2024 NFL Mock Draft: Early trade shakes up the QB carousel

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How will the run on quarterbacks impact the Steelers at pick 20?

As the great Beetlejuice once vocalized, it’s showtime. After months of nitpicking, reading tea leaves, and turning this exercise into an absurd math equation – it’s time to put my money where my mouth is.

My most recent two-round mock draft came abruptly after the first wave of free agency had ended. Now that more of the dust has settled, it’s time for the final version. Let’s go to work.

1. Chicago Bears: Caleb Williams, QB, USC

No drama or nonsense here. The USC signal-caller Williams has been the pick for about seven months now.

2. Washington Commanders: Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU

There is uncertainty with the Commanders in this spot, but the Heisman Trophy winner Daniels gets the slight edge over Maye due to his unmatched athleticism.

3. New England Patriots: Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina

New England is said to be entertaining trade offers for this pick – but I don’t understand why that would be the case considering that Jacoby Brissett is currently at the top of their depth chart. Will they be bad enough to draft in the top five next year? Probably not. So take the quarterback.

4. Arizona Cardinals: Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State

For a few weeks I’ve thought that Arizona could be a trade-down spot for a team looking to come up and snag Michigan QB JJ McCarthy, but the Cardinals already have a boatload of picks, so they shouldn’t overthink it — just take the best player in the class.

5. Minnesota Vikings – JJ McCarthy, QB, Michigan

Projected Trade with Los Angeles Chargers

The Vikings’ pursuit of McCarthy is probably the worst-kept secret in the league. They acquired the 23rd pick from the Houston Texans earlier this offseason to use as ammunition to trade up. They will need to leap ahead of the QB-needy Giants here – and the Chargers gladly accept the package, with more moving and shaking on their horizon.

6. New York Giants: Malik Nabers, WR, LSU

Nabers is not a bad consolation prize for the Giants, as they hope to replicate the success of the last LSU wideout they drafted – Odell Beckham Jr.

7. Tennessee Titans: Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame

I hope the Titans do something different here, simply because they’ve had Alt mocked to them for months, but for good reason. He’s the cleanest tackle prospect in the class, at the biggest positional need in Nashville.

8. Los Angeles Chargers: Rome Odunze, WR, Washington

Projected Trade with Atlanta Falcons

In this scenario, the Chargers traded out of pick five and then used the added draft capital to move BACK up ahead of the Bears and take one of the top three receivers in the draft. Jim Harbaugh saw how great Odunze was up close while scouting him before the National Championship.

9. Chicago Bears: Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia

After being snaked by the Chargers, the Bears zag instead of zig, and pair a rare blend of size and speed at tight end with their new QB Caleb Williams. Bowers can line up all over the field and be the perfect safety blanket for a first-year signal-caller.

10. New York Jets: Taliese Fuaga, OT, Oregon

The Jets would have likely drafted Bowers here, but Fuaga will improve an offensive line that needs as many reinforcements as they can get if they want to keep Hall of Fame QB Aaron Rodgers upright.

11. Atlanta Falcons: Dallas Turner, EDGE, Alabama

Projected Trade with Los Angeles Chargers

Those savvy Falcons bump back three spots, acquire draft equity, and still draft the player they would have selected if they stayed at eight.

12. Denver Broncos: Laiatu Latu, EDGE, UCLA

I searched far and wide for a trade-down opportunity here, as the Broncos would love to get out of this spot, however after the top-tier quarterbacks were drafted, they couldn’t find a partner. Latu is a game-wrecker, but there are concerns about his medicals.

13. Las Vegas Raiders: Olu Fashanu, OT, Penn State

This is another potential spot for a quarterback, but Fashanu represents great value for a team desperately seeking upgrades upfront.

14. New Orleans Saints: Troy Fautanu, OT, Washington

A popular name around Steelers circles, Fautanu’s stock is currently skyrocketing up boards due to a fantastic combine. He was pigeonholed as an interior lineman just a few months ago, but now folks are realizing that he can more than hold his own at tackle as well.

15. Indianapolis Colts: Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo

Mitchell, a small-school cornerback out of Toledo, has a big-school game. He has all the tools to become one of the top defensive backs in the NFL.

16. Seattle Seahawks: Jared Verse, EDGE, Florida State

On paper, Edge might not be the biggest need for the Seahawks, but they find themselves in “best player available” territory here and take the freakish athlete in Verse.

17. Jacksonville Jaguars: Terrion Arnold, CB, Alabama

The aggressive, experienced cornerback will attempt to limit the juggernaut that is CJ Stroud and the Houston Texans.

