Pittsburgh Steelers NFL Draft Picks & Grades 2022: Kenny Pickett to Take Over in a Stacked AFC North

Many speculated that the Steelers would take a quarterback with their first overall pick and that’s exactly what they did. Kenny Pickett will take the reins of an organization that is a decided underdog in their division and it will be interesting to see how it plays out. Beyond the first round, the Steelers made upgrades at wide receiver with George Pickens and Calvin Austin III as well as at defensive tackle with DeMarvin Leal. They wrapped things up by drafting Cameron Heyward’s younger brother, Connor Heyward, in the 5th round and QB Chris Oladokun in the seventh. To read a more in-depth analysis on Pittsburgh’s 2022 draft class, check out the breakdowns and draft grades below.

Pittsburgh Steelers Draft Picks 2022

Round 1 No. 20 QB Kenny Pickett
Round 2 No. 52 WR George Pickens
Round 3 No. 84 DL DeMarvin Leal
Round 4 No. 138 WR Calvin Austin III
Round 6 No. 208 HB/TE Connor Heyward
Round 7 No. 225 LB Mark Robinson
Round 7 No. 241 QB Chris Oladokun

Overall Draft Grade: B-

Analysis: While many view Kenny Pickett as a 2nd or 3rd round prospect in most draft classes, he fills a pressing need for the Steelers as both a football team and a fanbase. Given Pickett’s ties to the city, he will likely be given more time to develop than most first round prospects. After losing Juju Smith-Schuster to free agency, they went out and picked up George Pickens and Calvin Austin III at WR in the second and fourth rounds, respectively. If Pickens can stay focused on football, the Steelers have themselves a first round talent at a second round price. Calvin Austin III, meanwhile, will be a speedy slot receiver that can act as a complement to Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson on the perimeter. The only really curious aspect of the Steelers draft this year was their decision not to address the offensive line. Given what Cincinnati has done in free agency, the Steelers have easily the worst Offensive line in their division and arguably one of the worst lines in the AFC. Yet, they did not select a single offensive lineman in the draft, despite having a pick in each of the first 4 rounds.

Pittsburgh Steelers Draft Grades 2022

Round: 1 Pick: 20 / Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

Pickett comes into the NFL as a very refined prospect. By the time the season starts this fall, he will be 24 years old with 52 college starts under his belt. His hand size has dominated conversation about him, partially due to its comedic undertones, but this shouldn’t outweigh the fact that he is over 6’3” and 217 lbs. He’s improved significantly as both a player and a prospect over the last couple years and has flashed moments of legitimate athleticism. It’s unlikely that Pickett will start day 1 and I think that’s a good thing for all parties involved. It’s no secret that this team needed a quarterback and given how formidable this franchise is there was little merit in waiting for next year when there would be so-called better prospects at the top. Without having to trade up, the Steelers got their favorite quarterback in the draft and will be able to develop him in accordance with their own timeline. Pickett will still need to continue improving, but if his college career showed us anything it’s that he’s capable of it.

Grade: A-

Round: 2 Pick: 52 / George Pickens, WR, Georgia

Talent is not a concern for George Pickens, who came out of high school as a top 25 recruit nationally and was given Georgia’s “Offensive Newcomer of the Year” award as a freshman. His ability to stop and change direction on a dime allows him to create consistent separation. He then possesses the ball skills and athleticism to capitalize on this separation and the vision in the open field to make plays in the open field. His talent alone allows for serious potential, though the risks are two fold. First off, he has already torn his ACL back in 2021 and has missed significant time on the field because of it. Secondly, he has a history of disciplinary problems, including a fight with a Georgia Tech player that caused him to miss the first half of the SEC Championship game as a freshman. He also violated team rule earlier that season, provoking an internal 2 game suspension.

Grade: B+

Round: 3 Pick: 84 / DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M

Leal is a powerful athlete with long arms who came out of high school as an Army All-American. He’s got solid pass rush skills but appears a bit heavy footed at times and has been known to take plays off. He can be used as an edge in 3-4 scheme or a DT 4-3, though it remains to be seen which assignment suits him best at the next level. My guess is he’ll mainly be used on the interior alongside Cameron Heyward, as he has great strength but lacks the speed you’d want off the edge. Overall I think the Steelers are getting fine value for Leal in the third round, though I question the decision to go for a defensive lineman here. With Dylan Parham, Sean Rhyan, and Daniel Faalele still on the board, the Steelers had an opportunity to fortify their offensive line and chose not to. By the time they were back on the board in the 4th round, any shot they had at immediately improving this unit in the draft had dwindled significantly.

Grade: C-

Round: 4 Pick: 138 / Calvin Austin III, WR, Memphis

A track athlete turned leading WR, Austin is a playmaker who exerts full effort on every play. Standing at just 5’ 8” 170 lbs, Austin is undersized for the position though he makes up for some of it with his 4.32 40 and 39” vertical. His twitchiness provides utility on special teams, where he isn’t afraid to get hit despite his size. Physical coverage can throw him off his routes, however, and he is an easy tackle to bring down. He is athletic but doesn’t have that furious quick twitch akin to Tyreek Hill that’s necessary to be a go-to target at his size. Overall, he adds speed to a receiving core that compliments itself very well. In Claypool and Pickens, the Steelers have physical receivers with a strong catch radius. In Austin and Johnson, they have speed demons that can cook you in the slot and up the seam.

Grade: B+

Round: 6 Pick: 208 / Connor Heyward, HB/TE, Michigan State

Brother of the Steelers’ All-Pro defensive lineman Cameron Heyward, Connor comes into the NFL listed as a TE though he has experience playing both running back and H-Back. Because of his experience at multiple positions, he provides a level of versatility to this offense and can be used as a pass catcher out of the backfield. He’s got good hands and natural instincts as a blocker. Like his brother, he’s a physical player who rarely falls backward when tackled. He is, however, quite undersized at 5’11” and lacks the length you’d want to be a consistent blocker. The Steelers have always been creative in how they’ve used H-backs, and they’ll need to be to get something consistent out of Heyward. If they can, he could work for them in a Kyle Juszczyk capacity.

Grade: B-

Round: 7 Pick: 225 / Mark Robinson, LB, Ole Miss

Having played running back at Presbyterian and then transferring to Ole Miss and switching to LB, Robinson is a pretty raw prospect. There isn’t a whole lot out there on him, but from what there is he appears to be a strong tackler and overall playmaker. He has struggled mightily in coverage, however, which is something that will get exploited even more in the NFL. Given his newness to the position, there’s certainly room for improvement. He already has the toughness and physicality you’d desire out of a player at the LB position.

Grade: B

Round: 7 Pick: 241 / Chris Oladokun, QB, SDSU

Rounding out the Steelers draft is QB Chris Oladokun from South Dakota State. Though Oladokun will be 25 by the time the season starts, he does possess a pretty high upside, especially at this stage in the draft. He’s shown an ability to read defenses and move through progressions while also possessing the requisite arm talent to be a quarterback in the NFL. He can throw on the move, though I wouldn’t necessarily classify him as mobile, and can sling it into tight windows. Though it’s unlikely Oladokun will see the field, he’s a high IQ player that should help make guys around him smarter.

Grade: A

As a central Ohio native and lifelong Cleveland sports fan, Patrick Monnin has lived the emotional rollercoaster every sports fan knows all too well. Whether it be the Browns or the Buckeyes, he loves watching football and going on nice long runs in the afternoon. In the local Chicago area, where he now lives, he can often be found making the case for LeBron James as the greatest basketball player ever.

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