Teams believed Lamar Jackson would return to school, but he has opted to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft. Jackson has amazing upside because of his huge arm and great mobility, but he needs to work on his mechanics and ball placement. Sitting behind Ben Roethlisberger for a year or two would be ideal. Roethlisberger recently said he would play for a few more years, but how can Pittsburgh trust him to stay that long when he's been so wishy-washy?
Rd. 2, Pk. 28
Darius Leonard, ILB, South Carolina State
I mentioned the Ryan Shazier situation in the opening round. It's unfortunate, but there's a chance Shazier may never play again, so the Steelers will be on the lookout for an early inside linebacker.
Rd. 3, Pk. 28
Akrum Wadley, RB, Iowa
If Le'Veon Bell retires, the Steelers will need a new running back who can be a huge factor in the passing game.
Pick change; previously Jesse Bates, S
Rd. 5, Pk. 11
Harrison Phillips, DT/3-4DE/NT, Stanford
The Steelers could stand to add better depth behind Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward.
Rd. 5, Pk. 28
Tray Matthews, S, Auburn
Excluding linebacker, in the wake of Ryan Shazier's injury, safety is the weak point of Pittsburgh's defense, and it should be addressed early in the 2018 NFL Draft.
The Steelers could start planning for life after Big Ben. Sources have told me Pittsburgh likes Kizer.
Of the quarterback prospects for the 2017 NFL Draft, Kizer has the best skill set and the most upside. The 6-foot-4, 233-pounder has a strong arm that can make all the throws for the NFL. He has also flashed superb accuracy and an ability to make accurate touch passes downfield to beat good coverage in tight windows. Kizer can also make beautiful passes in the face of a pass rush. Additionally, he has the mobility to buy time for his receivers, bail out his offensive line, and pick up yards with his feet. The big problem for Kizer is consistency as he is a streaky passer and player. He also had issues late in games with critical mistakes in crunch time, so his decision-making needs to improve.
In 2016, Kizer completed 59 percent of his passes for 2,925 yards with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also ran for seven touchdowns. His completion percentage was thrown off by playing a game in the midst of Hurricane Matthew and his receivers consistently dropping well-thrown passes. He also was hurt by losing his No.1 receiver (Will Fuller), left tackle (Ronnie Stanley), center (Nick Martin), and running back (C.J. Prosise) to the NFL before the season. In 2015, Kizer completed 63 percent of his passes for 2,884 yards with 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He picked up 520 yards with 10 scores on the ground.
Rd. 2, Pk. 2
Josh Jones, S, N.C. State
The Steelers could use another safety.
Jones (6-2, 215) was a solid player for the Wolfpack over the past three seasons. He is a strong safety type for the NFL and plays with an aggressive and relentless nature. Jones had 109 tackles with eight passes batted and three interceptions as a junior before deciding to skip his senior year. He recorded 63 tackles as a sophomore with 56 stops in 2014. Jones snagged four interceptions as a redshirt freshman.
Rd. 3, Pk. 3
Jake Butt, TE, Michigan
The Steelers could use a receiving tight end for their offense.
Butt had 46 receptions for 546 yards and four touchdowns in 2016 before suffering some knee tears in his bowl game. He contributed as a freshman (20-235-2) and sophomore (21-211-2), but took his game to another level under head coach Jim Harbaugh in 2015. Butt notched 51 receptions for 654 yards with three touchdowns that season.
The 6-foot-5, 246-pounder is a good receiver down the seam and uses his size to his advantage. Butt looked very good as a receiver and pass blocker in Harbaugh's pro-style offense. Butt could stand to get nastier and improve his run blocking; however, he did show progress on that front as a senior.
The Steelers could use an edge rusher, and Phillips could be a steal.
In 2016, Phillips recorded 56 tackles with 20 tackles for a loss, nine sacks and one forced fumble. Some sources absolutely love Phillips, but others are lukewarm on him. The teams that love Phillips (6-3, 237) say he is super athletic and twitchy. They feel that his speed and athleticism are very similar to Leonard Floyd. Like Floyd at Georgia, Phillips can struggle somewhat on run downs. However, they feel that he is a very gifted, natural pass-rushing talent. They see him as a potential early rounder. As one could expect, the teams that aren't in love with Phillips don't see him as a high pick.
Rd. 4, Pk. 4
Josh Reynolds, WR, Texas A&M
The Steelers could use some wide receiver depth and have shown interest in Reynolds.
Reynolds totaled 61 receptions for 1,039 yards and 12 scores in 2016. He was a reliable receiver for the Aggies. Reynolds (6-2, 187) put together a quality week at the Senior Bowl, too. He showed the ability to get some late separation and is excellent on 50-50 contested catches. In 2015, Reynolds caught 51 passes for 907 yards and five touchdowns. He had a quality 2014 season with 52 receptions for 842 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Rd. 5, Pk. 5
James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh
The Steelers grab a backup running back.