18. Cincinnati Bengals: JC Latham, OT, Alabama

At 6’5, 345 lbs., Latham would give the Bengals a dominant force on the opposite side of Orlando Brown Jr.

19. Los Angeles Rams: Byron Murphy II, DT, Texas

Hall of Famer Aaron Donald recently announced his retirement, so the Rams have a massive hole in the middle of their defensive line. Murphy II is a three-down player who can consistently withstand double teams.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Graham Barton, OL, Duke

The most challenging internal debate I’ve battled with over the past few weeks. I think three things are true here:

  1. The Steelers literally don’t have a center on their roster.
  2. They have pigeon-hold themselves into drafting a plug-and-play prospect early on. Three centers in this class fit that bill – Barton, Oregon’s Jackson Powers-Johnson, and West Virginia’s Zach Frazier. None of them will be available at pick 52.
  3. Georgia OT Amarius Mims may be ranked higher on their big board, but if it’s a narrow margin, I’d bet they would prioritize the larger need.

Ultimately, the deciding factor will be Barton’s versatility. He can be an above-average guard, and I think he could be a slightly below-average tackle in this league, which is why I described him as an offensive lineman- and not just a center.

Also considered:

Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia, Cooper DeJean CB, Iowa, Brian Thomas Jr., WR LSU

21. Buffalo Bills: Brian Thomas Jr., WR, LSU

Projected trade with Miami Dolphins

Miami needs to add more picks and the Bills need to add a true number one wideout. Thomas Jr., an incredibly productive option from LSU falls down the board here a bit further than anticipated.

22. Philadelphia Eagles: Cooper DeJean, CB/S, Iowa

The Eagles had one of the best secondaries in the NFL during their Super Bowl run in 2023, but that wasn’t even close to the case last season, as they ranked towards the bottom half of the league in most categories. DeJean is a versatile defensive back that would fix a ton of those problems.

23. Los Angeles Chargers: Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia

A master-class here for Harbaugh, as he gets better in the trenches with Mims, and still leaves the first round with a top receiver in Odunze. This is the pick that was formerly Minnesota’s.

24. Dallas Cowboys: Jackson-Powers Johnson, C, Oregon

After losing C Tyler Biadasz in free agency, Dallas needs to prioritize the interior of their offensive line ahead of wide receiver – as much as that will pain Jerry Jones. It’s a deep receiver class, and the Cowboys will find one in the second or third rounds.

25. Green Bay Packers: Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson

Wiggins is a lengthy but slender corner, weighing just 173 lbs. He ran the second-fastest time for a cornerback at the combine with a 4.28, so his makeup speed is off the charts.

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Chop Robinson, EDGE, Penn State

Robinson’s play was inconsistent last year, but there’s no denying his skill set. He stood out at the 2024 NFL Draft Combine, recording a 4.48-second 40-yard dash, a 10-foot, eight-inch broad jump and a 34.5-inch vertical. The guy is a physical freak and should be a plug-and-play, double-digit sack dude.

27. Arizona Cardinals: Johnny Newton, DT, Illinois

Newton is one of my favorite players in the draft. He’s dropping a bit due to a foot injury suffered a few months back, but when you turn on the tape, the guy is unstoppable.

28. Miami Dolphins: Tyler Guyton, OT, Oklahoma

A savvy move here by the Dolphins as they gain additional draft capital after moving out and trading with divisional rival Buffalo – and still take one of the last of the top-tier linemen in the class. You could argue that their first three picks should all be on the offensive line.

29. Detroit Lions: Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama

Following the arrest of former Steelers CB Cameron Sutton, the Lions secondary is one of the weakest units in football. It probably held them back from a shot at the Super Bowl.

30. Baltimore Ravens: Adonai Mitchell, WR, Texas

Death, Taxes, and the Ravens crushing the draft every year. Mitchell is arguably the best contested-catch receiver in the class and ran a 4.34 forty-yard dash at 6’2, 205 lbs.

31. Las Vegas Raiders: Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington

Projected trade with the San Francisco 49ers

The Raiders make a franchise-altering move and trade up to draft the fourth and final quarterback taken in the first round, the Heisman runner up and polarizing Penix Jr.

32. Kansas City Chiefs: Xavier Worthy, WR, Texas

Worthy, the fastest man on planet Earth, finds himself in an absolutely perfect situation in Kansas City. Shades of Patrick Mahomes to Tyreek Hill.

What player do you hope the Steelers target in Round 1 of the NFL Draft? Let us know in the comments section below!

