With the 2022 NFL draft in the books, we take a look back and evaluated how the league’s melanated sideline stalkers made out. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and Texans head coach Lovie Smith, two of the three Black NFL coaches out of 32 teams, should both be satisfied with their respective draft hauls.
Tomlin And Steelers Get Their QB?
The Steelers’ main objective heading into the draft was to find a replacement for Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. The savvy 18-year pro retired at the end of the 2021-22 season. The Steelers used their first-round selection on Pitt Panthers QB Kenny Pickett, even with many believing they’d take Liberty quarterback Malik Willis.
Pickett completed nearly 68 percent of his passes, along with 42 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He led the Panthers to their first ACC championship. Pickett also finished third in the Heisman race.
Tomlin on drafting Pickett with the team’s first-round selection:
“One of the things that was very evident about Kenny being next door is he’s just a ridiculous competitor. So we’re just excited about putting him in the mix and watching him compete against Mitch and Mason and seeing where that leads us.”
The Steelers also got a quality, fringe first-round talent in receiver George Pickens from Georgia. The 6-foot-3 Pickens is a big-play target who’s also great in the red zone. His presence should help soften the blow of losing JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) April 30, 2022
Tomlin and the Steelers then added two players who were once projected to go much higher than rounds three and four. Defensive tackle DeMarvin Leal from Texas A&M is a run-stopping menace. In the Steelers scheme he could see time at both tackle and end. He could be an impactful acquisition with the Steelers needing an infusion of youth along the defensive line.
Slot receiver Calvin Austin III is another in the newfound line of Memphis playmakers. For a school that’s put Anthony Miller, Antonio Gibson, Tony Pollard, and Darryl Henderson in the league the last few seasons, Austin could be the best yet. He’s the leading candidate to be the Steelers’ new slot receiver with JuJu now on Kansas City.
Lovie And The Texans Had Solid Draft
The Texans were one of eight teams with multiple first-round picks, an NFL-record. The bell cow of the Texans draft was LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. The talented lockdown corner will almost certainly be a day one starter for a defense that needs a dynamic player who can handle the opposing teams’ No. 1 receiver on a weekly basis. Stingley has that potential.
Although he hasn’t played much since his freshman season in 2019, he was the No. 1 corner on a championship team at LSU. He finished with five interceptions and 15 passes defensed that season. The Texans, who are finally moving on after officially trading Deshaun Watson to the Browns, also landed stalwart Texas A&M guard/tackle Kenyon Green to help protect second-year starter Davis Mills, who showed some promise last season.
— ESPN (@espn) April 29, 2022
Stingley says he was drafted to a perfect situation with a head coach who understands how we get down.
“That’s probably the perfect situation for a corner,” Stingley Jr. said. “When the higher-ups knows how it is out there in the secondary especially on defense. I’m excited and … he [Lovie Smith] was excited too. You could just see during the conversation that we had that he was really excited and ready to get to work.”
They say rounds 2-4 is where teams shape their squad. If that’s the case, the Texans should see a jump in production with the selections they made. They also added safety Jalen Pitre from Baylor and Alabama wide receiver John Metchie III, another fringe first-rounder before he tore his ACL.
Jalen Pitre recorded 25 total QB pressures in the 2021 season
Most by a CB in the PFF era (since 2014) pic.twitter.com/uaforgVqta
— PFF College (@PFF_College) February 16, 2022
In the later rounds, they landed their future weak-side linebacker in Alabama star Christian Harris, who can also play in the middle. Boasting one of the worst rushing attacks in the league a season ago, Smith and the Texans brass made it a point to add a lineman, and then they drafted the bruising but nimble runner Dameon Pierce from Florida. He’ll provide immediate toughness and punch to a listless running game.