clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2021 NFL Mock Draft: Pittsburgh Steelers take a tackle

With the 24th overall pick in the 2021 Bleeding Green Nation community mock draft, Pittsburgh Steelers GM Gregnado selects ...

Texas v Oklahoma State Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas

The first run on a position is now in motion as three of the past four picks take the remaining projected round 1 offensive tackles. For the Steelers, this is a pick that will get a majority of their fans throwing their coleslaw-and-fry-filled sandwiches at me playing GM Kevin Colbert as both of the top RBs were still on the board. But this is the right pick.

Matt Canada was promoted to offensive coordinator this offseason to bring, as team President Art Rooney II said, the new offensive schemes you see around the league to the Steelers. The change to the Steelers should not be underestimated.

Based on Canada’s history, this means expect more movement of the pocket, pre-snap motion, outside zone runs, and a vertical passing game. The Steelers personnel does not fit that offense today and will need upgrades on the line and running back (and eventually QB but Ben is returning in 2021).

The Steelers rush (and pass) game issues are really OL issues

Despite starting 11-0 and being a playoff team in 2020, the Steelers have major offensive issues, losing four of their last five games and getting manhandled by the Browns in the first round. The Steelers ended the year near the bottom of the league in yards per play and percentage of drives that ended in a score. Their run game issues are well known:

  • Last in the league in total rushing yards
  • Last in yards per rushing attempt
  • 31st in rushing first downs
  • 29th in rushing TDs

Not as well understood are the issues with the passing game. On the surface, the Steelers appeared to have an efficient, high-frequency passing attack, ranking 15th in the league in passing yards per game, 7th in the league in pass scoring, Roethlisberger releasing the ball quicker than any other QB, and a league-low in sacks allowed.

Digging deeper, though, the weaknesses of their passing game become apparent as Ben had half his average number of deep ball attempts and was 3rd worst in the league in deep ball completion percentage. This resulted in a plodding passing attack that was 31st in the league in air yards before catch, only better than the Washington Football Team.

While there are other issues — no RB1, they need an eventual replacement for Ben, and offensive scheme — the offensive line is the underlying issue. The line neither consistently opened holes for the running backs nor gave Ben time to throw, leaving the Steelers OL near the bottom of the league in the stats that really matter:

  • 30th in rushing yards before contact
  • 28th in the league in OL pass block win rate (measured as how often blocks are held for at least 2.5 seconds)
  • 24th in the league in OL run block win rate

And the line is going to be worse in 2021...

Projected Steelers 2021 OL

The Steelers lost the entire left side of their line as their LT and highest-graded lineman Alejandro Villanueva is unlikely to return, long-time center Maurkice Pouncey retired in February, and guard Matt Feiler signed with the Chargers.

Below are the 2020 starters with their PFF grades and the projected changes for 2021. Personnel changes at four of the five positions and downgrades at C and LT should scare the Steelers who already had one of the worst lines in the NFL last year.

Guards: The Steelers feel good with their guards as Dotson showed promise as a rookie and DeCastro was dealing with an injury last year.

Center: Filling in behind the retired Pouncey is either JC Hassenauer or BJ Finney. Hassenauer was an absolute disaster last year and Finney is several years removed from a good season.

Tackles: Zach Banner is a fan favorite and won the starting RT position last year but tore his ACL in the first game. He will be 28 this season, has 3 starts in his career, and doesn’t have the foot quickness for LT. Okorafor was their 3rd round pick last year and skilled in size and potential but a developmental project. While the Steelers have publicly shown faith in their two tackles, there is no depth behind them and I am not sure if they have zero or one starting tackle.

What the Steelers are getting with Cosmi

Cosmi is generally viewed by scouts as OT4 or OT5 in the draft and is one of the few top prospects projected to be NFL LTs, along with Sewell, Slater, and Darrisaw. He should be a day one starter with great run blocking and even better pass blocking. Living in a zone blocking scheme at Texas, Cosmi will be a perfect fit for the offense that Matt Canada is bringing to the Steelers.