An alternative draft strategy for the Steelers to fill the need at Center

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Quantity may be better than quality

With less than a week before the draft kicks off on Thursday, April 25 at 8 p.m. ET, the Steelers are still lacking a proven starter at the center position unless the answer lies hidden beneath a backroom tarp in the form of guard James Daniels sliding over to a position he hasn’t played in years, backup journeyman Nate Herbig making a substantial career leap, or the completion of a covert mission to turn 2023 7th-round pick Spencer Anderson into a pro-caliber snapper.

It’s worth noting that Hall of Famers Mike Webster and Dermonti Dawson both started their NFL careers at guard before sliding over. Jeff Hartings spent five seasons at guard for the Detroit Lions before becoming an All-Pro center for the Steelers. The possibility of Daniels moving over isn’t far-fetched, but moving him from guard isn’t the plan according to Omar Khan.

“He’s had some position flexibility, but James had a good season at guard, and we were really encouraged by that,” Khan said. “We think he got better every week.”

Another option would be signing free agent Connor Williams (another guard who moved over to play center at a high level), but he suffered a torn ACL in December and may not be ready to start the season. It’s almost a sure thing that the Steelers will be drafting a center in the next seven days.

Why did I say “almost” a sure thing they would be drafting a center? Because there are decent reasons to support drafting more than one. It’s often said that if you have two potential starting quarterbacks then you don’t have any, meaning that if one hasn’t proven to be clearly superior at this most-unique position in sports then it’s unlikely he would be able to handle the job well.

Center is a bit different as it pertains to this year’s draft class in particular. It is loaded with guys who have played multiple positions along the offensive line and drafting more than one of them could bring out a competition where the runner-up holds value as the next solid young starter at right guard, left guard, or even right tackle. Another reason to look at drafting multiple centers is that James Daniels and Nate Herbig are both free agents after 2024, and fellow guard Isaac Seumalo after 2025. Planning for the future should always be a consideration.

I would also endorse a draft of multiple centers because, based on the overall draft ranking according to NFL Mock Draft Database, I have questions about all of the top guys.

Concerns about all of the Center prospects

Graham Barton (No.26) spent the last two seasons playing left tackle after six games at center as a freshman. The move to tackle was based on team needs and his abilities, but that still leaves a long gap and a lack of ideal experience at center.

Jackson Powers-Johnson (No. 29) had only four starts, none at center, before 2023. In 2023, he won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center. That’s quite an honor, but the schedule Oregon played leads me to wonder if he is really that good. He may have measurables and technique that show better than the others, but you have to look all the way down to prospect No. 385 to find an interior defensive lineman in this year’s draft who Powers-Johnson faced. Perhaps his schedule was littered with defensive line studs who are too young to be draft-eligible, but the Pac-12 conference isn’t exactly known for defense or defensive big uglies. Powers-Johnson had to withdraw from the Senior Bowl after just two practices due to a hamstring issue, preventing a full look at how he stacks up against the best in the nation.

Zach Frazier (No. 45) had nine starts at guard for West Virginia before 37 at center. Frazier suffered a broken leg and has been limited in how well he could show physically at the combine and his Pro Day.

Sedrick Van Pran (No. 103) has 44 starts at center over the last three seasons, part of a national championship team twice. There’s no question about the caliber of the defensive linemen he has faced. I feel he is a victim of recency bias. He was considered a top center prospect last year before deciding to return to Georgia. His final collegiate season didn’t build on the foundation set during the previous two campaigns, it merely maintained its already high quality. His draft profile notes short arms, but he’s been mauling with the best college players for years and has done so at a high level. The Steelers definitely like blockers from Georgia with the drafting of Broderick Jones and Darnell Washington last year plus the pre-draft attention paid Amarius Mims this year.

Beau Limmer (No.126) is another guy who made the move from guard to center at Arkansas for just one season.

Mason McCormick (No. 137) is getting some buzz as a center after playing exclusively at guard for South Dakota State.

Tanner Bortolini (No. 139) has versatility you can appreciate. As his college career progressed for Wisconsin, he moved through center, right tackle, and guard before spending his senior year back at center.

Hunter Nourzad (No. 175) has that versatility too. At Cornell he had 20 starts at right tackle, followed by a transfer to Penn State where he saw eight at guard and finishing with 13 at center.

Also worth mentioning is that according to NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah says that at least one team views Washington tackle Troy Fautanu (No. 19) as the top prospect at center.

“I know one team feels like he could be the best center in the draft,” Jeremiah said. “So, he’s a legit five-position guy.”

How to address the hole at Center

A feeling shared by most Steeler fans is that there are currently more holes on the roster than there are high draft picks to fill them. Center and wide receiver are the most glaring ahead of some order of tackle, cornerback, defensive line, and inside linebacker.

