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Pittsburgh Steelers 2018 NFL Draft profile

The 2018 NFL Draft is less than two weeks away, which means that Draftmas is back. Draftmas will take a look at each NFL team heading into this year’s draft, what their needs are and who they could be targeting. Draftmas continues today with the Pittsburgh Steelers 2018 NFL Draft profile.

Summary

The Pittsburgh Steelers were on a roll in 2017. They finished their regular season 13-3 and snagged the AFC North Division title yet again, along with a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2018 NFL Draft profile
JuJu Smith-Schuster (Photo from espn.com)

Overall, the Steelers were a force to be reckoned with on both sides of the ball. Pittsburgh finished in the top five in both total offense and defense. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster also broke out in his rookie season on the gridiron.

He finished his debut season with 917 receiving yards and seven touchdown, along with a kickoff returned for a touchdown. His talents came in handy when star weapon, Antonio Brown, went down for the season with a partially torn calf late in the season.

In addition to his skill set, Smith-Schuster’s touchdown celebrations reflected his love for playing, especially his brief hide and seek game with running back Le’Veon Bell.

However, the black and yellow’s season did not go without its own pains and hardships. In Week 13 against the Cincinnati Bengals, linebacker Ryan Shazier suffered a spinal contusion that scared the entire league. Shazier underwent stabilization surgery, ending his season. But he has been making remarkable progress through rehab since and was selected to his second Pro Bowl. He also stated that he wants to get back into the helmet and shoulder pads once again.

Furthermore, the Steelers suffered a heart-wrenching defeat against the New England Patriots in Week 15. Controversially, a touchdown pass was called back late in the game. The ruling of a no-catch was among many similar incidences in seasons past. New England eventually beat Pittsburgh 27-24.

In addition, the Jacksonville Jaguars cut the Steelers’ playoff run short, beating them 45-42.

Picks and Needs

The Pittsburgh Steelers have seven picks to work with the 2018 NFL Draft. The Steel City will have to address positions in need of youth, as well as depth. General manager Kevin Colbert will once again have to bring in the best available to help prolong the Steelers’ winning ways.

First round (1 pick): 28

Second round (1): 60

Third round (1): 92

Fourth round (0):

Fifth round (2): 148, 165

Sixth round (0):

Seventh round: (2): 220, 246

Offensive needs:

Quarterback – Ben Roethlisberger’s days behind center are not infinite. At 36 years old, the six-time Pro Bowl signal caller will need a successor soon. Though Landry Jones and Joshua Dobbs have potential to step in, another name added in the unit can keep the position competitive. It can also prove to be helpful if Big Ben gets injured.

Defensive needs:

Middle linebacker – Shazier was the spark plug on Pittsburgh’s front seven. He was always one of the first people in pursuit of the ball carrier and made plays in coverage. With Shazier out for now, the Steelers will need the next man who could fly around to the ball and make stops when needed.

Outside linebacker – Long time Steelers linebacker, James Harrison, was trouble for off-tackle run plays and a tenacious edge rusher. Harrison, Pittsburgh’s all-time sacks leader, has recently announced his retirement at 39 years old. The Steelers will need a new, young linebacker that can create pressure off the edge and shut down one side while T.J. Watt handles the other.

Free safety – Pittsburgh will need a free safety that can negate the long plays down the field. In addition, this safety needs to have a nose for the football and can deceive the opposing quarterback into making bad throws.

Targets

These are the names the Pittsburgh Steelers can reasonably pick up the upcoming draft.

First round: 

Pick No. 28: Leighton Vander Esch, ILB, Boise State

Pittsburgh Steelers 2018 NFL Draft profile
Vander Esch, No. 38, Boise State. (Photo from Idaho Press Tribune)

Leighton Vander Esch may have only one full season as a starter at Boise State, but he was a tackling machine with All-Conference honors in the Mountain West. He can change directions with little to no delay and plays sideline to sideline. Plus, at 6-foot-4, 256 pounds, his frame can play to his advantage when making tackles.

Vander Esch has potential to become an instant starter from Week 1.

Second round:

Pick No. 60: Shaquem Griffin, OLB, Central Florida

Shaquem Griffin never let the fact that he has just one hand stop him. During his last two seasons with the UCF Knights, head coach Scott Frost moved Griffin from defensive back to outside linebacker. It is safe to say that the rest is history. Along with All-AAC (American Athletic Conference) honors, Griffin was a focal point in the Knights’ undefeated season in 2017.

On top of that, Griffin took the league by storm at the NFL Combine. He ran a 4.38 40-yard dash and recorded 20 reps on the bench press, using a prosthetic.

Griffin also possesses high game IQ and looks to punish on every hit. With his speed and athleticism, Griffin can become a nightmare off the edge. Plus, he can be a great asset on special teams.

Third round:

Pick No. 92: DeShon Elliott, S, Texas

Elliott brings intelligence to the safety position. In 2017, he was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award. The All-American Texas Longhorn embraces the physicality needed to play, and can be a weapon in stopping the run. Furthermore, his frame and arm length will give him an advantage in coverage and in his downhill approach.

Conclusion

The upcoming draft will yield opportunities for Pittsburgh to replenish the ranks and bring youth to the roster. With the combination of Kevin Colbert’s eye for talent and head coach Mike Tomlin’s guidance, the new faces can lead the black and gold back into the playoff picture.

Make sure to tune in tomorrow for the Jacksonville Jaguars 2018 NFL Draft profile.

 

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