Strengths:

He has the build of an NFL LT and is one of the most athletic tackles in the draft:

  • Has the size and length for an NFL tackle at 6’6” and 314 pounds
  • One of the more experienced prospects with 34 starts at Texas, 21 at LT and 13 at RT, over 2,600 snaps and 1,500 in pass protection
  • Highly athletic tackle and effective in movement and at the second level, scoring a 9.99 RAS with elite speed and agility composite grades, ranking as the 3rd highest tackle score since 1987
  • And if you haven’t seen it already, he has this 12-yard catch-and-run TD gem against West Virginia that highlights his athleticism

He performed at Texas and continually improved each year:

  • Earned a PFF grade of 90.5 in 2020, up from 83.9 in 2019 and 79.7 in 2018, and an overall ranking as the 33rd top rated college player last year
  • One of only two tackles in the NCAA (with Darrisaw) over an 85 grade for both run and pass blocking
  • Allowed 1 pressure every 46 pass attempts, or an elite 2.2% of the time and he is the highest graded OT in pressure percentage allowed in straight dropbacks (one of the more important stats to project to the NFL)
  • 89.5 grade against Power 5 defenses and a 91.3 grade vs. ranked teams, both highest in this draft class, allaying concerns on the level of competition that Texas played against

Weaknesses:

The commonly cited areas in draft profiles for Cosmi to improve on are all things that can be improved with training and technique:

  • Needs to add strength to his lower frame to improve at the point of attack
  • Relies on his athleticism over technique at times
  • Given his height, plays too high at times and lets edge rushers get under his pads, can be susceptible to bull rushes

Clip highlights:

Good athleticism getting downfield blocking in front of a designed QB run

Showing violent hands against future NFL draft pick Rashard Lawrence and overall strength against pass rushers

Couple of popular clips showing the good and bad against K’Lavon Chaisson. This was Cosmi’s second game at LT in September 2019 as a sophomore against a round 1 selection. Cosmi won most battles that day and showed good agility and power, but also showed his issues in technique and lower strength at times.

Summary:

With Cosmi the Steelers are getting one of the draft’s most athletic and NFL-ready tackles and somebody that projects clearly as an NFL LT. Cosmi and Dotson immediately turn the left side of the Steelers line from a weakness to a strength.

Bonus content: Inside the Steelers (my) draft room

Entering this mock, the top of my board for the 24th pick included Christian Darrisaw, Cosmi, Landon Dickerson, and Creed Humphrey.

Most Steeler mocks take Najee or Etienne which is a mistake. First, no back is going to succeed behind the projected 2021 OL. Second, left tackles are found in the 1st round while there are good RB options later. And third, the Steelers have long prided themselves on a great OL but have not invested in it – over the past 8 years, the Steelers have drafted five linemen, using a 3rd, two 4ths, a 5th, and a 7th round pick in that span and the results show.

While the Bleeding Green Nation draft is only the first round, my strategy for the Steelers draft would be to prioritize OT, RB, and C:

  • Draft a true, athletic LT in the 1st to be the long-term answer. As Darrisaw dropped past Washington, I got excited but knew IND would most likely take him. This, however, made it likely that my next target Cosmi would be there at 24 as he has been frequently linked to the Colts at 21. If the Titans or Jets took Cosmi, I would have moved to the other huge OL need and taken Landon Dickerson and then looked at OT later with Radunz or Little (although projection drops off fast after Cosmi and getting somebody that sticks at LT becomes unlikely).
  • Draft a versatile RB that can get to the outside and feature in the passing game. In the 2nd through 4th targets would be Michael Carter, Kenneth Gainwell, Trey Sermon, and Khalil Herbert.
  • Draft one of the top centers in the 2nd or 3rd to be the long-term answer in the middle of the line. Quinn Meinerz, Josh Myers, and Kendrick Green would be likely targets at 55 or 87.
  • Target their other needs including TE, CB, and EDGE later in the draft.

Do I believe this is what the Steelers will actually do on April 29th? No. I believe the Steelers will either go with one of the RBs to try to immediately improve the offense for one last playoff run with Ben or reach for their next franchise center at 24, which was my next choice if Cosmi was taken.