The Steelers could find themselves at pick No.20 facing a draft board without a prospect who can be an immediate starter at their biggest positions of need (Keep in mind that even with a great draft class in 2023, none of the rookies cracked the starting lineup early on). If that is the case, I would embrace the opportunity to trade back.

There have been enough first-round pick trades in recent years that I am confident these opportunities will exist. It may require accepting less than the draft pick trade charts show as fair compensation, much like New England did last year when they slid back three spots from No. 14 to No. 17 and received the Steelers’ fourth-round pick when the charts showed a third-rounder would have been closer to fair compensation. As an example, a move back from No. 20 with the Chiefs to No. 32 should garner the Chiefs’ 2nd-round pick. A lower-valued compensation package would be No. 32 and the Chiefs’ third, fifth, and 2025 third.

With a trade such as that it’s not unreasonable to envision the Steelers using No. 32 to draft Barton if he falls six spots from the NFL Mock Draft Database ranking, or “over-drafting” Frazier if Barton and JPJ are gone. They could then double-dip by snagging Limmer, Bortolini, McCormick, or Nourzad in the fourth or fifth round to give themselves two chances at a rookie center taking charge and a solid future guard option as well while leaving plenty of high draft picks to address other needs.

The Steelers currently have four picks in the top three rounds. If a small trade-back scenario materializes to give them an extra pick before the fifth round, it could be well-utilized to draft two center prospects instead of one, without hurting the ability to address the other needs of the team. With the impending potential departures of three veteran guards, this can have the added benefit of tackling a future need before it becomes urgent. Honestly, I would like to see two centers drafted AND a signing of free agent Connor Williams, preventing a black hole at guard while addressing the current one at center.

Don’t expect the Steelers to trade for Tyler Lockett

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A reunion with Russell Wilson is unlikely

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a hole at the wide receiver position. However, a trade must make sense for both sides in a deal from the perspective of the teams involved. There are no friends or favors when it comes to trade negotiations, and a negative cap hit by the team trading a player usually happens when a player forces their way out, or as Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin once said we’ll tolerate you until we can replace you. As the latest name to Pittsburgh via trade, here are the reasons why Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett is not coming to the Steelers via trade ahead of the 2024 NFL Draft.

Seahawks Salary Cap Situation

According to www.sportrac.com, the team has $20,201,962.00 in available cap space at this moment. As of right now, they are carrying seventy-seven players on their active roster. They will look to add another thirteen players to their roster before training camp. Most of them will probably come in the form of draft selections during the 2024 NFL Draft, as well as their undrafted free-agent class.

They will need an estimated $8,408,793.00 in order to sign their 2024 rookie class. They may want to carry some additional money to account for in-season expenses such as replacing a starter or depth player lost due to a season-ending injury. So let’s say that number is $4,000,000.00, both of those amounts you should subtract from their available salary cap number. That would set their estimated available salary cap at $7,793,169.00. According to www.overthecap.com the Seahawks if they traded Lockett to the Steelers before June 1, 2024, would incur a cap hit of roughly ($8,000,000).

That would leave them over the NFL salary cap by ($206,831.00). There would need to restructure several players before trading Lockett away, to accommodate the cap hit. The Steelers would have to make a pretty attractive trade compensation offer to the Seahawks to make them interested in agreeing to a trade. The Steelers would be taking on an estimated $10,089,821.00 in salary from his current deal with the Seahawks against their estimated available salary cap space of $11,139,353.00. The team would have to restructure the contract of outside linebacker Alex Highsmith to give themselves additional flexibility.

Lockett the player

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Tyler Lockett from merely a size comparison has a very similar profile to former Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson. But, Lockett will turn 32 in September, which raises the question would whether the Steelers want to have such a significant investment in an older player who wasn’t drafted by them, at a position where the draft has pretty good depth. The Seahawks essentially drafted his replacement in the 2023 NFL Draft when they selected receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

Lockett isn’t going to break many tackles, and he averaged under three yards after the catch in 2023. That was the lowest mark of his career, when you look at his 2022 stats in that area could he be starting to fall off a bit? He was also charged with dropping five passes last season as well. Both of these are areas in which the Steelers will be looking for improvement from their wide receivers not more of the same.

When comparing Lockett vs Johnson from last season Johnson averaged 14.1 yards per reception to Lockett’s 11.3 yards per reception. However, Lockett was able to snag 79 receptions to Johnson’s 51 receptions as the Seahawks had a capable starting quarterback in Geno Smith vs the Steelers who had Kenny Pickett. Lockett looks as if he would be an adequate replacement for Johnson but Lockett’s age is a bit of a concern.

