Steelers take mauling offensive lineman in recent NFL mock draft

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announces a pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announces a pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Steelers need to improve their trenches. Here’s why Pro Football Focus has them taking an offensive lineman with impressive traits.

In an offseason full of uncertainty, fans are anxiously waiting to see which direction the Pittsburgh Steelers will go in April’s 2022 NFL Draft. Though quarterback is clearly on their radar, fans have split opinions on this year’s QB class, and many would like them to address the trenches instead.

In a recent mock draft by Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus, that’s exactly what he has the Steelers doing. After Liberty QB Malik Willis was off the board with the 12th overall pick to the Minnesota Vikings, Palazzolo has Pittsburgh going with a dominant small-school offensive tackle in Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning.

Here’s what Palazzolo had to say about this selection:

"The Steelers will also wait on quarterback in this iteration while addressing the offensive line with Penning, who is an absolute mauler in the run game. Penning dominated the FCS level, and as PFF’s Mike Renner states, “Penning’s tape at Northern Iowa looks like someone’s dad subbed into a pop warner game.” He’ll fit in nicely as Pittsburgh continues its offensive line overhaul."

Penning has some spectacular traits for an offensive tackle at the next level. At the 2022 Senior Bowl, the mauling offensive tackle officially measured in at 6’6 3/4” and 330 pounds with 34 3/4” arms and an impressive 83 5/8” wingspan.

Unfortunately, Penning’s Senior Bowl tape was far from perfect. He routinely showed balance and technique issues as he stood too tall and let pass rushers get under his pads. However, these are correctable flaws, and he clearly has a rare combination of size, power, and athletic traits that could eventually make him one of the better tackles in the NFL.

Penning is also scheme and position versatile, and he has the ability to play both right and left tackle at the next level.

Could Steelers take Penning?

If this is the player you have your sights set on for the Steelers in the 2022 NFL Draft, I wouldn’t hold your breath. While I love Penning’s upside and downright nasty football demeanor, Pittsburgh very rarely takes non-Power Five football players in the first round. In fact, the only time Kevin Colbert made an exception to this draft trend is when the team selected Ben Roethlisberger out of Miami of Ohio back in 2004, according to Pro Football Reference.

This doesn’t mean that the team will completely cross Penning off the board as an option, but it’s something that these NFL Draft media outlets may not consider when coming up with these mock drafts.

If the Steelers were comfortable taking a player like Penning with the 20th overall pick, he could immediately slide in as a starter at right tackle, as Chukwuma Okorafor will likely sign elsewhere in free agency this offseason.

Penning could eventually kick to left tackle if the Dan Moore experiment goes south, but for now, this would give Pittsburgh two moldable, long tackles to work with to help build this offensive line from the ground up.

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I really like Trevor Penning’s upside to be a long-time quality starter in the NFL, but he doesn’t come without some risks. Still, if Pittsburgh can’t land the quarterback they desire, Penning is a player they should consider with the 20th overall pick — even though he goes against a major draft trend they’ve had for a very long time.