PITTSBURGH — The Steelers came away with Broderick Jones in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, but now they have the first pick of the second day at No. 32 overall. So, with the bevy of talent that is still there on the board, who are some of the standout players?
Penn State CB Joey Porter Jr.
The obvious player that everyone will point to is Joey Porter Jr. but for good reason. He’s the top cornerback left on the board, despite the obvious Steelers connection there. A physical, long cornerback, Porter Jr. has NFL bloodlines and already understands what it takes to be a good player at this level. There are some hip stiffness and ball production concerns, but Porter rates out as the best cornerback still on the board.
Alabama DB Brian Branch
The other player that will turn their eyes is Brian Branch. A versatile, physical defensive back, Branch projects as a player who can be a sub-package super player. He can play on the inside as a nickel, overhang as safety, be a blitzer off the end, and do just about everything you could ask a defensive back to do without the elite measurables. This is a good football player, but will the measurables scare the Steelers away?
TCU IOL Steve Avila and Minnesota IOL John Michael Schmitz
You can throw these two together as similar players. Avila is a guard who is center capable while Schmitz is a center who is guard capable. That is the key distinction, but both of these players are mean football players. I slightly prefer Avila because of his technical prowess, but Schmitz plays with excellent pad level and comes from a wrestling background. If Pittsburgh wants to look at the center position, this could be a spot they look to go and upgrade.
The Entire TE Class (other than Dalton Kincaid)
So, it appears that just about every single top tight end will be on the board if the Steelers want one. That includes Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer, Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave, Georgia’s Darnell Washington, and Iowa’s Sam LaPorta. All of these players bring different things to the table, but consider me fascinated by Washington’s fit. Pittsburgh needs a guy who just goes in and kicks butt up front at tight end in the Canada offense. I’m not sure the Steelers will go this route, but it’s hard to deny the intriguing possibilities that this offers.
CBs Cam Smith, Tyrique Stevenson, D.J. Turner, and Kelee Ringo
The next tier of cornerbacks is all still here, too. If you want to throw in Julius Brents as well, I won’t stop you from doing that. However, the cornerback class is more than Porter at this point. Ringo has upside but is rawer. That could be a scarier pick for the Steelers if they want to go for a guy who can fit right in and be a polished player. Meanwhile, Tyrique Stevenson and Cam Smith feel like players whom I see and I get. They are feisty players that still project to be day-one contributors. In a trade-back scenario, these three climb up the board. Turner fits in as a freak athlete who lacks ball production but is the type of competitor the Steelers covet.
Clemson LB Trenton Simpson
You can think about Drew Sanders, too, but Trenton Simpson needs to have a big green dot over his head. This is one of the likelier picks to me for Pittsburgh. Simpson is an interesting projection since he can play at all three levels and is just an absurd athlete, but that type of positionless player is what the Steelers could love. They are still in search of a dime linebacker who can be a coverage first guy, well, Simpson could fit that mold. Is 32 worth it for that skillset?
Georgia Tech EDGE Keion White
As one of those in the green room that did not get their named called on Thursday, Keion White’s relentless motor and disciplined background feel like Steelers traits. This is an explosive player that still has plenty of room to grow and learn the game of football. Would the Steelers hop on board to draft an edge rusher this early, or will they wait a little bit to see what comes to them?
Wisconsin IDL Keeanu Benton
Last but not least, I can not forget about Keeanu Benton. A developing pass rusher that is starting to flourish into more than just a good run defender, Benton can play from a 3-technique inside to the nose. Benton fits the Steelers’ scheme like a glove and could be a guy who they just outright take at No. 32.