“Everything always seems rosy and grand when immediately evaluating how a team performs in the NFL Draft.” That’s how Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette opened his May 2, 2021 column, in which he evaluated the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 draft, an effort that produced running back Najee Harris and tight end Pat Freiermuth, among others.
This year, Dulac’s Steelers draft report card sounded an entirely different tone.
“It remains to be seen if the selection of Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett with the No. 1 pick (No. 20 overall) was the right decision by the Steelers,” he began, before proceeding to question the pick, as well as most of the other choices that general manager Kevin Colbert & Co. made this past weekend.
“Part of the issue is whether the Steelers – a 9-7-1 team that had yet another embarrassing first-round playoff exit – really needed a quarterback to make them better in 2022 when they already made a move in free agency to sign Mitch Trubisky to challenge Mason Rudolph?” mused Dulac.
Never mind a quarterback from this draft class, a group seen as so talent deficient that a second QB didn’t come off the board until the third round, when the Atlanta Falcons took Desmond Ridder No. 74 overall.
Dulac goes on to claim that Pickett’s arrival puts both Trubisky and Rudolph “in an awkward, tenuous position,” as both will be looking over their shoulder, at least until Rudolph is traded, something he expects to happen prior to the start of the season.
The Steelers Could Have, Should Have Traded Down?
While Dulac is willing to concede that “Pickett might prove to be the type of quarterback who merited a first-round selection,” he makes a good point when he notes that the Steelers likely could have “traded down and still drafted him because none of the next 11 teams had any interest in taking a quarterback with their top pick. That would have allowed the Steelers to possibly move up in the second or third round to get one of the defensive linemen they really wanted; or even land a couple more draft choices.”
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Dulac’s Overall Grade for Pittsburgh’s Draft? A ‘C’
As for the rest of the Steelers’ 2022 draft, Dulac gives ‘A’ grades for the decisions to select wide receivers George Pickens and Calvin Austin III —in the second and fourth rounds, respectively — with the latter having already been labeled the ‘Biggest Day 3 steal’ by Pro Football Focus. But everyone else — aside from Pickett, who receives a ‘B’ grade — gets a ‘C’ or lower, including South Dakota State quarterback Chris Oladokun, who was picked No. 241 overall.
“Once the Steelers drafted a quarterback, they didn’t need to take another,” lamented Dulac, who also takes issue with the decision to select Cam Heyward’s brother, Connor Heyward, who projects as a tight end — or perhaps, a fullback.
“There aren’t many, if any, NFL tight ends under 6 feet tall. In fact, the average size of an NFL tight end is 6-foot-4, 254 pounds,” notes Dulac.
But the real problem, he says, is that the Steelers already have a player who does what they hope Connor Heyward will be able to do — a reference to fullback Derek Watt, the brother of All-Pro outside linebacker/reigning AP Defensive Player of the Year, T.J. Watt.
Worse yet, because Derek and Connor are ostensibly competing for the same job, head coach Mike Tomlin may soon be in the position of having to release the brother of one of his two All-Pro players, Cam Heyward being the other.
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