The Steelers famously passed on Pitt legend Dan Marino in the 1983 NFL Draft. With Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett there for the taking Thursday night, the Steelers . With the 52nd pick, the Steelers added to their receiving corps by selecting former Georgia wideout George Pickens. In the third round, Pittsburgh selected Texans A&M defensive tackle DeMarvin Leal.
The first quarterback selected in the draft, Pickett will likely be in the mix to compete to be the Steelers' starting quarterback coming out of training camp. Pickett will look to develop a quick rapport with his new teammates in Pittsburgh that includes receivers Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool, running back Najee Harris and tight end Pat Freiermuth. That receiving corps will also include Pickens, who caught 14 touchdowns during his first two seasons with the Bulldogs. Pittsburgh ended Day Two of the draft by adding a young force to their defensive line in Leal, who racked up 8.5 sacks last season.
Pittsburgh kicked off Day Three of the draft by selecting Memphis wideout Calvin Austin III with the No. 138 overall pick. They used the 208th pick in the draft to select fullback/tight end Connor Heyward, the younger brother of Steelers' All-Pro defensive lineman Cam Heyward. The Steelers capped off Day 3 by selected Ole Miss linebacker Mark Robinson and South Dakota State quarterback Chris Oladokun in the seventh round.
Here are three quick facts about Pittsburgh's seven picks in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
Pickett broke two of Marino's long-standing Pitt records during the 2021 season. His 42 touchdown passes broke Marino's single-season school record of 37 touchdown passes set during the 1981 season. Pickett also reached 81 career touchdown passes, breaking Marino's career mark of 79 touchdown passes from 1979-82.
During his final season at Pitt, Pickett also threw for a school record 4,319 yards while completing 67.2% of his passes. He threw at least two touchdowns in each of his 13 starts last fall that included six games with at least four touchdown tosses.
A proven winner
Pickett announced himself on the college scene after leading the Panthers to a shocking upset win over second-ranked Miami during his freshman season. It was the first of 33 wins as Pitt's starting quarterback, as Pickett won two-thirds of his starts that included a 17-5 record during his final two years with the Panthers.
Pickett helped the Panthers capture their first ACC Coastal Division crown in 2018. Last year, Pickett led the Panthers to their first-ever ACC title. In the process, Pickett won ACC Offensive Player of the Year and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting.
He is not the running threat Malik Willis is, but Pickett clearly has enough mobility to satisfy Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert. Pickett ran for 21 touchdowns at Pitt that included 13 rushing scores over the past two years.
Pickett's mobility actually led to an NCAA rule change following his 58-yard touchdown run in Pitt's ACC Championship Game win over Wake Forest. Pickett's mobility will come in handy while running Matt Canada's offense.
Rating: 87.80 (Long-term starter)
Pro Comparison: Derek Carr
- 2021: 42 pass TDs (ACC single-season record)
- Pitt all-time leader in pass yards (12,303) and pass TDs (81)
Made huge strides during 2021 after being considered a Day 3 pick after his 2020 season. Consistently shows great touch on mid-range passes, and the ball comes out quickly and on time. Maximizes yards-after-catch possibility for his targets on short and intermediate routes. Good athlete who, when needed, can consistently win with his legs outside the pocket. Plays with confidence in the face of pressure while keeping his eyes downfield, and he'll stand in the pocket and deliver a strike. While he doesn't have an elite arm, he showed throughout the season that he has the ability to throw deep outs, and the ball had both velocity and accuracy. Led FBS with 25 touchdown passes against the blitz last season, showing considerable poise in the pocket while running Pitt's offense. Delivered calmness when leading the offense during pivotal moments in close games. Showed impressive command of the huddle while exuding leadership skills that are coveted at the quarterback position.
His hand size -- the smallest among QBs since Michael Vick was drafted more than two decades ago -- will be an issue for some teams and not for others. Doesn't have an elite arm but can make every NFL throw. Sometimes has tunnel vision and misses open targets downfield and instead opts for checkdowns or looks to run. Sometimes his ball can lose steam on deep outs. Averaged more than 3.1 seconds per dropback at Pitt, and he'll lock onto a read even with other WRs coming open. Won't have that kind of time at the next level.
- 2021: 42 pass TDs (ACC single-season record)
- Pitt all-time leader in pass yards (12,303) and pass TDs (81)
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George Pickens, WR, Georgia
Returning from injury
Pickens enjoyed a fast start to his college career before a torn ACL injury sustained during practice prematurely ended his junior season. Despite the injury, Pickens returned for the end of the Bulldogs' 2021 season. He caught a 52-yard pass in Georgia's national championship win over Alabama.
Pickens enjoyed a breakout freshman season at Georgia. During the 2019 season, Pickens caught 49 passes for 727 yards and eight touchdowns. He caught 12 passes for 175 yards and a score in Georgia's Sugar Bowl win over Baylor. A year later, Pickens torched Cincinnati's talented defensive backfield to the tune of seven catches for 135 yards and a score while leading Georgia to a 24-21 win in the Peach Bowl.
Pickens is the great-nephew of Bo Jackson, a Heisman Trophy winner at Auburn who later became the first athlete in history to earn All-Star honors in two professional sports.