What a trade would probably look like

The Steelers would probably offer a trade similar to the trade between the Chicago Bears and the Los Angeles Chargers for wide receiver Keenan Allen. The Steelers would be sending their fourth-round selection in 2024 pick 119 to the Seahawks for Lockett. That as well as Lockett’s salary due him for the next two seasons make it somewhat cost-prohibitive for the Steelers.

The Steelers would probably be wise to see what they can get in the draft, and if they still fill the need to add a receiver, and if that is Lockett then it may be better to wait until after June 1, 2024. The Seahawks would save $5,000,000.00 against the salary cap by trading him then.

Teams Viewing Steelers As Most Likely To Trade For WR?

Known more for drafting and developing wide receivers — often from Day 2 — than trading for them, the Steelers have produced an impressive track record on this front. Over the past 15 years, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson and George Pickens have enjoyed varying levels of success with the team despite coming off the board after Round 1.

It is arguable no team has strung together a run of homegrown WR talent like this in the modern game, but rumblings continue to emerge about the Steelers being ready to pull the trigger on a trade. A report earlier this week indicated the team had inquired about Brandon Aiyuk and was interested in trading for a wideout, and the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora submits another offering in this direction.

Rival execs view the Steelers as the team potentially the most motivated to acquire a receiver via trade. While a Tee Higgins move will not happen — unlikely to be moved, Higgins definitely would not be dealt within the division — teams certainly are monitoring the 49ers regarding an Aiyuk swap.

Although Sean Payton and Broncos GM George Paton said (via the Denver Gazette’s Chris Tomasson) he has spoken with Courtland Sutton recently, the 6-foot-4 wideout showed by far the most chemistry with Russell Wilson last season. The team currently employing Wilson may be interested in reuniting the two, as Sutton is staying away from Broncos workouts in hopes of a new contract.

The Broncos nearly traded Sutton to the Ravens last year, and after their Jerry Jeudy asking price dropped drastically (from a first-rounder to accepting fifth- and sixth-rounders from the Browns), Sutton probably will not cost a second-round pick — Denver’s hope in 2023 — entering his age-29 season. Aiyuk will be more difficult to acquire, and it is worth wondering if the Steelers would pull the trigger, given the fifth-year wideout’s extension price and the AFC North franchise’s success finding receivers in the draft.

This draft is set to produce yet another deep receiver crop, which stands to lower prices in trades. But the Steelers may need more than one starter. Dealing Johnson to Carolina in a deal that brought back cornerback Donte Jackson, Pittsburgh has little surrounding Pickens presently. A slot player and a second boundary option would stand to be in play for the Steelers. The 6-foot-4 Sutton (signed through 2025 on a $15MM-per-year deal) made some of last season’s best catches, working as a deep threat and red zone target (10 2023 TDs) for Wilson. The 6-foot Aiyuk, who is tied to a fifth-year option worth $14.1MM, has displayed a bit more versatility in Kyle Shanahan‘s system.

If the Steelers are to execute a trade, they could devote more draft resources to other positions. Pittsburgh is targeting help at center and tackle, with The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly indicating a right tackle addition is on the team’s radar (subscription required). They hosted 11 O-linemen on “30” visits, including Georgia’s Amarius Mims, Oklahoma’s Tyler Guyton, Oregon State’s Taliese Fuaga along with interior O-lineman Graham Barton (Duke), Jackson Powers-Johnson (Oregon) and Zach Frazier (West Virginia), Kaboly adds. They also met with Washington O-lineman Troy Fautanu. Daniel Jeremiah’s big board lists each of these players as top-30 talents; the Steelers pick at No. 20.

The Steelers, who cut two-year center starter Mason Cole, look to be considering moving 2023 first-rounder Broderick Jones — their primary right tackle to close the season — to the left side, where he primarily played in college. That would leave three-year LT starter Dan Moore Jr. in limbo. Pro Football Focus has not been a Moore fan, but the former fourth-round pick — who is going into a contract year — has started 49 career games. After the team drafted Jones to step in for Chukwuma Okorafor, the latter is now with the Patriots. A tackle move — one that may be definitively in the Steelers’ Round 1 plans, as this is a deep class — would stand to give Jones a long-term bookend.

Pittsburgh’s Jackson trade aside, a cornerback will also be targeted — just likely not in Round 1 — according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac. Jackson is in a contract year, while the team cut Patrick Peterson. Mike Tomlin said a Peterson reunion will be considered, but the likely Hall of Famer is going into his age-34 season.

Dulac adds the Steelers also like Missouri defensive lineman Darius Robinson, whom the Tigers used across the formation. Ranked 39th on Jeremiah’s big board, the 285-pound defender might not be available for Pittsburgh without a second-round trade-up. The Steelers hold the No. 51 overall pick. In fact, ProFootballNetwork.com’s Adam Caplan notes Robinson is expected to be off the board at some point late in the first round. The Steelers have Cameron Heyward under contract for one more season, his age-35 campaign.

