With the twenty-eighth overall pick in the 2018 Steven Ridley NFL Mock Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select:
Leighton Vander Esch; Linebacker from Boise State University.
In a world where Ryan Shazier does not get injured, Jessie Bates III is the odds on favorite to be in play for twenty-eight. A single high Free Safety with the ball skills and tackling ability to boot would usher in a new age of Steelers safety play that many of us have not seen in a very long time. However, since Ryan Shazier is still on the long road to recovery, a new form of Steelers linebacker will be needed. Enter Leigthon Vander Esch; the prototypical Steeler. Every year, a fanbase often decries which prospects often match up with their teams ideologies. For the Patriots, Rashaan Evans, the Seahawks in Kolton Miller, etc. Leighton Vander Esch screams Pittsurgh Steeler all the way. From his athletic ability, humility, tenacity and perseverance, Esch seems to have the right stuff about being a Steeler. Add his big season in the Mountain West Conference along with Pittsburgh generally selecting players who come off of big seasons in the past couple of seasons and there is almost nothing to worry about in Esch. I say almost because, for a man his size, fighting through the trenches of the offensive line should not be an issue… except it is. Also, Kevin Colbert has gone on record in stating that this Inside Linebacking class is really not that great overall as some guys truly are great in one particular area but not other. Being in a non Power Five Conference also hurts as the Steelers have only selected a non Power Five Conference player dating back to 2004; Big Ben being that exception. However, if there is such a year to buck trends, this will likely be the one for the Steelers. John Bostic’s contract screams more of a short term stop gap option than it does an actual season long stop gap option as it stands anyways. Besides, there are other safeties in the draft the team can look for, such as Terrell Edmunds or Ronnie Harrision. With their biggest need out of the way though, look for “LVE” to make some strides as a rookie in 2018.