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Mock Draft Monday: The Steelers look to add vertical threat at wide receiver

The Pittsburgh Steelers are heading into the 2024 offseason. With free agency greatly affecting roster construction, it will be followed by the NFL draft in April. For the Steelers, the events of the last week have changed their draft needs multiple times. Now that the NFL combine has come to a close, player pro days will continue to shape the team’s big boards before the draft.

When talking about mock drafts or NFL free agency, one first has to first identify the team’s main needs for the offseason. Before any gains or losses in free agency, there are some who wanted to see the Steelers go with either offensive line or defensive line with their first-round pick. Others feel inside linebacker or cornerback could be on top of the list. In the midst of free agency, other positions such as wide receiver or even quarterback have been discussed. With plenty of chances for the Steelers to shape their roster prior to April, their goal is usually to get into position to draft the best player available rather than target a specific position. When it comes to what position the team will select with their first pick, it is certainly up for debate.

In the latest multi-round mock drafts by, they have the Steelers addressing the wide receiver position before anything else. With the trade of Diontae Johnson this past week, wide receiver has become a need which will have to be addressed in one way or another. Since the Steelers could go in any number of directions with their first selection, it is important to look at all the possibilities presented by various mock draft outlets.

Check out the Steelers 20th pick:

20. Pittsburgh Steelers | Brian Thomas Jr. | WR | Louisiana State | JR |

Even as the draft process rolls on, there may be some players most fans are not familiar with. If this is the case, here is a breakdown of Thomas according to

Brian Thomas Jr., WR, LSU     


  • Height: 6’3”
  • Weight: 209 pounds
  • Arm Length: 32 3/4″
  • Hand Size: 9 3/4″


  • 4-star recruit


  • Vertical speed
  • Tracking deep ball  
  • Catch radius 


  • Beating press-man  
  • Running entire route tree 

Film Analysis:

Brian Thomas Jr. emerged this year as an electric part of this LSU offense and proved to be one of college football’s most explosive vertical threats, leading the nation in TD catches. At 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, he should not only be considered a red zone touchdown target but a big-play threat that can score from anywhere on the field. Thomas has deceptive speed and is a quick accelerator, which allows him to consistently beat defenders vertically. Thomas excels at running go routes, posts, and can beat deep safeties on double moves. 

Thomas is a receiver that can be versatile in alignment and works best against off-coverage. From the snap, Thomas is a quick accelerator. This acceleration helps set up his ability to win the route. On underneath routes, Thomas can get defensive backs to open their hips with the thought that he is going vertical then snap off the route underneath, effectively running curls and slants. On vertical routes, Thomas’ speed appears to simply overwhelm defensive backs and he can outstride them creating separation between him and the defender on deep routes.

While Thomas has proven to be one of the more explosive players in college football, there are still parts of his game that need to be developed. Thomas appears to excel at running routes that are straight line: go balls, post, curls, etc. However, on routes that require him to sink his hips and work other portions of the field, there are times he will struggle to create separation. Also, it appears that Thomas needs development in his ability to beat press-man. Thomas is a big-bodied receiver but rarely uses strength to overpower press defenders. Once they can make contact with him at the line of scrimmage, they can stay in phase with him.  

Overall, Thomas has proven to be a high-end explosive playmaker with natural instincts for scoring touchdowns. With the right development to work on the details of the game, he has the size and speed to develop into a consistently productive receiver in the NFL. 

Prospect Projection: Day 2 — Adequate Starter

For all you who are preparing yourself for the draft, what do you think of the selection? Would you be on board with the Steelers taking Brian Thomas with their first pick? Or do you feel there is a better player at this position, a different one who may still be available, or that Thomas will not make it to the 20th pick? Personally, I think the Steelers need to take a wide receiver this high in the draft will take more shape over the next few weeks. I believe they are likely to add another receiver via free agency. Even if they don’t, I’m unsure if wide receiver is the most pressing position to add at the 20th pick, especially with other options at offensive line and cornerback available in this particular mock. For one, I would be surprised if the Steelers passed on Quinyon Mitchell if he were available at 20. As for Thomas himself, he seems like a great prospect at the position, but he also sounds a lot like George Pickens. For this reason I’m not convinced this would be the best player to complement what the Steelers already have. But I will make a confession that I have not been looking at receivers at the top of this draft to have an idea if this would be a good place for Thomas to be selected.


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