The 2017 NFL Draft has come and gone in the blink of an eye. It was an exciting event all-around, with teams trading back and forth, constantly strategizing how to get ‘their man’. The Pittsburgh Steelers had one of the quieter drafts. Not making a single trade and choosing to stand pat and let the board fall as it may. Although some of these picks were expected, others came completely out of left field. Although it’s impossible to tell which, if any, of these 8 selections will pan out, it is possible to speculate their role in the short term. Here are some quick thoughts and speculation on the Pittsburgh Steelers Draft Class of 2017.
TJ Watt (OLB): Wisconsin- 6’4″ 252 Pounds
TJ Watt has been one of the players most commonly mocked to the Steelers leading up to the draft. A top athlete at his position, Watt is very inexperienced, having only played the position for two years. He has the ability to become an extremely disruptive player and his potential is sky high. Although he doesn’t appear to be able to bend around the edge very well, his 3-cone time of 6.79 seconds suggests he’s very capable of doing so. Watt needs to become friends with James Harrison to help himself develop an arsenal of pass rushing moves and how to be more active with his hands. He’ll start off as a rotational pass rusher behind Harrison as he is groomed as a successor.
Juju Smith-Schuster (WR): USC- 6’1″ 215 Pounds
This pick SCREAMS Best Player Available. With 10 defensive backs being taken in the 2nd round, including Chidobe Awuzie two picks earlier, the Steelers were likely left without a defensive back that they were comfortable with taking in the 2nd round. Running a 4.54 40 yard dash at the combine, Smith-Schuster is not a burner. Comparatively, he’s more Hines Ward than Mike Wallace. However, he is capable of making combative catches all over the field and will find his niche as a solid 3rd down chain mover and redzone option. It will be interesting to see how he fits into the rotation of Martavis Bryant and Sammie Coates behind Antonio Brown.
Cameron Sutton (CB): Tennessee- 5’11” 188 Pounds
William Gay is getting old and his play dropped off significantly last season. Cameron Sutton is a pure nickel cornerback with ball skills who can come in to learn under, and eventually replace, Will Gay. Although not the best tackler, Sutton is a willing one. He needs to clean up and refine his game, but he has the potential to become a top slot cornerback. Although he certainly has the ability to step into a starting role early, he will likely start off on special teams and as the top backup in the slot.
James Conner (RB): Pittsburgh- 6’1″ 233 Pounds
A feel-good story all the way around. Everybody knows about James Conner being diagnosed and subsequently beating Hodgkins Lymphoma. However, this is not a sympathy pick. The Steelers like their running backs big. At 6’1″, 233 pounds, Conner is a bruiser with an underrated set of receiving skills. Although many would consider this to be a reach, Conner fits the mold of a Steeler running back. He’ll likely be used on special teams and as a change of pace/short yardage back. However, it is unclear on how he would be able to shoulder the full load on offense if Le’Veon Bell is injured.
Josh Dobbs (QB): Tennessee- 6’3″ 216 Pounds
The Steelers made it abundantly clear that they wanted to take a quarterback in this draft. Dobbs is an incredibly intelligent player with good mobility. He has the ability to make plays outside of the pocket and is willing to step into throws in the face of pressure. In terms of accuracy, Dobbs is hit-or-miss (literally). It is unclear what role he will play on the Steelers roster, as they have already re-signed Landry Jones to a 2-year contract. Although it’s possible that he can develop into Ben Roethlisberger‘s future replacement, Steeler fans shouldn’t hold their breath.
Brian Allen (CB): Utah- 6’3″ 215 Pounds
Brian Allen is a big, physical, raw corner. The Steelers have expressed the desire to start implementing more press man concepts to its defense and Allen is the perfect candidate to sit and develop on the practice squad until he is ready to step up. Originally a wide receiver, Allen only has one year of experience playing defense and is incredibly raw. This is a pure potential-based pick.
Colin Holba (LS): Louisville- 6’4″ 248 Pounds
Greg Warren is getting old and his performance is starting to deteriorate. Holba’s a long snapper. I don’t even….
Keion Adams (OLB): Western Michigan- 6’2″ 245 Pounds
Keion Adams is a year-one special teamer. He has the skill set of a 3-4 outside linebacker with the size of an inside one. He was the highest rated SPARQ score athlete left on the board, suggesting that this is a pick based on pure potential. Despite an awful 7.39 second 3-cone time, his 124” broad jump and 4.7-second 40-yard dash reveal his explosiveness. Adams is undersized and doesn’t possess the ability to consistently beat tackles 1-on-1, but can be schemed into a pass rushing role. Keion Adams will have an uphill climb to make the roster as he will need to beat out both Anthony Chickillo and Arthur Moates, making him a prime candidate for the practice squad. Should he manage to survive, he will primarily serve on special teams.