Poll

Do you approve of this pick?

This poll is closed

  • 77%
    Yes
    (180 votes)
  • 22%
    No
    (53 votes)
233 votes total Vote Now

2021 BGN Mock Draft Order

1) Jaguars (Phoenix X Minimus): QB Trevor Lawrence
2) Jets (eagles.north.of.the.border): QB Zach Wilson
3) 49ers (I Need a Username): QB Trey Lance
4) Falcons (chewy wellington): OT Penei Sewell
5) Bengals (Dr_Horrible): WR Ja’Marr Chase
6) Dolphins (20Safety_Hazard): TE Kyle Pitts
7) Lions (drc242): WR DeVonta Smith
8) Panthers (wildcatlh): QB Justin Fields
9) Broncos (ItownBallers22): CB Patrick Surtain II
10) Cowboys (Kephas): OT Rashawn Slater
11) Giants (Billmington): WR Jaylen Waddle
12) Eagles (ablesser88): CB Jaycee Horn
13) Chargers (Georgia_eagle): LB Micah Parsons
14) Vikings (Philliesandthebees): OT Alijah Vera-Tucker
15) Patriots (SakPrescott): QB Mac Jones
16) Cardinals (Carson Wentzs ACL): CB Greg Newsome II
17) Raiders (dshelton5): LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
18) Dolphins (J. Wil): DE Kwity Paye
19) Football Team (Negadelphia Norm): LB Nick Bolton
20) Bears (Happy24): CB Caleb Farley
21) Colts (Fly Like An Eagle): OT Christian Darrisaw
22) Titans (Friendly Neighborhood Philly Fan): LB Zaven Collins
23) Jets (Asap Stocky): OT Teven Jenkins
24) Steelers (Gregnado): OT Samuel Cosmi
25) Jaguars (“Snax”):
26) Browns (gerouxman1956):
27) Ravens (Brendanekstrom):
28) Saints (grantspectations):
29) Packers (Philly_Philly):
30) Bills (doublefry):
31) Chiefs (Leo Bedio):
32) Buccaneers (phuckdallas):


Now it’s time for you to vote for who YOU think should be selected in the 2021 BGN Community Consensus Mock Draft.

Poll

Who should the Pittsburgh Steelers draft at No. 24?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    RB Travis Etienne
    (54 votes)
  • 16%
    C Creed Humphrey
    (34 votes)
  • 21%
    C Landon Dickerson
    (44 votes)
  • 3%
    DE Azeez Ojulari
    (7 votes)
  • 1%
    DE Gregory Rousseau
    (4 votes)
  • 4%
    DE Jaelan Phillips
    (9 votes)
  • 0%
    DE Jayson Oweh
    (1 vote)
  • 10%
    OT Jalen Mayfield
    (22 votes)
  • 4%
    OT Liam Eichenberg
    (10 votes)
  • 10%
    OT Alex Leatherwood
    (21 votes)
206 votes total Vote Now

1) Jaguars: QB Trevor Lawrence
2) Jets: QB Zach Wilson:
3) 49ers: QB Justin Fields
4) Falcons: OT Penei Sewell
5) Bengals: WR Ja’Marr Chase
6) Dolphins: TE Kyle Pitts
7) Lions: WR DeVonta Smith
8) Panthers: OT Rashawn Slater
9) Broncos: QB Trey Lance
10) Cowboys: CB Patrick Surtain II
11) Giants: LB Micah Parsons
12) Eagles: WR Jaylen Waddle
13) Chargers: CB Jaycee Horn
14) Vikings: OT Alijah Vera-Tucker
15) Patriots: QB Mac Jones
16) Cardinals: CB Caleb Farley
17) Raiders: LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
18) Dolphins: RB Najee Harris
19) Football Team: OT Christian Darrisaw
20) Bears: OT Teven Jenkins
21) Colts: DE Kwity Paye
22) Titans: CB Greg Newsome II
23) Jets: OT Samuel Cosmi
24) Steelers: