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2021 NFL Draft: Pittsburgh Steelers select Jaelan Phillips

Bud Dupree, who?

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at UCLA Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have fallen on hard times. Of course, I say this a bit tongue and cheek. While they haven’t won a playoff game in four seasons, they aren’t deserving of anyone’s sympathy. They haven’t had a losing seasons since 2003, so no one that can legally drive a car in Pittsburgh truly knows what “hard times” means for an NFL franchise.

That being said, the future is in limbo for the Steelers. It appears Ben Roethlisberger will stick around for another year or two, but there doesn’t appear to be a succession plan in place, and that may be true for general manager Kevin Colbert, who may or may not have come close to taking a job with the Detroit Lions.

For now, we’re kicking Colbert into early retirement for our Pride of Detroit Community Mock Draft, and replacing him with commenter nchantala. Before we get into nchantala’s pick, take a look at how the board is fallen by checking out POD Community Mock Draft Tracker with grades.

With the 24rd pick in the POD Community Mock, the Steelers have selected Miami/UCLA defensive end Jaelan Phillips.

Here’s nchantala explaining the pick:

It feels strange to say about a team that started last season with 11 straight wins, but there are major needs all over the Pittsburgh Steelers roster. Since the end of the 2020 season, they have lost center Maurkice Pouncey, defensive end Bud Dupree, offensive lineman Matt Feiler, tight end Vance McDonald, cornerback Mike Hilton, and defensive back Sean Davis. That does not include current free agents LT Alejandro Villanueva, RB James Conner, LB Avery Williamson, CB Steven Nelson (released), and LB Vince Williams (released). Aside from Sean Davis, the other 10 names mentioned were, at the very least, prominent role players.

Going into the 2021 NFL Draft, the only positions I feel aren’t an option in the first round are WR, DL, and S. With the Steelers picking 24th in the first round, I knew I wouldn’t be able to have my top choice at each of the positions of need but one of the worst case scenarios came to fruition in the first 23 picks.

A run at QB saw the consensus top five selected, a run of CBs saw the big three (Surtain, Horn, and Farley) selected, and worst of all, the run on offensive linemen saw an additional five selected prior to the Steelers’ selection.

Now, this left me with two positions of need, RB and edge. Najee Harris of Alabama gave me serious pause here but the value of a RB is not enough for the Steelers here.

That left one prominent need still on the board (Edge). Losing Bud Dupree and his 19.5 sacks in 27 games between 2019 and 2020 is huge for a team whose defense is predicated on getting after the QB (first or T-first in sacks each of the last four seasons). The good thing is, there seems to be a perfect replacement available at #24.

With the 24th pick, the Steelers select: Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, University of Miami.

Phillips is a top-15 talent in this class. At 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, he brings a physical presence off the edge with elite athleticism (9.90 RAS) and a blue-chip recruit past. In 20 career games, Phillips put up 86 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, and 12.5 sacks. The one concern is his medical history, which cannot be ignored but without the medical concerns, I believe he would be a consensus top-15 prospect on every draft board. Phillips would give the Steelers a player that can start at OLB Week 1 and who could grow into one of the best pass rushers in the AFC.

And for a tie to the Lions, he tested better than former fifth overall pick Ziggy Ansah in the 40, vertical, broad, 3-cone, and 20-yard shuttle.

Erik Schlitt’s thoughts:

The Steelers T.J. Watt is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, and if nchantala was looking to draft his clone, Phillips is as close to the the bullseye as there is in this class. The former 2017 high school No. 1 recruit in the country, Phillips plays with supreme athleticism and instincts for the edge position. He is an instant replacement for Dupree and great value at this spot. The concussion history is a concern—UCLA’s medical staff told him he may consider retirement—and likely a big reason he lands in the 20’s instead of the teens.

While the top three corners were off the board here, Greg Newsome II (Northwestern) would have also been a solid choice for the Steelers. But my sleeper pick at this spot is IOL Landon Dickerson (Alabama), who would step into the vacated center position very nicely.

Poll

What grade do you give this pick?

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  • 27%
    A
    (90 votes)
  • 31%
    B
    (105 votes)
  • 23%
    C
    (76 votes)
  • 9%
    D
    (31 votes)
  • 8%
    F
    (27 votes)
329 votes total Vote Now