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Kevin Gorman’s Take 5: Five thoughts on the Steelers’ first four picks

April 28, 2018

1. Head scratcher: The Steelers’ selection of safety Terrell Edmunds in the first round remains a mystifying pick, given that he is considered not just a reach but perhaps even for the second round.

Then again, the safety many projected the Steelers to pick, Stanford’s Justin Reid, slipped to No. 70.

The Steelers, who now have Sean Davis, Morgan Burnett, J.J. Wilcox and Edmunds at safety, have hinted that Burnett could be more of a linebacker in sub-package situations.

But, after three rounds, the Steelers still don’t have a replacement for Ryan Shazier. That’s a problem that needs to be addressed in a draft that is thin on inside linebackers, and the Steelers don’t have a fourth-round pick.

Keep an eye on Josey Jewell from Iowa. He isn’t speedy, but is a tough competitor who could be a good fit. Plus, he looks good in black and gold.

2. Moving Martavis: The Steelers had an unhappy player in Martavis Bryant, who requested a trade on the same day they beat the previously undefeated Chiefs and reiterated that request a week later and took a shot at teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Bryant wanted out, and the Steelers sent him to the Oakland (soon-to-be Vegas) Raiders, who will love his speed and big-play ability. The Steelers got a good return in value, receiving a third-round pick for a player they weren’t going to re-sign.

But they also got worse at wide receiver.

3. Cowboy Up: Drafting Oklahoma State’s James Washington in the second round solved the need for a wideout who can stretch the field and score touchdowns.

Washington put on a dizzying display in two games against Pitt. In 2016, he had nine receptions for 296 yards and two touchdowns (91 and 29 yards) in a 45-38 victory in Stillwater. Last fall, he had five catches for 124 yards in a 59-21 victory at Heinz Field.

Washington and quarterback Mason Rudolph were the most dangerous passing combination in college football, so the Steelers’ selection of Rudolph in the third round kept them together.

4. In the Air: Rudolph was the leading passer in FBS (4,904 yards), but playing in the Air Raid system leads to questions about his transition to the Steelers’ offense.

While Rudolph has prototypical size at 6-foot-5, 240 and throws deep with accuracy, there are questions about his arm strength. And the Air Raid is a quick-strike offense out of the shotgun, with lots of single reads to one side of the field.

But the bigger question is this: Did the Steelers draft Ben Roethlisberger’s eventual successor or another backup? They used fourth-round picks on Landry Jones in 2013 and on Josh Dobbs last year. Does that mean Jones isn’t in their future plans and they have already labeled Dobbs a bust?

The Steelers flipped the third-rounder acquired from Oakland (No. 79 overall) for Bryant, along with a seventh-rounder (No. 220) to Seattle, to move up three spots to select Rudolph.

That’s a small investment, but an investment nonetheless.

5. Good gamble: The Steelers’ best pick might be their second third-rounder, if Chuckwuma Okorafor lives up to his potential.

Okorafor has great size (6-6, 320) and footwork, the physical tools to become a starting offensive tackle. He’s a bit of a project who will take some time to develop, but the Steelers have an excellent teacher in offensive line coach Mike Munchak.

With Chris Hubbard leaving for the Browns through free agency, Jerald Hawkins becomes the swing tackle. By drafting Okorafor, the Steelers provided not only competition but a potential replacement for right tackle Marcus Gilbert, who missed 10 games to injuries and a PED suspension last season.

That the Steelers had holes on defense and drafted three offensive players with their first four picks is surprising. They aren’t drafting like a team trying to take advantage of a Super Bowl window with Roethlisberger but one trying to keep it open even after he’s done.

Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.