Rating: 87.62 (Long-term starter)
Pro Comparison: Keenan Allen
Tall, good-framed outside wideout with athleticism galore. Great combination of suddenness and speed. Always looking to turn an easy comeback into a big gain. Quicks free him on those plays. Knows how to beat press at the line and has the length/quicks combination to become outstanding in that area eventually. Lean on vertical routes helps him separate down the field and plays with reckless abandon when trying to find the football. More of a vertical separator than someone who'll get open underneath. Snaps out of his breaks at the intermediate level. Huge catch radius and a flair for the highlight-reel grab. A lot to like about his game. Flaws are few and far between.
Not a YAC monster. More of a vertical separator than someone who'll get open underneath. Measured in with disproportionally small hands at the combine. Tore ACL in 2021 and was limited to only four games and five catches for 107 yards. A touch on a lanky side; physical corners may be able to outmuscle him.
- 2021: CFP national champion
- 2019: Coaches' Freshman All-SEC Team
DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M
Leal filled the stat sheet during his final season with the Aggies. Last fall, Leal racked up 8.5 sacks to go with 12.5 tackles for loss. He also broke up two passes while forcing his second career fumble. During his three years with the Aggies, Leal racked up 13 sacks, 25 tackles for loss, 133 total tackles, and five pass breakups.
Leal played across the line at Texas A&M. He is expected to be used more as a defensive end with the Steelers, who employ a 3-4 defense. Leal brings youth to a defensive line that is led by Cam Heyward, Tyson Alualu and Chris Wormley. Pittsburgh is hoping that Stephon Tuitt returns after he missed the entire 2021 season.
In Pittsburgh, Leal reunites with former Aggies teammate and Steelers linebacker Buddy Johnson, a fourth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. During their final season as teammates, Leal and Johnson helped Texas A&M boast the nation's 28th best scoring defense while helping the Aggies defeat the North Carolina in the Orange Bowl.
Calvin Austin III, WR, Memphis
A former track runner at Memphis, Austin ran a 4.32 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. That was the fifth-fastest time recorded at the combine and the third-fastest among receivers. At Memphis, Austin was part of two 4x100 teams that qualified for the NCAA Division I Outdoor Championships.
Austin was a very productive receiver at Memphis. During his final two seasons, the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Austin caught 137 passes for 2,202 yards and 19 touchdowns. He finished his career second in school history in touchdown receptions (22), fourth in receiving yards (2,541) and fifth in catches (156). Austin had two 200-yard receiving games last season and was 19th in the NCAA with an average of nearly 96 receiving yards per outing.
Austin returned two punts for touchdowns while at Memphis. He averaged a solid 11.1 yards per punt return at Memphis that included a 27-yard average in 2021.
Connor Heyward, FB/TE, Michigan State
Heyward is his name, versatility is his game
Heyward changed positions from fullback to tight end entering the 2021 season. He caught 35 passes for 326 yards and two touchdowns that included a critical score in the Spartans' Peach Bowl victory over Kenny Pickett and the Panthers. Heyward also returned kickoffs and punts during his time at Michigan State.
Heyward played in a whopping 49 games for the Spartans, including 28 starts. He finished his college career with 2,265 all-purpose yards that included 825 on the ground and 711 as a receiver. Heyward scored 11 touchdowns at Michigan State and is top-20 in school history in kick returns and kick return yardage.
Cam and Connor is one of four sets of brothers currently on the Steelers. The other three: Derek and T.J. Watt, Terrell and Trey Edmunds, and Carlos and Khalil Davis.
Mark Robinson, LB, Ole Miss
Switch to defense
Robinson converted from running back to linebacker ahead of the 2021 season. During his first season at linebacker, Robinson tallied 91 tackles and three sacks for Ole Miss. Robinson had 14 tackles and two sacks during the Rebels' midseason win over Tennessee.
Former FCS player
Before coming to Ole Miss, Robinson played running back for Presbyterian College and Southeast Missouri. He ran for nearly 700 yards during his FCS career before making Ole Miss' team as a walk-on.
Robinson's ceiling and background as a running back are among the things the Steelers like about their new linebacker. Along with helping stop the run, the Steelers will likely look to Robinson to contribute as a pass rusher behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith should be make the roster.
"He is a fun guy to watch on film," said Steelers senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach Brian Flores. "I think he has some upside. Anything that is a new position there was a little bit of a learning curve early in the season. As you watched him progress you saw him improve, get better. That is what you are looking for. You like to see that as a coach. He is a hard-working kid. I got that feeling meeting him. It's important to him. That is a big part of making progress as a player. I know he will work to get better."
Chris Oladokun, QB, South Dakota State
An accomplished passer
The 241st overall pick, Oladokun threw for 3,164 yards with 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions last fall. He also spent time in college at Samford and South Florida. He threw for over 2,000 yards with 18 touchdowns while rushing for eight touchdowns for Samford in 2019.
While at Samford, Oladokun tied a school record with six touchdown passes and seven total touchdowns against Tennessee Tech in 2018. He also threw for 428 yards while winning SoCon Offensive Player of the Week.
Brings added dimension to Steelers' quarterback room
It's a long shot, but Oladokun will compete for a spot on Pittsburgh's 53-man roster. There's also a chance that he can earn a spot on the practice squad, considering that the Steelers typically keep three quarterbacks on the active roster. Oladokun's ability to make plays outside of the pocket should help him as he adjusts to the speed and overall talent level of NFL defenses.