Pittsburgh Steelers Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn – Round 3
The Steelers under general manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin have been superb at drafting receivers on the second day or mid-rounds and turning them into good pros. Pittsburgh has produced a string of them in Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. Coates is the latest in that line of players, and he has an excellent skill set for the Steelers to work with.

The 6-foot-1, 212-pound Coates was a vertical receiver for Auburn the past few years. He has the speed to beat defenders deep and can take the top off a defense. Coates is a threat to score on any reception. He needs to improve his hands and route-running though. Auburn’s spread rushing attack didn’t give Coates a lot of opportunities to catch passes or develop for the NFL. He is going to need some coaching up to become a good pro, but the Steelers have proven capable of doing that.

Pittsburgh also has a No. 1 receiver in Antonio Brown, who is going to draw the coverage his direction. That should help Coates to see plenty of good looks. To get a starting spot, Coates will have to beat out Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant. That seems feasible, and while Coates may never be the No. 1 receiver over Brown, Coates could easily turn into be a solid starter for the Steelers.

Most Likely To Bust

Senquez Golson, CB, Ole Miss – Round 2
It seemed like Steelers panicked in the second round when the Ravens jumped in front of the them to take Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams. Golson had a huge 2014 season in terms of interceptions, but he is a limited prospect who could easily not translate to the NFL. The Steelers were desperate to land cornerback help, but Golson was a reach in the second round.

Last fall, Golson was an interception machine for Ole Miss with 10 picks. It came out of nowhere as he didn’t have big production in the previous seasons and head coach Hugh Freeze had almost booted him off the team. While Golson has great ball skills, the 5-foot-8, 178-pounder is extremely undersized for the NFL. He will provide a size mismatch to virtually every receiver he lines up against. Golson won’t be able to play on the outside, so immediately he is restricted to being just a slot/nickel corner. Golson will still get a lot of playing time in that role, but he won’t ever be a starter on the outside who can go up against big receivers.

Looking in the division, Golson won’t be big enough to battle the receivers in Cincinnati or Ravens rookie Breshad Perriman. It feels like the Steelers just drafted a player in the second round who they hope isn’t isolated against a big wideout who will make leaping catches over him. Other teams had Golson lower than the second round for that reason. Of all the Steelers’ draft picks, I think this one is most likely to be a bust.

Potential Boom Pick

Bud Dupree, OLB, Kentucky – Round 1
The Steelers were desperate to land some edge-rushing help, and many in the media heralded Pittsburgh landing Dupree as one of the steals of the first round. Dupree had a lot of hype to be a potential top-10 pick. In speaking with sources at teams picking in the teens, they thought Dupree would be available to them and gave him some consideration. So while the media may have over exaggerated Dupree’s stock, he still was a good value for the Steelers.

There is no doubt that Dupree is a physical freak. The 6-foot-4, 269-pounder is strong and has surprising speed. As a senior, he had 74 tackles with 7.5 sacks. Sources said that Dupree was more disruptive than the numbers indicate. He also went against eight read-option offenses and didn’t get as many pass-rushing opportunities as most first-round pass-rushers. It’s clear that Dupree has a ton of upside for Pittsburgh to develop.

Sources from other teams feel that Steelers were a great landing spot for Dupree. They feel the coaching staff in Pittsburgh will know how to use Dupree correctly and get production out of him. For a pass-rush-needy team, Dupree will get plenty of opportunities to get after the quarterback. After all, Jarvis Jones has yet to break out, James Harrison is aging and Jason Worldis retired. Dupree could be the Steelers’ next great pass-rusher.

Future Depth Player

Doran Grant, CB, Ohio State – Round 4
The Steelers rebounded after taking Golson in the second round by landing two good values in their next selections and getting some potential steals in the late rounds. One of those good value picks was Grant. He could easily have been selected in the third round. Grant (5-10, 199) is a gritty corner who isn’t overly fast or big, but he gets the job done and battles receivers. Grant had five interceptions and was huge for Ohio State’s defense in 2014. With his good tackling, he also has the flexibility to be cross-trained at free safety and provide some needed depth at two positions. Grant could become a starting corner for Pittsburgh, but at the very least, I bet he becomes a quality contributor who helps the Steelers’ defense as a plus backup and core special teams player.

Walt’s 2015 NFL Draft Grades:

22. Alvin Dupree, DE/OLB, Kentucky: A+ Grade
Wow, how does this continue to happen? It seems like every year, great prospects slip in the draft and fall into Pittsburgh’s lap. I thought it was going to be Shane Ray or Randy Gregory, but it turned out to be another pass-rusher. Alvin Dupree was getting top-10 buzz prior to the draft. I thought that was a bit too high for him, but I figured the No. 13 spot was the right area for him. I thought the Saints would pick him when they were on the clock, but apparently not. Dupree has tremendous upside and should provide a big boost in terms of getting to the quarterback.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

56. Senquez Golson, CB, Ole Miss: C- Grade
Call me shocked that the Steelers chose Senquez Golson over Alex Carter or P.J. Williams… or a bunch of other cornerbacks. First of all, Golson is just 5-foot-9, so he doesn’t have the size Pittsburgh usually likes at the position. Second, Golson was a Round 4-5 prospect. This is too early for him, especially with so many better players available at the position.

87. Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn: A Grade
Man, I’ve correctly mocked all three positions to the Steelers, but I’ve had the wrong players. I love this pick though, as the Steelers are selecting another talented player who dropped into their lap. Sammie Coates easily could’ve gone in the second round, but dropped because he, well, drops a lot of passes. That’s something that can be coached up. Coates’ athleticism, on the other hand, cannot. He has major bust potential, but his ceiling is extremely high.

121. Doran Grant, CB, Ohio State: B+ Grade
Another surprising cornerback pick. Doran Grant neither has the size (5-10) nor the athleticism that the Steelers usually look for in their cornerbacks. However, I think this is a solid choice. Doran Grant provides some value, as he could have gone at the end of the third round.

160. Jesse James, TE, Penn State: B+ Grade
I mocked Jesse James to the Steelers at this spot because I thought he made a lot of sense for the team. James is a great fit in Pittsburgh’s offense, and he obviously makes sense at this range. James, a good athlete, might be able to take over for Heath Miller in a couple of years.

199. Leterrius Walton, DE/DT, Central Michigan: A Grade
Good players just somehow fall to the Steelers all the time. Leterrius Walton was a player I had slotted in the fourth round. He was highly productive at Central Michigan and could eventually emerge as a starter on Pittsburgh’s front. In the meantime, he fills a need as a depth player.

212. Anthony Chickillo, DE, Miami: A Grade
The best teams get better in the draft because the “lesser” organizations do stupid things. How did Anthony Chickillo fall to the Steelers at the end of Round 6? I had him atop the fourth frame, as Chickillo was both productive at Miami and also athletic at the Combine. He should be able to make the roster.

239. Gerod Holliman, S, Louisville: A- Grade
Some had Gerod Holliman in the third round, but we were hearing that he was going to drop. I didn’t expect him to fall this far, however, and the Steelers ended up getting a potential steal. Holliman’s poor measurables really sunk his draft stock, but he could end up sticking for the Steelers, who needed to find another safety.

2015 NFL Draft Team Grade: A- . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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