I would compare the Steelers situation in this draft to their division rivals the Cincinnati Bengals. Obviously, the spots at which they’re picking are entirely different with the Bengals holding the 5th pick and Pittsburgh owning the 24th. However, if you put that aside and look at the micro-perspective of how they are making the decision internally, it’s pretty similar.
The Bengals have to choose between the best receiver in the draft or the best tackle to protect a young quarterback coming off of an ACL tear. The Steelers are expected to be in a position to choose between the best running back in the draft or some of the top offensive linemen to fill multiple holes along their line. What should the Bengals front office prioritize, an offensive weapon or the protection of Burrow? What should the Steelers front office prioritize, the rebuilding of the running game through a strong line or a talented weapon?
We projected that the Bengals would and should choose Chase with the 5th pick; however, we see the situation in Pittsburgh as direr along the line. They’ve lost Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler, and Maurkice Pouncey. The Bengals on the other hand added Riley Reiff and still own a pick near the top of the second round. They need to find one starter, whereas Pittsburgh is looking for starters throughout their line.
The Notre Dame product is very similar in build to Villanueva. Both are taller and leaner tackles, but are both strong and agile. Eichenberg could be used at either tackle spot, which is a necessary versatility to a line in shambles and under reconstruction.
In the second round of our Steelers mock draft 3.0, we project the pick to be running back Javonte Williams out of North Carolina.
Javonte Williams isn’t as good as Najee Harris, but he’s comparable behind a serviceable offensive line. He’s in the mold of James Conner too, a powerful, down-hill runner that is not out of place in the passing game. Williams is scattered through many mock drafts, going as high as the end of the 1st round to the end of the 2nd round. If he looks like he will be available, the Steelers may need to jump up to grab him, but it will be worth it. They’d be heading into round 3 with a starting tackle and a starting, multi-dimensional running back. It would be an incredibly successful first two rounds for the yellow and black.
Our Steelers mock draft 3.0 projects them to land Liam Eichenberg at tackle and Javonte Williams as the replacement for James Connor. Looking ahead, expect them to continue to add to the offensive line and a tight end as well. On the defensive side of the ball, they’d be looking for a linebacker to help fill the void of Bud Dupree and additional corners to add depth in the secondary. The possibility of a quarterback is definitely a real one; however, I don’t think the opportunity will present itself this year. A name like Davis Mills would make sense, but the price will be too high. Is Pittsburgh really going to spend a 2nd or 3rd round pick on a back-up?