Pierre has been inconsistent on the other side of the secondary.

Ahmad Gardner has been a steady and talented presence in Cincinnati’s secondary since his rookie season. He has great size and length which he regularly puts on display each week against opposing teams’ top wideouts. He has the athleticism to keep up with anyone and his length gives him the advantage with pass breakups. Add in the nine total interceptions he has registered in his three years with the Bearcats and Gardner has the makings of a solid pro.

The biggest cause for concerns with Gardner is his penalties and competition. He can get handsy with opposing receivers that will lead to interference calls in the NFL. While the American conference isn’t bad by any means, he isn’t consistently facing the top receivers in college football. That said, Gardner looks like a high upside defensive back at this stage of his career.

Though the offensive line is the bigger priority, interior linemen can be found in the second round with relative ease. Gardner has the potential to be a top man-coverage corner in the league and he would give the Steelers four young and capable defensive backs to mix around at cornerback and in the slot. While the Steelers track record with defensive backs in the draft isn’t good, it shouldn’t stop them from drafting a player of Gardner’s caliber.