Steelers draft capsule
The following is the seventh of seven position-by-position Steelers 2018 draft analyses:
Currently on the roster: Ryan Shazier (injured), Vince Williams, Jon Bostic, Tyler Matakevich, L.J. Fort, Keith Kelsey, Matt Galambos
Last five drafts: Shazier (first round, 2014) was on the cusp of greatness before his scary spinal injury last season. Williams (sixth round, 2013) has been a solid starter but needs someone dynamic like Shazier playing next to him. Matakevich (seventh round, 2016) has stuck with the Steelers mainly because of his special teams play.
Top inside linebackers available: Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech; Roquan Smith, Georgia; Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State; Rashaan Evans, Alabama; Malik Jefferson, Texas
The Steelers might select: Vander Esch, Evans in the first round; Jefferson, Fred Warner, BYU, in the second round; Christian Sam, Arizona State; Darius Leonard, South Carolina State, in the third round; Shaun Dion Hamilton, Alabama; Chris Worley, Ohio State; Dorian O’Daniel, Clemson, in the seventh round
Analysis: The Steelers found out late last year just how much Shazier meant to the team as they were gouged by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the playoffs. That’s the Steelers’ biggest need right now — finding a replacement for Shazier. They signed free agent Jon Bostic in the offseason, but he’s no Shazier. Edmunds and Smith are the top two inside linebackers available but will most likely be selected by the time the Steelers pick at No. 28. That leaves Vander Esch and Evans, and the Steelers will be waiting, hoping one of them will last until their pick. Vander Esch is bigger and quicker and would seem to be the ideal pick, but neck issues might keep him from being a first-rounder. Evans would also be a good fit. If they’re not available for the Steelers, there are other options in later rounds but not quite the impactful players Vander Esch or Evans could be.
Currently on the roster: T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Anthony Chickillo, Keion Adams, Farrington Huguenin
Last five drafts: Watt (first round, 2017) looks like he’s on the right track to NFL stardom, unlike Dupree (first round, 2015), who disappears on the field at times. Chickillo (sixth round, 2015) has done pretty much all the Steelers could have asked of a sixth-round pick, and Adams (2017, seventh round) could get a chance to see some action this year. Not much was expected from Travis Feeney (sixth round, 2016) and Jordan Zumwalt (sixth round, 2014), and they didn’t offer much. But Jarvis Jones (first round, 2013), currently a free agent, will go down as one of the biggest busts in Steelers draft history.
Top outside linebackers available: Harold Landry, Boston College; Lorenzo Carter, Georgia; Arden Key, LSU; Uchenna Nwosu, Southern Cal
The Steelers might select: Probably none
Analysis: The Steelers have spent many high draft picks over the last several years on outside linebackers with not much in return. Watt could be the exception, but the picks of Jason Worilds, Jones and Dupree loom large. Dupree could still turn things around, and the Steelers have to hope he will — they just picked up an option on his contract — especially without James Harrison on the roster to offer support. The crop of outside linebackers isn’t that great this year, and the Steelers have other needs, so it would appear they might bypass this position this weekend.
— Buck Frank