One for the books: A Pittsburgh Draft

Recapping 2022 NFL Draft selections by the Pittsburgh Steelers

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Caleb Steindel, News Editor/Staff Writer

The 2022 NFL Draft was full of insanity: Unpredictable trades, stunning selections, and perplexing players chosen at odd times. While most draft years are highlighted by a handful of top-tier players who have unofficially solidified their spots well before the draft begins, no one had any clue how this one would play out. Case in point: only one quarterback was selected in the first round of this year’s draft. That’s entirely unprecedented, as there are typically several signal-callers taken early on. No doubt about it, this year’s draft was a weird one.

But now that the dust has settled, it’s time to take a look at the draft results of Pennsylvania’s best professional team: the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is a team that is coming off a semi-successful season that included a trip to the playoffs, but a blowout loss in the first round, as well. They’re both looking to make the jump to the next level, and fill voids left by recent departures.

Let’s break down the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 draft selections and their future potential.

 

THE PLAYER: ROUND 1, PICK 20: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

THE ANALYSIS: With no quarterbacks taken in the first 19 selections, Pittsburgh surprisingly had their pick of the litter for who they wanted to replace the recently retired, future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger. They decided to go with the hometown boy, a guy who seems to be the most NFL-ready of all the prospects. He might not have the upside of the other quarterbacks, but he’s a solid, smart guy who can start soon and will fit well into the Pittsburgh offense. If the Steelers can shore up their offensive line and protect him sufficiently, Pickett should be successful at the next level, especially given his impressive accuracy.

THE FORECAST: Pickett will likely sit a year behind the recently acquired Mitchell Trubisky, but expect him to slot in as the starter in 2023. Pittsburgh will be eager to see if their #1 pick can be the face of the franchise and their future superstar leader.

 

THE PLAYER: ROUND 2, PICK 52: George Pickens, WR, Georgia

THE ANALYSIS: Pittsburgh has a young receiving corps that can be dynamic and explosive, but the group is inexperienced and lacks depth, especially after losing JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Ray-Ray McCloud. Pickens fills one of their biggest offensive needs – a big, explosive wideout that can stretch the field opposite Chase Claypool. He’s got great hands and can track the ball downfield well. The Pickett/Pickens combo could be lethal in years to come.

THE FORECAST: Pickens should shift right into the Steelers’ starting lineup as a much-needed weapon, although he probably won’t be utilized much given the run-first offense and Trubisky’s deep passing limitations. But one can only imagine how effective George Pickens will be catching passes from Kenny Picket in the next few years.

 

THE PLAYER: ROUND 3, PICK 84: DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M

THE ANALYSIS: Conventional wisdom says that Pittsburgh doesn’t need much help on the defensive line. After all, they’ve been one of the best defenses over the past few years and they’ve led the league in sacks for five years in a row. But the fact of the matter is that the Pittsburgh defensive line is aging. Cam Hayward and Tyson Alualu, two of the current cornerstones, are in their early-to-mid 30’s. and Stephon Tuitt is 28. Leal is versatile, athletic, and can play both inside and outside, meaning that he can fit into a number of different defensive schemes. Leal is an underrated pick, and they were able to get him at an excellent value while filling two key offensive needs before him.

THE FORECAST: It will take a while for him to get acclimated, but with several veterans around to mentor him, it may only be a matter of time before he’s getting to opposing quarterbacks right alongside T.J. Watt.

 

THE PLAYER: ROUND 4, PICK 138: Calvin Austin III, WR, Memphis

THE ANALYSIS: This one makes less sense than the drafting of George Pickens since slot receiver wasn’t a particular need of theirs, but they did add receiver depth, which is still important. JuJu Smith-Schuster’s departure opened up a spot for Austin, and there is no question that he’s an incredible talent. He’s incredibly fast, can play outside as well as in the slot, and even though he’s a smaller build, Pittsburgh has plenty of big weapons already. Austin’s ceiling is high.

THE FORECAST: Austin may alternate with Diontae Johnson in the slot this year, but he’s far enough down the depth chart that he probably won’t be called upon much, especially in year 1. Of course, if his raw talent and ability shines through brightly enough, Tomlin will have no choice but to let him loose.

 

THE PLAYER: ROUND 6, PICK 208: Connor Heyward, HB/TE, Michigan State

THE ANALYSIS: My immediate reaction was to assume nepotism – Heyward is the brother of Pittsburgh DT Cameron Heyward, and the selection itself is relatively unsurprising. But, as ESPN.com says, Connor Heyward is truly a “Swiss army knife,” and he has the ability to play a number of different positions for Pittsburgh in a plethora of schemes. He’s a good player with untapped potential, and he’s definitely the wild card of the Steelers’ draft.

THE FORECAST: I’m not entirely sure how much he’ll get used early on, and there’s a chance he’s just used as a gadget player if he can’t play one position consistently.

 

THE PLAYER: ROUND 7, PICK 225: Mark Robinson, LB, Ole Miss

THE ANALYSIS: Probably the least NFL-ready of Pittsburgh’s picks, Robinson is primarily a depth piece to help shore up the linebacker corps. He’s a high-upside pick with low risk, given his late selection.

THE FORECAST: He won’t play much this year, and it will probably take him some time to develop.

 

THE PLAYER: ROUND 7, PICK 241: Chris Oladokun, QB, South Dakota

THE ANALYSIS: This was an odd selection, but the Steelers are seeking to bring in added competition for the third-string quarterback. Mason Rudolph might be on his way out, and the Steelers were likely looking for lottery picks this late in the game. Oladokun is mobile enough to be an intriguing backup prospect.

THE FORECAST: He might make the roster as a #3 quarterback, or at the very least a practice squad member. Don’t expect much else.