Latest mock draft simulation tugs on the heartstrings of Steelers fans

Steelers fans would be ecstatic over this first-round selection; Unfortunately, it's not as realistic as we would like to believe.
NFL Combine - Portraits
NFL Combine - Portraits / Todd Rosenberg/GettyImages

Every NFL fanbase has a tendency to steer toward NFL Draft prospects who are commonly associated with their team. Since the 2023 season concluded and Senior Bowl practices took place in Mobile, it was easy to see some of the prospects Pittsburgh Steelers fans would be infatuated with.

One of those players was Oregon center, Jackson Powers Johnson. During Senior Bowl Week, Powers-Johnson stole the show as he stonewalled one future NFL defensive lineman after the next for a nearly flawless performance in back-to-back practices before making an early exit.

The Steelers had a glaring need at center which became even bigger when former starter Mason Cole was released ahead of the 2024 free agency period. Powers-Johnson seemed like the perfect answer.

Recently, I ran the mock draft simulator at Pro Football Reference, and the results are sure to appease Steelers fans. The simulator had Pittsburgh during their card in for Jackson Powers-Johnson with the 20th overall pick.

Powers-Johnson would be a plug-and-play center for the Steelers. While his thick, square frame at 6'3 3/8'' and 328 pounds may limit his ability to make blocks in space at times, fans would no longer have to worry about the pocket caving in on the quarterback from the middle. JPJ is an outstanding pass protector with a tremendous anchor and an innate ability to stall out the rush of defensive tackles before they can gain any momentum.

Though Powers-Johnson is a dream pick for many fans, the likelihood of the Pittsburgh Steelers drafting him isn't as plausible as the mock draft simulator seems to suggest.

Steelers are a longshot to draft Jackson Powers-Johnson

In the past, we have seen the Steelers forgo meeting with a player they believe will be out of their reach in the NFL Draft. Just last year, we saw this with Illinois CB prospect, Devon Witherspoon. Pittsburgh's brass essentially showcased no interest in Witherspoon throughout the pre-draft process -- knowing that they wouldn't stand a shot at drafting him. Witherspoon ended up being the 5th overall pick in 2023.

What's peculiar is that this won't be the case with Jackson Powers-Johnson.

Though there is a slight chance the Oregon center could be off the board when the Pittsburgh Steelers are on the clock in Round 1, he is frequently mocked between the 20th and 30th overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Knowing that Powers-Johnson could fall to their pick, the Steelers have not shown any interest in him as a first-round option. Apart from seeing JPJ for a few practices during Senior Bowl Week, Omar Khan and Mike Tomlin never met with Powers-Johnson at the NFL Combine, at his Oregon Pro Day, or for a Top 30 pre-draft visit.

While Powers-Johnson doesn't necessarily need to check all of these boxes to be an option for Pittsburgh, he doesn't seem to be on their draft radar in the least bit.

This is the sad reality that Steelers fans must face. We all believe that Jackson Powers-Johnson is a terrific prospect who will be an excellent center for a long time in the NFL. Fans will eagerly side with the results of this first-round mock draft simulation, but unless JPJ earns a Top 30 pre-draft visit by the Steelers, he's not a realistic first-round option for Pittsburgh.