The 2016 draft is over and the Steelers, expectedly, went heavy on the defensive side of the ball with five of their seven picks going to report up to defensive coordinator Keith Butler. It was apparent the Steelers needed help on that side of the ball and needed to fill some holes in order to solidify their aspirations of being a legit Super Bowl contender.
Here are their picks in order and my quick take on each.
Artie Burns, CB, Miami: The black and gold absolutely needed a cornerback in the first round and they finally got one. While I’m pretty certain they would have preferred William Jackson III, who was picked one pick earlier by rival Cincinnati, Burns is a good pick.
The Steelers see him as a high character guy with a lot of physical talent. He led the ACC in interceptions last season with six and has the ability to make big plays. That all said, he’s a bit of a project and don’t expect him to step in and be covering AJ Green on day one. He’ll have an impact in 2016 but don’t expect him to reach his full potential for a few seasons.
Sean Davis, S, Maryland: The Steelers again addressed their weakest unit, the secondary, when they selected Sean Davis, safety, out of Maryland. Davis can play both corner and safety and has great ability to cover tight ends across the middle, something that has been lacking on this team for a while. He’ll be a candidate to start at Strong Safety next season, which may come with growing pains but can pay off dividends in the long run.
Javon Hargrave, DT, South Carolina State: Again the Steelers saw a need and again they filled it. Many are calling Hargrave the black and golds best pick. Hargrave is a run stuffer who can also rush the passer. He’ll become the starter very early into next season if not out of the gates. He’s big, versatile and football intelligent. While it may be rare for the Steelers to start multiple, if any, rookies, they have a chance to see their first three picks start and play a heavy roll this season.
Jerald Hawkins, OT, LSU: The Steelers like drafting offensive lineman and this draft was no different as they snagged Jerald Hawkins out of LSU. Hawkins was a multi year starter in the big time SEC. It’s not likely Hawkins will turn into a starter in the NFL but he’ll be a quality backup and you can never have too many guys up front to protect the skill position players. I like the pick here and there are even some pundits who will tell you that Hawkins was “day 2” quality so it’s possible this pick is considered a steal. There may have been other options here on the defensive side of the ball but overall, good pick and certainly good value for the fourth round.
Travis Feeney, OLB, Washington: Just like offensive line, linebacker is a position the Steelers always draft. In the sixth round they may have stolen pass rusher Travis Feeney. He runs a 4.5 40 and has a 40 inch vertical. He’s made the transition from safety to linebacker so he has the understanding of all aspects of the defense and he’s a hard hitter, something the Steelers and their fans, always like. He has a lot of upside and again many say this guy has round two or three abilities.
Demarcus Ayers, WR, Houston: The Steelers obviously lost Martavis Bryant for the season so many will think this pick is to fill that hole and in part, it may be. There seems to be some opportunity for a special teams player here but in all likelihood I don’t see Ayers making the team. He could be a guy who gets on the practice squad and helps the team prep during the week. I think the team had better opportunities here, another corner even, might have been smarter.
Tyler Matakevech, ILB, Temple: The black and gold concluded the draft by picking up one more linebacker. Matkavech was a very productive player in college but he’s not a big, fast or strong player, according to many ‘experts’ so his odds of making the team are slim. He could contend for a practice squad spot but I don’t see anything beyond that. That said, he was a decent pick in this spot.
This draft looks good right now as the Steelers certainly addressed several needs. It will truly take a few years to find out how successful this weekend was but for now, you have to like what appears to be a high ceiling for this class.