On April 24, 2004, Kevin Colbert pulled the trigger one of the most important draft picks in Pittsburgh Steelers history. With the 11th overall pick, Colbert and the Steelers selected quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who would go on to enjoy a Hall of Fame-caliber career in Pittsburgh that came to an end this past January. It's fitting that Colbert -- who will step down as general manager at the end of this year's draft -- is in position to possibly select Roethlisberger's eventual successor when the Steelers are on the clock with the 20th overall pick.
Along with possibly picking Big Ben's heir apparent, Colbert will get one more chance to add to his impressive track record of drafting future star receivers, a list that includes Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Diontae Johnson. Colbert is also expected to beef up both Pittsburgh's offensive and defensive lines after both units struggled (albeit for different reasons) last season. And Colbert may be inclined to try his luck once more at cornerback, one of the few positions that Pittsburgh has struggled to have success with in the draft (with Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden being the exceptions) during his 22 years on the job.
With seven picks in the upcoming draft, Pittsburgh should be able to address most of their remaining roster needs that were not addressed in free agency. One position that has yet be solidified is strong safety, but as you'll see below, I'm banking on Pittsburgh filling that need in free agency, either with Tyrann Mathieu, Terrell Edmunds (both players were unsigned as of this writing) or another available veteran. That will give them additional space to focus on receiver, as I have the Steelers drafting multiple wideouts after losing Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Ray-Ray McCloud in free agency.
Without further ado, here is our seven-round 2022 Steelers mock draft.
|Round (Overall Pick)||Prospect||College|
QB Malik Willis
OT Tyler Smith
WR Khalil Shakir
CB Coby Bryant
DT Marquan McCall
EDGE Tyree Johnson
WR Bo Melton
Round 1 (No. 20): QB Malik Willis, Liberty
The Steelers will absolutely draft Willis if he is available at 20, but whether or not he will still be is the big question. Carolina is widely expected to take a quarterback with the No. 6 pick, while the Lions (who worked with Willis at the Senior Bowl), Atlanta (No. 8), Seattle (No. 9) and New Orleans (No. 18) could also use their first-round picks on a quarterback. The Falcons' recent acquisition of Marcus Mariota, and the Saints' recent signings of Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton could lead to Willis being there for the taking when the Steelers are on the clock.
Considered one of the top quarterbacks in the draft, Willis has the tangibles and intangibles the Steelers covet in a quarterback. His athleticism (he ran for 27 touchdowns during his two seasons at Liberty) makes him an ideal fit for Matt Canada's offense. Pittsburgh's recent selection of Mitchell Trubisky would give Willis a year or two to get acclimated to the NFL while getting snaps in situational packages.
Round 2 (No. 52): OT Tyler Smith, Tulsa
Before Steelers fans throw their Terrible Towels in disgust, let me explain the reason behind not drafting a wide receiver with this pick. I think the Steelers are going to use their second- and third-round picks on a receiver and an offensive tackle. Given the immense depth at receiver in this year's draft, I think that the Steelers can wait until the third round to address that need while using their second-round pick on the best-available offensive tackle. I also feel that some of the draft's top-ranked receiver prospects (including top prospects Skyy Moore and Christian Watson) will be gone by this point in the draft.
This brings us to Smith, a 6-foot-5, 324-pound tackle who plays with a nastiness that would be quickly embraced by Steelers fans. Like many rookie prospects, Smith has some kinks to work out at the next level, specifically his technique in pass protection. Smith would have time to develop in Pittsburgh, with Dan Moore Jr. situated at left tackle and Chukwuma Okorafor back at right tackle. Adding Smith would also help address Pittsburgh's lack of tackle depth after the Steelers used free agency to fill their holes on the interior of the offensive line.
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Round 3 (No. 84): WR Khalil Shakir, Boise State
A crisp route runner, Shakir could thrive in Pittsburgh while playing alongside Johnson and Claypool. The 6-foot, 190-pound Shakir caught 192 passes for 2,708 yards and 20 touchdowns (a 14.1 yards-per-catch average) during his final three years with the Broncos. At Boise State, Shakir excelled at making plays after the catch while showcasing his field vision, agility and elusiveness. He also made several incredible, one-handed catches that included two in the same game this past season against UTEP. Shakir also showed his toughness while making plays over the middle, a trait that would remind Steelers fans of another third-round pick, Hines Ward.
Round 4 (No. 138): CB Coby Bryant, Cincinnati
Bryant was part of a talented secondary at Cincinnati that also included safety Bryan Cook, a player who could be on the Steelers' radar if their strong safety position isn't solidified heading into the draft. Versatility is one of Bryant's calling cards, as he filled several positions with the Bearcats and was also an asset on special teams. The 6-foot-1, 198-pound Bryant has impressive ball skills, as evidenced by his nine interceptions and 35 passes defensed at Cincinnati.
Round 6 (No. 208): DT Marquan McCall, Kentucky
The Steelers are determined to shore up a run defense that was historically bad last season. In McCall, Pittsburgh would be getting a big, hard-nosed player who earned the nickname "Bully" during his time with the Wildcats. While he doesn't offer much as far as pass rushing is concerned, McCall's promise as a run-stuffer would be a welcomed addition to a defensive line that could use an influx of young talent.
Round 7 (No. 225): EDGE Tyree Johnson
While they recently signed Genard Avery, Pittsburgh could use another pass rusher to back up T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. A great option late in the draft would be Johnson, who racked up 8.5 sacks during his final year with the Aggies. He also recorded nine tackles for loss last season while playing an integral role one of college football's top defenses. Johnson would be reunited in Pittsburgh will fellow former Aggie Buddy Johnson, an inside linebacker who was selected in the fourth round of last year's draft.
Round 7 (No. 241): WR Bo Melton, Rutgers
Pittsburgh has selected two receivers in the same draft six times under Colbert's watch, and there's a very good chance that it happens again in this year's draft. While subpar quarterback play hindered his production, the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Melton still managed to catch 164 passes for 2,011 yards and 11 scores during his time at Rutgers.
Melton, who ran the 40-yard dash in an impressive 4.34 seconds at the NFL combine, utilized his speed to make big plays downfield at Rutgers. He also routinely turned short completions into big plays while showcasing his shiftiness and creativity in the open field. Melton is also a crafty route-runner that made him a tough matchup in one-on-one situations during his time with the Scarlet Knights.