Peter Schrager has Steelers taking receiver in first round

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Steelers stay put at 20 and take star LSU receiver

The mass consensus is that the Steelers will be taking an offensive lineman in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft, with Duke’s Graham Barton and Georgia’s Amarius Mims being the two names atop the board.

That said, Good Morning Football host Peter Schrager released his latest mock draft, and has the Steelers taking LSU wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr. with the No. 20 pick.

“I’m still keeping an eye on Steelers GM Omar Khan to make a splash at wide receiver this offseason,” Schrager wrote. “Could that be a trade for Brandon Aiyuk? If not, Thomas is a special talent who helped himself at the combine as much as any player at the position.”

Should the Steelers take Thomas, or any receiver for that matter, in the first round, could we see them use the No. 51 pick and one of their two third round picks to move up and try to get someone like Zach Frazier out of West Virginia? Or maybe they take Blake Fisher out of Notre Dame and Sedrick Van Pran out of Georgia in the third round. There is a variety of options, and we have less than a week to wait and find out.

3 teams that the Steelers could trade back with in the NFL Draft

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If the Steelers are looking to trade back, they will have multiple potential partners

The Pittsburgh Steelers currently hold the No. 20 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, and could go several ways with whom they take at that spot.

With needs at center, tackle, wide receiver, and cornerback, Pittsburgh will have their options. However, there is a world where they don’t love the hand they are dealt and look to make a deal of their own by moving down in the first round. Should that be the case, they will have multiple potential dance partners.

Detroit Lions

The Lions added D.J. Reader to their defensive line this offseason, and may look to add one more big playmaker in the middle of that unit. Should Johnny Newton of Illinois be there at No. 20 and the Steelers not loving their options, or thinking they can move back and still get the guy they want, a trade could be executed. The Lions have the No. 29 pick in the first round, as well as the No. 61, 73, and 92 picks in the top 100. If Detroit were to offer 29 and 73, that would benefit both sides.

San Francisco 49ers

In the case of a potential Brandon Aiyuk trade, a pick swap in the first round could be part of a potential deal. Moving down to No. 31 from No. 20, as well as giving up their second round pick in this year’s draft and a third in 2025 is a deal I could see happening, which would benefit the 49ers. They get to move up and take a receiver to try and fill the hole that Aiyuk will leave as well as acquire an additional second-round pick, and the Steelers keep a first-round pick and get a massive difference-maker at receiver that they can lock up for the foreseeable future.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills are another team to keep an eye on when it comes to a potential trade for Aiyuk. They currently have no legitimate boundary receivers after trading Stefon Diggs. If they don’t make a blockbuster move, though, and someone like Brian Thomas is on the board, they could call the Steelers to move up eight spots from No. 28 to No. 20. Buffalo doesn’t have a third-round pick in 2024, though, so it would be interesting to see what they would offer. No. 60 in round two is on the table, but would they give that up to move eight spots? Would picks 128 and/or 133 be enough to persuade the Steelers? Or maybe future picks in the 2025 NFL Draft would do the trick. Either way, the Bills are a team to keep an eye on.

SB Nation NFL Mock Draft: Steelers walk away with OT Olu Fashanu after stunning fall to pick 20

Penn State Nittany Lions offensive lineman Olumuyiwa Fashanu (74) blocks during a college football game against the Michigan Wolverines on November 11, 2023 at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pennsylvania.
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The Steelers stood pat at No. 20 and walked away with a blue-chip prospect. 

After disastrous 2023 campaigns from left tackle Dan Moore Jr. and center Mason Cole, rebuilding the offensive line was always bound to be a priority for the Steelers in the offseason. Omar Khan & Co. were patient in their pursuit, and it paid off, snagging the consensus OT3 in this class with the 20th overall pick – Olumuyiwa ”Olu” Fashanu of Penn State.

How he fell as far as he did in the annual SB Nation mock draft remains a mystery. Fashanu was the fifth tackle off the board in this exercise, falling behind Joe Alt, Taliese Fuaga, J.C. Latham and Troy Fautanu.

Though he has absurdly small hands at 8 ½” (perhaps a trait the Steelers look for at pick No. 20?) and struggled on the big stage against Ohio State last season, allowing six of his 10 total pressures all season in that game, there’s not much to not like about Fashanu and what he’ll immediately offer in terms of pass protection starting Day 1 for his new quarterback.

