Over the weekend, the Pittsburgh Steelers added some fresh faces at the 2022 NFL Draft. In what appears to be his last draft, Kevin Colbert made sure to leave his mark on the organization for years to come. The Pittsburgh native has built two Super Bowl Champion teams in his time here, leaving big shoes to fill. With the help of his team, Colbert made his final seven picks that have turned some heads.
Round One, Pick 20: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
University of Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett will get to move his stuff from one side of the building to the other. The New Jersey kid who spent five seasons playing at Heinz Field for the Panthers will now get a shot to start in that same stadium, now on Sundays. The next day, Coach Tomlin told the media that Pickett would have a chance to compete for the starting job.
For the first time in many Steelers fans’ lives, we see a quarterback battle in Latrobe. Pickett will go toe to toe with newly signed Mitchell Trubisky and the only quarterback still on the roster from last season, Mason Rudolph. It should shape up to be a fun couple of muggy weeks at Saint Vincent College.
Pickett finished third last year in the Heisman vote on his way to delivering an ACC Championship to Pitt. He received the 2021 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award for the Most Outstanding Senior Quarterback. The same award Rudolph earned in 2017 at Oklahoma State. Pickett didn’t stop there, throwing his way to ACC Player of the Year. He racked up 334 completions for 4,319 yards and 42 touchdowns. Not too bad for having small hands.
In 2021, Pickett began carving his legacy in the city, and he didn’t even know it. Pickett shot his way up the All-Time Leaderboards at Pitt. He became the leader in completions with 1,045 yards with 12,303 and touchdowns with 81 at the university.
Many were concerned with Pickett’s 8.5-inch hand measurement, smaller than any quarterback in the NFL. Pittsburgh didn’t mind when they were surprised to see Kenny Two Gloves slide to them at 20 on Thursday night and jumped all over him.
Round Two, Pick 52: George Pickens, WR, Georgia
In what might be his best pick of the weekend, Colbert snagged up the Georgia receiver in the second round. Potentially a first-round talent, many raised concern over his character and off-field headaches. It couldn’t have been too bad, as the duo of Mike Tomlin and Colbert seemed to be involved with the receiver since his Pro Day.
Pickens has the chance to join the list of other quality non-first-round wide receivers found by Colbert. Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, and Diontae Johnson all being third-rounders in their draft class. Juju Smith Schuster and Chase Claypool were both second-round finds, and who could forget when he found Antonio Brown in the sixth round.
Wide Receivers Coach Frisman Jackson spent Georgia’s Pro Day putting Pickens through drills and must’ve liked what he saw. The six-foot-three receiver ran a 4.47 40-yard dash at 200 pounds. He’s a tall vertical playmaker who excels at finding and attacking the ball at its highest point. Although he battled a torn ACL last season, Pickens fought back to play in the National Championship against Alabama. He made one catch, a bomb for 52 yards helping Georgia secure the title.
His best season came in 2019 when he racked up 727 yards on 49 receptions. Pickens hauled in eight touchdowns, good for sixth in the SEC. Pickens had a 2.2% drop rate on his 92 targets in his three seasons as a Bulldog.
This was a home run pick by Colbert and company. Pickens was born for the AFC North. His father, Carl Pickens who, played receiver for the Bengals for most of his eight-year career. Carl was a two-time Pro Bowler for Cincinnati; now, his son gets his chance to make a mark on the AFC North. This time for the good guys.
Round Three, Pick 84: Demarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M
Leal has is a good mix of a finesse and power rusher. According to scouts, his hands work well with his feet, which will translate well to the next level. Last year at Texas A&M, Leal gathered 58 total tackles, 27 being solo. He posted 12.5 tackles for loss to go with 8.5 sacks. Leal finished the 2021 campaign fifth in the SEC in sacks and ninth in tackles for loss. Everyone knows the Steelers love to get to the quarterback. Adding a guy with double-digit sack potential to an already top-of-the-league pass rush could be a nightmare for offensive lines throughout the league.
The 21-year-old says he models his game after JJ Watt and Aaron Donald, two guys among the biggest havoc creators in NFL history. Leal has a chance to put his name with the greats of Steelers history on the defensive line, and he has just the right mentors to do so.
