The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the offseason with several pressing needs on both sides of the ball. As the front office prepares for the upcoming draft, the 2022 NFL Combine will be a prime opportunity for the scouting department to get an up-close look at some of the prospects on its big board.
Clinching a playoff berth after a 9-7 finish was a promising sign for Mike Tomlin’s squad. However, they must shore up some holes to take the next step in 2022. It would be wise for Pittsburgh to attack all of its most glaring needs at some point throughout the draft. Improving the offensive line, linebacking corps, and secondary should be a high priority for Kevin Colbert, who will step away after the draft.
These five players should be on the Steelers’ radar during the NFL Combine.
OT Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan
Inconsistent offensive line play was a massive problem for the Steelers in 2021. Pittsburgh lost several key contributors on the front line, including Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, and Alejandro Villanueva. As a result, the offense entered the season with a lot of inexperience.
The unit capped the potential of the Steelers offense. The front office should make bolstering the offensive line one of its top priorities in the 2022 NFL Draft. Central Michigan’s Bernhard Raimann is an intriguing prospect to watch at the NFL Combine. He’s originally from Austria and started his college career as a tight end.
At 6-foot-7, 305 pounds, Raimann possesses all the physical tools to succeed in the NFL. He’s still raw and has some developing to do in terms of fundamentals. However, Pittsburgh could be a great place to hone his skills. Pro Football Focus gave him a grade of 94.6 for the 2021 season — not bad for a guy who just started playing the position.
QB Carson Strong, Nevada
The Steelers have a huge dilemma at quarterback heading into the 2022 offseason. They’re trying to replace Ben Roethlisberger, who retired after 18 seasons with the team. Mike Tomlin and the front office are reportedly keeping all options open, including evaluating prospects at the NFL Combine.
Carson Strong is a player the scouts could have their eyes on. There’s no consensus on this crop of quarterbacks. The Nevada signal-caller undoubtedly has first-round arm talent. He’s enjoyed consistent production over the past two seasons. Strong threw for 4,175 yards, 36 touchdowns, and eight interceptions in 2021.
Strong’s medical history is a concern for some teams, though. He had surgery on his knee before the season, and it’s unclear if that could hinder him at all in the NFL. Assessing Pittsburgh’s QB room, Strong would have a chance to compete right away. If he clears the medicals, he could be a good fit for the Steelers.
LB Leo Chenal, Wisconsin
Veteran linebacker Joe Schobert could be a cap casualty for the Steelers in the offseason. Even though he was productive in 2021, the front office might want to get younger (and cheaper) in the middle of its defense. If that’s the case, Pittsburgh should take a close look at Leo Chenal.
The Wisconsin Badgers junior put together a breakout season in 2021. He recorded 115 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks, and two forced fumbles. Chenal is not flashy, but he’s physically tough and a competitor. That makes him the perfect fit for the Steelers defense.
Chenal was one of the best run defenders in the country as a junior, regardless of position. The Steelers were the worst run defense in the league in 2021, allowing more than 146 rushing yards per game. Chenal’s skill set could help this unit improve in 2022.
OL Darian Kinnard, Kentucky
The Pittsburgh Steelers can’t have enough help on the offensive line. They must continue to add depth to that struggling position group. Darian Kinnard is another player who fits the culture this team has been known for over the years.
Kinnard was one of the most dominant run blockers in the country in 2021. The Kentucky Wildcats standout played tackle in college, but he projects as a guard in the NFL. He could fill a need within the Steelers’ offensive line. Pittsburgh drafted running back Najee Harris in 2021. He had a solid rookie season, but poor offensive line play still limited his effectiveness.
Adding Kinnard to the mix gives this offense a physically and mentally tough football player on the front line. He’s a mauler by trade, and his presence in the middle could help the Steelers get back to smash-mouth football. He makes up for what he lacks in technique and footwork with his grit and grind.
CB Tariq Woolen, UTSA
Tariq Woolen is one of the fastest-rising prospects in the upcoming draft class. Of all the players on this list, he could probably benefit the most from participating in the NFL Combine.
Woolen arrived on the University of Texas-San Antonio campus as a wide receiver. He made the switch to cornerback during his junior season. Naturally, he has excellent ball skills, given his offensive background. However, his greatest attribute is his elite athletic ability. He possesses a rare combination of size, length, and speed.
Veteran cornerback Joe Haden is an unrestricted free agent. If the Steelers let him walk, they will certainly need to add talent to their secondary. Woolen is a raw developmental prospect. Still, his athletic traits alone make him a player general manager Kevin Colbert should keep his eye on.