Measuring in at 6’6” and 312 pounds at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine, Fashanu did plenty to showcase he’s got plenty of athleticism to match the tape, boasting a 5.11-second 40-yard dash (79th percentile for OT), a 32” vert (88th) and 109” broad jump (79th). With that athleticism comes plenty of explosion on tape, with plenty of power and a quickness out of his stance that has made him one of the most effective pass blockers in the NCAA. Per PFF, Fashanu didn’t allow a single sack throughout his collegiate career, earning an 89.2 pass-blocking grade over the past two seasons which ranked second among all tackles.

Where Fashanu will need to grow at the next level (and quickly, considering Arthur Smith’s run-heavy scheme) is in his ability as a run blocker. As NFL draft analyst Dane Brugler notes in his annual draft guide, The Beast, “[Fashanu] shows much better balance in reverse rather than moving forward.” However, there’s no question that the physical power is there to improve in this regard.

Worth noting is the fact that Fashanu is as true a career left tackle as you can find, having played primarily left tackle in high school before going on to play 100% of his snaps at left tackle during his time at Penn State. If Fashanu did fall to the Steelers, it seems likely that he’d stick at left tackle and they’d keep Broderick Jones on the right, even if that’s not his natural spot on the line. They’d have the whole offseason to figure out if that’s the right course, however, with plenty of time to see how the line performs depending on where they’ve lined up. Regardless of where he’s lined up, the Steelers would have found themselves some major value with the pick.

DraftKings Sportsbook has odds installed at -330 that the first position drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers will be an offensive lineman, followed by wide receiver at +350 and cornerback +600 as the three most heavily favored positions — understandably, considering where their greatest needs currently stand.

Unfortunately for fans who liked the pick in this mock draft, DraftKings pegs it as an unlikely outcome that Fashanu falls to the Steelers at pick No. 20. The over/under on Fashanu’s draft position currently set at 14.5, with odds heavily favoring the UNDER at -205. Odds that he falls to pick 15 (or beyond) are installed at +165.

Terrible Towel Tales: Ryan Clark thinks Justin Fields will eventually be Steelers’ starter

Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers
Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

Steelers news and commentary from Thursday, April 18th

Welcome to the Terrible Towel Tales, where we’ll highlight some of the latest stories permeating Steelers media for your reading pleasure every Monday through Saturday. In today’s news…

Former Steelers Player Predicts QB Change | Stephen Thompson, All Steelers

Former Steelers defensive back Ryan Clark is one of those who believes that backup Justin Fields can and will eventually push starter Russell Wilson for playing time because the younger Fields can push Pittsburgh’s ceiling even higher. Clark also shared some doubts about how far he believes Wilson can carry this team.

“I just think that eventually Justin Fields is going to get his opportunity to play, get his opportunity to start,” Clark said during an appearance on the All Things Covered podcast. “How long can Russell Wilson be the answer? They’re going to have to figure out who their quarterback of the future is, and Justin Fields being that answer solves a lot of problems. But you won’t know that he’s that answer if you shackle yourself to a ‘good enough’ Russell Wilson.”

Former NFL Scout Believes Steelers Should Have Fired Mike Tomlin | Nick Farabaugh, Steelers Now

Speaking on his podcast, Three and Out, John Middlekauff believes that Pittsburgh made the wrong decision in keeping Tomlin and thinks they will hover around the same mark they have been at for the past half-decade.

“I thought they should’ve moved on from Tomlin last year,” Middlekauff said. “Like I said, it’s time for a new start… I think the Steelers are in a little bit of trouble. They’re not going to be terrible, but I kinda view them in the same range they’ve been in.”

Steelers Could Leave Pitt Behind With New Facility | Dominic Campbell, Inside The Panthers

Still, it is likely that if the Steelers choose to build a new practice facility, they would do so without Pitt involved, according to the Post-Gazette’s Ray Fittapaldo.

He also suggested that Pitt needs to move closer to their campus, despite the facility residing less than two miles from the Cathedral of Learning in the Oakland area of the city, plus a lack of land on campus for what the football team needs.

5 takeaways from the Steelers’ pre-draft visits

Georgia Bulldogs offensive lineman Amarius Mims (65) during the Georgia Bulldogs game versus the TCU Horned Frogs in the College Football Playoff National Championship game on January 9, 2023, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA.
Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Predicting the Steelers’ draft strategy based on their top-30 visits.

