Mock draft: Steelers take running back first


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James Conner. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

The Super Bowl is over. The offseason is upon us. And the NFL Scouting Combine is just a couple of weeks away.

That means it's mock draft time.

But with the Steelers not owning a first-round pick thanks to the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade, it makes things a little less interesting than usual. Or does it?

The Steelers figure to get a third-round compensatory pick for the loss of Le'Veon Bell, which is why they didn't mind trading their own third-round pick as part of the deal to move up and get Devin Bush.

And so much for those rumors of Kevin Colbert trading away picks because he wasn't going to be back in 2020. That was taken care of Wednesday afternoon when he signed a one-year extension to stay with the team through the 2021 draft.

This is a team with needs. Most notably, it needs players who score touchdowns. The Steelers scored just nine offensive touchdowns in the second half of the season.

A big reason for that? James Conner was MIA for most of the final eight games, playing just seven quarters. JuJu Smith-Schuster missed four games in the second half, as well. For a team playing with its second- and third-string quarterbacks, that was a death knell.

Depending on what happens in the next few weeks, tight end could become a need, as well.

Round 2, No. 49 -- Zack Moss, RB, Utah: At 5-10, 220 pounds, Moss fits the bill for what the Steelers seem to like at running back: Bigger guys who can potentially hold up in pass protection. But he had over 4,000 career rushing yards at Utah and also showed chops as a receiver in 2019, catching 28 passes for 388 yards. The best thing about Moss? He doesn't go down on first contact. This guy breaks tackles or just plain makes people miss. He did that 87 times in 2019, gaining over 1,000 of his 1,416 yards last season after first contact. The Steelers can take Moss this year, pair him with Conner and/or Bennie Snell, and have him ready to take over in a full-time role in 2021. He's also still just 22 years old.

Round 3, (Compensatory) -- Rashard Lawrence, NT, LSU: Assuming the Steelers don't bring back Javon Hargrave -- and given what he'll cost, there's real potential for that -- nose tackle is a need. The good news, however, is that true nose tackles don't go early. Lawrence is 6-foot-2 and around 310 pounds. Lawrence, as was Hargrave, could be a plug-and-play player at the nose.

Round 4A: Colby Parkinson, TE, Stanford: Parkinson (6-foot-7, 251 pounds) has excellent size for the position. And he's also played all over in the Stanford offense, lining up inside and outside. Parkinson has great hands and is a nice red zone target, as his 12 touchdowns on 89 career catches suggests.

Round 4B: Jon Runyan, OL, Michigan: We all know how the Steelers like to take guys with an NFL pedigree. Runyan is the son the former NFL offensive lineman of the same name. He played left tackle at Michigan, but doesn't have the athleticism to play there in the NFL. But he could play right tackle or kick inside to guard. He did all three at different times at Michigan. His father also was a former fourth-round draft pick who became a starter by the sixth game of his rookie season en route to a career that saw him play 207 career games.

Round 6: D.J. Wonnum, OLB, South Carolina: A three-time team captain, Wonnum is a leader, the kind of player the Steelers like to acquire. At 6-foot-4, 254 pounds -- his measurements at the Senior Bowl -- he has outstanding size. The key for him will be to see how athletic he is at the combine. He's expected to run in the 4.7s, which is plenty fast enough to play outside linebacker. Wonnum had 29.5 career tackles for a loss to go along with 14 career sacks. He's got some upside.

Round 7: Michael Turk, P, Arizona State: This supposes the Steelers part ways with Jordan Berry to save nearly $2 million against the salary cap. Turk averaged just over 46 yards per kick in 2019 at Arizona State after transferring from Lafayette. Oh yeah, he's got NFL bloodlines, as well. His uncles are former NFL punter Matt Turk and longsnapper Dan Turk.

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