Steelers land Martavis Bryant 2.0 in Mel Kiper's latest NFL mock draft

The player Mel Kiper Jr. mocked to the Steelers shares an eerie resemblance to Martavis Bryant.

NFL Combine
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Now that the dust is finally settling on the initial wave of free agency, we are getting a clearer picture of where teams could be headed with their first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Heading into free agency, the Pittsburgh Steelers had glaring needs at positions like offensive tackle, cornerback, and center. Now we can confidently add wide receiver to the mix.

Shortly after rumors swirled that Pittsburgh would listen to offers for WR Diontae Johnson, Omar Khan traded the starting wide receiver to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for veteran CB Donte Jackson and a late-round pick swap.

This decision gave the Steelers a bit more depth at cornerback, but it caused a gaping hole at wide receiver alongside George Pickens. Pittsburgh could look to one of the few remaining quality receivers available in free agency, but they likely turn their attention to the NFL Draft.

NFL Draft experts are aware of this. Recently, Mel Kiper Jr. released his latest 2024 first-round mock draft. With the 20th overall pick in the draft, Kiper has the Pittsburgh Steelers going with uber-talented LSU wide receiver, Brian Thomas Jr. Here's what Kiper had to say about the selection:

"Just a few weeks ago, at the NFL combine, here's what Steelers general manager Omar Khan said to reporters about quarterback Kenny Pickett: "I have full faith in Kenny." A lot has changed since then, huh? Pickett was traded to the Eagles after Pittsburgh signed Russell Wilson, and then the team traded a conditional Day 3 pick in 2025 for Justin Fields, completing a total overhaul of the QB depth chart. For new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith to really thrive, though, the Steelers should add a replacement for wideout Diontae Johnson, who was traded to Carolina.

Thomas, who ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the combine, has a tremendous blend of speed and size (6-foot-3). He caught 17 touchdown passes last season, leading the FBS. Pittsburgh had just 13 total touchdown passes in 2023. Thomas and George Pickens could form an exciting pass-catching duo."

Mel Kiper Jr., via ESPN

With Malik Nabers exploding for an amazing 2023 season, Thomas didn't draw as much attention. However, Thomas saw a breakout campaign last year that catapulted him up draft boards.

After a slow start to his college career, the junior went off for 1,177 yards and 17 touchdowns on 17.3 yards per catch. Now he's entering the 2024 NFL Draft at 21 years old and with a first-round grade after an impressive 2023 season.

Brian Thomas Jr. would be like Martavis Bryant for the Steelers

At almost 6'3'' and 209 pounds with a nearly 80-inch wingspan, Brian Thomas has remarkable size at the wide receiver position. But it's his ability to stride past defenders deep down the field that can make him so special in the NFL.

Thomas shares uncanny similarities to former Steelers star receiver, Martavis Bryant. Both players possess outstanding size with long speed and ball-tracking ability that makes them nearly impossible to defend if quarterbacks can find time to make down-field throws.

Perhaps their biggest similarity is that neither receiver had any business moving as well as they did after the catch. While those days are long gone for Bryant, Thomas has outstanding quicks with the ball in his hands, and his explosion is through the roof. Thomas ran a 4.33 at the NFL Combine to go with a 38 1/2'' vertical jump and a 10'6'' broad jump.

During Bryant's tenure in Pittsburgh, the talented receiver proved to be one of the best deep threats in the league while taking some of the pressure off Antonio Brown. Bryant could have had a long, productive NFL career if not for suspensions derailing all of the promise he showed.

Brian Thomas does not come with the same baggage, but the Pittsburgh Steelers would be getting a player who's just as talented. He projects as a high-end WR2 in the NFL with a shot to be a true go-to target as a WR1, and with elite speed at his size, he has the upside to be one of the best deep threats in the league.