The Steelers’ 2024 pre-draft visits were finalized on Wednesday, leaving them with a total of 36 reported meetings between their top-30 quota and local visits. You can view BTSC’s pre-draft visit tracker for the full list of players (as well as linked draft profiles), but for the sake of this article, here’s the tally by position (offensive line positions are projected):

Offensive tackle: 8
Cornerback: 7
Wide receiver: 7
Defensive line: 6
Center: 5
Linebacker: 2
Guard: 1

Although not official visits, it’s also worth noting that the Steelers have shown some pre-draft interest in players such as Alabama cornerbacks Terrion Arnold and Kool-Aid McKinstry, offensive tackle J.C. Latham, Georgia wide receiver Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint, and Duke defensive back Al Blades Jr., among others. Top-30 visits are important, but they’re not the only sign of draft interest by a team. Still, five of the Steelers’ 2023 pre-draft visits did end up on Pittsburgh’s roster last season.

With the context out of the way, let’s dive into the takeaways:

1. The Steelers and the fans see the same draft needs

In years past, there’s seemingly been a disconnect between the positions the Steelers are prioritizing in the upcoming draft and what the fans want. This year, it’s a little different. If you ask a fan what the team’s top needs are, you’ll hear some order of offensive line, cornerback, wide receiver, and defensive line. If you look at the Steelers’ pre-draft visits, you’ll see all but two are devoted to those positions.

While there will be disagreements regarding the team’s hierarchy of needs (as well as how the draft falls), there’s no reason not to expect the Steelers to spend the vast majority of their picks on those positions. For once, everyone seems to be on the same page.

2. A double-dip at cornerback could be coming

Early in the offseason, there was a lot of talk regarding the Steelers potentially picking two wide receivers in the upcoming draft. However, with the free agent signings of Van Jefferson and Quez Watkins, the Steelers seem to have filled out the bottom of the receiver room and seem to be content with letting a mid-round pick or free agent/trade candidate fill the remaining spot on the depth chart.

On the other hand, the Steelers lost nearly all of their cornerback depth in free agency, and besides the trade for Donte Jackson, they haven’t made much of an effort to replenish the depth. With seven pre-draft visits at the position (tied for second-most), and a wide range of players met with — early, middle, and late-round prospects, slot and boundary skillsets — the team seems poised to draft two cornerbacks at some point in the upcoming draft.

3. The Steelers don’t have a type at wide receiver

We’ve heard nonstop this offseason about the Arthur Smith offense and his preferred genre of wide receiver: big, fast boundary weapons in the A.J. Brown mold. However, the Steelers’ pre-draft visits have shown the team has an interest in a wide variety of play styles. There are some who fit the description, like Texas’ Adonai Mitchell and South Carolina’s Xavier Legette, but there’s also some of smaller, shifty types like Florida’s Ricky Pearsall and USC’s Tahj Washington, as well as a stocky slot weapon in WKU’s Malachi Corley.

Furthermore, the Steelers’ aforementioned free agent wideout pickups in Jefferson and Watkins show that the team isn’t as attached to the idea of “Arthur Smith wide receivers” as many believe. Expect Pittsburgh to focus more on talent than scheme fit at wide receiver in the upcoming draft.

4. Linebacker could be a sneaky draft need

We’ve already established the big four draft needs: offensive line, cornerback, wide receiver, and defensive line. More accurately, it’s five if you separate offensive tackle and center. However, with seven total picks in the upcoming draft, the Steelers could be drafting another position, even if they double-dip at wide receiver or corner.

If that’s the case, expect that sixth position to be linebacker. Despite the big-name free agent signing of Patrick Queen, the Steelers still have some question marks at linebacker, and their only two draft visits that weren’t linemen, receivers, or corners were spent at at the position, with Michigan’s Junior Colson and NC State’s Payton Wilson meeting with the team. Even more surprising? Neither player is a projected late-round pick, meaning the Steelers could potentially address inside linebacker sometime on Day 2 or early Day 3.

5. The Steelers’ top priority is improving at offensive tackle

Pittsburgh has shown some pre-draft interest in projected first-rounders at defensive line, cornerback, wide receiver, and even center. But the vast majority of their visits with early-round prospects have been spent at offensive tackle: Taliese Fuaga, Troy Fautanu, Tyler Guyton, Blake Fisher, and Amarius Mims. Pittsburgh has shown some interest in just about every tackle who could be available at pick No. 20. While the Steelers could go a number of directions with their first round pick depending on how the board falls, it seems clear that the team’s top priority is at offensive tackle.

Another observation? All the prospects mentioned above project best at right tackle in the NFL (perhaps with the exception of Fautanu), as do the majority of the late-round tackle prospects the Steelers have scouted. While part of it is due to left tackles generally being selected higher than Pittsburgh’s draft range, it does seem to indicate that the Steelers plan on moving Broderick Jones back to left tackle in the 2024 season.

What trends have you noticed in the Steelers’ pre-draft visits? Let us know in the comment section below!