Rd. 6, Pk. 6
Jalen Myrick, CB, Minnesota
Pittsburgh grabs more cornerback competition and has shown interest in Myrick.
Rd. 7, Pk. 7
Keion Adams, DE, Western Michigan
The Steelers hosted Adams. He could provide them with some edge-rushing competition.
Some people will be in a huff over slotting a safety to the Steelers, but hear me out; I'm not entirely sure that Sean Davis can remain healthy, and, further, I believe he is more built to be a long-term FS as opposed to SS. Davis' play has been at times brilliant, and at times...confusingly bad. And as far as Mike Mitchell is concerned, well, he's been adequate at free safety, but he's also flown off the handle whining about safety rules in the past year, so you don't know what you're going to get there moving forward.
That means that if a player like Ronnie Harrison, who I believe has been maddeningly underrated and can smash people into oblivion, were to become available at the tail end of the first, I don't think the Steelers would feel any obligation to their current safeties. Harrison reminds me a lot, just on his play-style and hard-nosed tackling, of a certain long-haired star safety the Steelers had in the past.
Unfortunately, it looks as though Ryan Shazier may never play football again. At this point, we all can hope he can resume a normal life and hopefully everything goes well for him. That being said, business goes on, and the Steelers need a replacement. They got gashed after the injury and the linebackers were at fault.
Adding Evans from Alabama is a smart move. He's fast, aggressive, and has sideline to sideline speed, which is what they lack. Should help Day 1.
The Steelers could use an inside linebacker to replace Lawrence Timmons. <br> <br>
Jefferson has 100 tackles with 10 tackles for a loss and four sacks in 2017. He's played his best this season and is playing hard for Texas. In 2016, he recorded 59 tackles with 5.5 sacks and three passes broken up. Jefferson (6-3, 238) was highly recruited and showed why as a freshman contributor for the Longhorns. He totaled 61 tackles with seven for a loss, 2.5 sacks, three passes broken up and one forced fumble. Jefferson was a bigger presence than the stats illustrate. <br> <br>
The junior possesses a nice combination of size and speed, plus a ton of athletic upside. However, some sources have said they've heard that Jefferson doesn't love football. They say that can be seen in his work ethic, preparation and lack of production. Jefferson was supposedly unhappy with how he was used by the last staff and that led to that perception, but either side of the argument brings concerns for NFL evaluators.
The Steelers grab their understudy for Ben Roethlisberger, and they could use Jackson in a slash-package role while he develops behind Roethlisberger. <br> <br>
In 2017, Jackson completed 59 percent of his passes for 3,660 yards with 27 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also averaged 6.9 yards per carry on the ground on his way to 1,443 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns. Some team sources think that Jackson is worthy of being a top-10 pick and will rise in the leadup to the 2018 NFL Draft, similar to Pat Mahomes last year. One general manager told me they think Jackson could be deserving of going high in the first round because he's a taller and better version of Michael Vick. <br> <br>
Jackson has a great athletic skill set, including a powerful arm that can make all throws the NFL requires and some rare passes. While his tremendous running ability gets a lot of attention, Jackson is better passing from the pocket than he is given credit for. Jackson will take some shots and deliver good passes in the face of the rush. He also handles Bobby Petrino's scheme well. Jackson can be inconsistent with his accuracy, and he needs to add weight to his frame for the NFL. He also needs to develop maturity in his leadership skills as he can be of one of the guys too much. <br> <br>
Jackson (6-3, 205) set college football on fire in 2016 while winning the Heisman Trophy. He was a massive point-producer for the Cardinals. Jackson completed 56 percent of his passes for 3,543 yards with 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions on the year. He also ran for 21 touchdowns and 1,571 yards while averaging six yards per carry.
The Steelers could use a safety to pair with Sean Davis. <br> <br>
The 6-foot-1, 204-pound Reid has played really well in 2017, impressing NFL scouts. Sources who are tough graders said they thought Reid had first-round potential for the 2018 NFL Draft. They say that Reid doesn't have Earl Thomas-like range as a free safety or Kam Chancellor-like size as a strong safety, but he does everything well. Reid is a good free or strong safety with the ability to run and tackle. They say that he is a polished, clean, good all-around safety similar to HaHa Clinton-Dix coming out of Alabama. <br> <br>
Reid has 79 tackles with three passes broken up and five interceptions in 2017. He totaled 57 tackles with seven breakups last season. The junior is the younger brother of 49ers safety Eric Reid, a first-round pick out of LSU in 2013.