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The Steeler’s offense was strong once again as they finished third overall in total offense (395.4 yards per game), third in passing (287.7 ypg) and middle of the pack in rushing (107.8 ypg). On the defensive side of the ball they struggled especially against the pass as they finished 30th in the league, but were stout against the rush finishing fifth. Pittsburgh covered their most important needs at the draft. They needed defensive back help and offensive line depth. They also filled the linebacker spot with two picks in the sixth and seventh rounds. Overall, Pittsburgh took a chance on prospects with more potential than talent. Artie Burns and Sean Davis were a surprise as many had them going later down the line.
Round 1, Pick 25 – Artie Burns, DB, Miami
After the Steelers had finished near the bottom in pass defense they needed to get someone who could bolster that situation, and Artie Burns became their man. Burns is a terrific athlete who can play press coverage and off-man technique. He fits his last name very well as he has terrific speed and can move his hips fluidly. Burns will also be a nice fit with Keith Butler’s press-zone scheme due to his length, speed and range. His problem is that he needs to build onto his wiry frame so that he can become stronger and be able to support the edge for run defense. He will need to improve on his zone technique. He is a hit-or-miss prospect, and should be avoided in most drafts.
Round 2, Pick 58 – Sean Davis, S, Maryland
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Sean Davis will deliver the knockout punch many NFL teams covet. He finished with 313 tackles in 50 games and forced five fumbles in 2015. Davis has tremendous closing speed and will destroy the ball carrier. He has played both safety and defensive back and is a tweener athlete. His closing speed also shows up when he is playing off the receiver making himself available to hunt down the ball or knock it away. He has the strength to shed the block and is instinctive. The main issue with Davis is his size. He fits to be a defensive back, but his skills are more fitted for safety. He is disastrous in man-coverage and misses too many tackles.
Round 3, Pick 89 – Javon Hargrave, DT, South Carolina State
Javon Hargrave registered 59 tackles and 13.5 sacks his senior season. He has a powerful base which allows for him to be quick when launching himself at the offensive line. Hargrave will stick to the blocker at the point of attack, and will fight to get to the passer. His size (315 pounds) is not indicative of his speed and with flexible hips, he can move around and finish the play. He will need to learn how to get separation from the blocks at a more fluid rate, but he can be a solid starter for the Steelers if given the time to develop his skills. Even though Hargrave played well in the East-West Shrine game and had good scores at the combine, he has not played in elite competition being in the FCS. He will need to use his feet better and keep them churning, and has issues with his conditioning if left out too long. Hargrave has a legitimate chance to start for Pittsburgh as Steve McClendon jetted to the New York Jets, and Daniel McCullers has trouble staying healthy.
Round 4, Pick 123 – Jerald Hawkins, OT, LSU
Jerald Hawkins is another player with high potential with a low downside. At LSU he played both tackle positions in a pro-style offense. He has good feet and bend to keep defenders from getting by him and long arms to keep any oncoming traffic at bay. He can get to the second level and shows he can pick up the blitzes, and has good core strength and balance. Hawkins will need to develop his skills in the run game, and get better at hand placement. He has a hard time sustaining blocks and needs to learn better techniques with his slim shoulders and hips. At this point, Hawkins will be fitted for the backup role, but may get some playing time.
Round 6, Pick 220 – Travis Feeney, OLB, Washington
Travis Feeney has the size, speed, and agility to cause havoc for any offense. He understands how to pursue the ball carrier and Feeney understands the details in coverage because he started out as a safety for the Huskies in his freshman season. His body is made more for the defensive backfield, but will play linebacker for the Steelers. Feeney will need to learn not to lunge at the ball carrier which causes him to make a violent hit or a complete whiff. He is a medical concern with two torn labrums, one, in each shoulder.
Round 7, Pick 229 – Demarcus Ayers, WR, Houston
At this point Demarcus Ayers is projected to be more of a kick returner than play the wide receiver position. Ayers is small at 5’9” and 182 pounds but he is fast and understands route running. His ability to be on offense will be limited to certain passing situations that take advantage of his speed. Ayers will most likely spend the bulk of his time in the NFL returning kicks.
Round 7, Pick 246 – Tyler Matakevich, OLB, Temple
Tyler Matakevich could win the All-Heart award if there were one. He stands at only 6’0” and weighs in at 238 pounds, but takes care of business. He registered 465 tackles with at least 100 in each season. Matakevich is highly intelligent when it comes to recognizing the nuances of the offense. He is rarely fooled by the play-action and can read what the quarterback is thinking and at times will beat the play by out-thinking what the signal caller is doing. Matakevich is instinctive and a film junkie. The problem is his size, as he will get eaten up by blockers and needs to learn angles better. Matakevich has a hard time corralling the shifty type running backs and will miss several tackles, because he uses his arms rather than his body. When he is near the line of scrimmage he will get swept up in the trash, and has a hard time sifting through to find the ball carrier. It’s tough to say what Matakevich can do as a pro, but having heart is a good first step for any player.