Round Four, Pick 138: Calvin Austin, WR, Memphis
It appeared the Steelers shocked many when they double-dipped in the WR category, selecting Calvin Austin III from Memphis. The former walk-on that was a track star in high school ran a 4.32 40-yard dash. He’s even drawn a Tyreek Hill comparison from NFL Legend Isaac Bruce. Austin is only five-foot-nine but has been described as below average size, above-average heart. According to scouts, he has fast, fluid feet, which will help him against press coverage. The speedy receiver also provides a new jet sweep threat for Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada.
Despite his size, Austin plays with no fear. He’s posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons for Memphis. In 2021 he was a semifinalist for the Burlsworth Trophy, an honor given to the Most Outstanding Player that started as a walk-on. On his way to those honors, Austin posted 1,149 yards on 74 receptions last season. He caught eight touchdowns and even rushed one in, a 69-yard scamper to the crib. In 2020, Austin was eighth in the NCAA in receiving yards with 1,053 and sixth in receiving touchdowns with 11. He even has kick and punt return experience, giving newly signed Gunner Olszewski some competition.
Round Six, Pick 208: Connor Heyward, FB/TE, Michigan State
Everyone knew this pick was coming, right? Pittsburgh loves a good family reunion, as they now have four different sets of brothers rostered. TJ and Derek Watt, Terrell and Trey Edmund, Carlos and Khalil Davis, and now Cam and Connor Heyward. Connor now has the chance to be the third Heyward legend in the same city where his older brother Cam and their father, Craig “Ironhead” Heyward. The late, great Craig was a University of Pittsburgh running back who finished fifth in the Heisman voting in 1987. 12 years before Connor was born and two years before he and Charlotte Heyward welcomed Cam to the world.
“I’m really excited to see what he does for our team.”=Cam Heyward
While earning his bachelor’s degree in Communications at Michigan State, Connor played running back and tight end for the Spartans. In 2021, Spartan coach Mel Tucker used Connor as primarily a pass catcher. He gathered 35 catches for 326 yards and two touchdowns.
“I wasn’t born in Pittsburgh, but Pittsburgh means a lot. My family is involved in Pittsburgh a lot, so it just means that much more to me.”=Connor Heyward after the Steelers picked him in the sixth round
Round Seven, Pick 225: Mark Robinson, LB, Ole Miss
Is this the first Brian Flores project as a part of the Steelers? Ole Miss Linebacker Mark Robinson has only played 531 snaps at linebacker. The former running back made the switch last year and went on to be second on the team in tackles with 91 total tackles. Robinson managed 42 solo tackles in his first year as a defensive player. He’s quick to get downhill on the run, sometimes overcommitting—a fixable problem.
The six-foot linebacker is 220 pounds and will seek contact on every play. Robinson boasted his strength, putting up 34 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. The first-year defensive player also made 5.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. Robinson runs a 4.65 40-yard dash; once he grows into his frame, he will have all the tools to become a linebacker at the next level.
“I know football is important to him. I know he’ll do what he needs to do to get better on a daily basis.”= Coach Flores on Robinson.
Round Seven, Pick 241: Chris Oladokun, QB, South Dakota State
Colbert said the Steelers were going to bring four arms into camp, and he is a man of his word. Pittsburgh spent its second pick in the seventh round on South Dakota State Quarterback Chris Oladokun. While it doesn’t appear Oladokun will have the same shot at starting as the other three quarterbacks, he could’ve been brought in to fill the Josh Dobbs role after Dobbs departed for Cleveland as a free agent a few weeks ago.
In 2021 at South Dakota State, Oladokun completed 238 passes for 3,164 yards and 25 touchdowns. He is a dual-threat, too, as he rushed 73 times for 166 yards and two touchdowns.
“I would describe myself as someone who likes to play with a lot of enthusiasm, passion, extend plays outside of the pocket. I learned how to control the game from that standpoint. Can’t wait to show Steelers fans what I can do.”-Chris Oladokun
Colbert certainly tried to stack the cupboard before leaving the throne for the next guy. He used his final draft to bolster an offense whose oldest skill position player is Diontae Johnson at 25 years old. Training camp this year will feature more new faces than any camp in recent memory.