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2024 NFL Draft

Draft Profile: Steelers Know All About Wisconsin C Tanor Bortolini



Pittsburgh Steelers 2024 NFL Draft Prospect Wisconsin Badgers Center Tanor Bortolini
Tanor Bortolini, Wisconsin Athletics

MOBILE, Ala. — The Pittsburgh Steelers know all about Wisconsin center Tanor Bortolini. At least, about half of their defensive line does.

Bortolini joined the Badgers in 2020, spending four seasons in Madison, and he spent his time at practice blocking three future members of the Black and Gold defense.

As a freshman, Bortolini was a center, lining up against defensive tackle Isaiahh Loudermilk. In 2021, he moved to right tackle, where he got acquainted with the difficulties of blocking outside linebacker Nick Herbig. In 2022, he moved to guard, where he dealt with Keeanu Benton.

“All terrific players, all from Wisconsin,” Bortolini said to Steelers Now at the 2024 Senior Bowl. “I’ve had the privilege of playing against three of them and blocking three of them. They’re all really good in their own way. I can’t really say they’re similar all of them have their unique style. They do things well, but I really enjoyed the opportunity to work against them, especially with them being such high-level players. I think iron sharpens iron that way and I think they made me better overall.

“I used to play right tackle, so I got to block Nick for a little while. He’s fast on the edge. It’s a different kind of ballgame out there. And then the next season, I got the chance to block Keeanu. As I know, he’s quite a load in the trenches. I think he had a really rookie year with the Steelers and I’m excited for him.”

In competition against those other than his Wisconsin teammates, Bortolini played four position on the Badgers offensive line. Per PFF, he played 115 snaps at center in 2020, 16 at right guard, 58 at left guard and 168 at right tackle in 2021, and 163 at right guard and 411 at left guard in 2022 before becoming a full-time starter for the first time as a redshirt junior in 2023, when he played 868 snaps at center.
When it comes to the NFL level, it seems most likely that Bortolini’s future will be on the interior. Most teams are looking at him as a center, with the ability to play some guard, as well. That versatility could be key.

“I think it really helps out that I’m not just a one-position guy,” he said. “If you’re not the starter, you have to be able to play multiple spots. I can do right guard, left guard, center, and if I’m not the guy day one, that’s OK. I can still back up and be able to hop in in a pinch in any of those spots. “

But it’s clear that his season at center has sparked something in him that seemed to resonate when it comes to the responsibilities of the position. A three-time Academic All-Big honoree, it shouldn’t be surprising that Bortolini appreciates the mental aspect of the position.

“I like being in charge,” Bortolini said. “I like being the guy that makes all the calls. I think it’s really cool to be able to study a defense, what their tendencies are and see, maybe a safety, his tendency determines what this defensive lineman is doing. Being able to play center, making the call, and really having that weight on the shoulders of putting everyone on the line in the best position is something that I really like.”

The versatility that he showed by playing multiple positions isn’t the only was Bortolini is bringing a multi-faceted approach to the NFL. If you have in your mind’s eye the idea of what a Wisconsin offense might look like, you might be surprised by some of Bortolini’s tape.

The Badgers, long one of the most stalwart run-heavy teams, even compared to the other run-heavy teams of the Big Ten, were a different kind of offense in 2023. Offensive coordinator Phil Longo, who came over from North Carolina to serve under new head coach Luke Fickell, is a practitioner of the air raid offense. Longo also has a Pittsburgh connection. He spent thee years coaching at Slippery Rock before stops at Sam Houston State, Ole Miss and UNC.

The new offense suited Bortolini just fine. Always a solid run blocker, the combination of his experience and the move to center seemed to help raise his pass-protection game to a new level. In 497 pass blocking snaps last season, he gave up just one sack, two quarterback hits and eight hurries, per PFF.

“This year, we changed quite a bit of our style on offense,” Bortolini said. “It was a lot less of the power run that you’re typically used to seeing Wisconsin do and a little more of an air raid. A lot more spread, a lot more 11 personnel. I really think that helped benefit me, and made me more well-rounded as a players. It gave me a lot of experience doing something that I really wasn’t used to. I’m really grateful to have that opportunity and I feel like being in multiple offenses is something that really helps.”


Measured at the 2024 NFL Combine: 6-foot-3 7/8, 305 pounds, 31 5/8-inch arms, 77 5/8-inch wingspan, 9 3/4-inch hands

Combine results: 4.94-second 40-yard dash, 4.28-second shuttle, 7.16-second three cone, 32.5-inch vertical, 9-foot-4 broad

RAS: 9.98 as a center, 9.77 as a guard

Tanor Bortolini RAS


Bortolini has seen his stock rise after solid performances at both the 2024 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., and the above NFL Combine testing numbers,

His current average position at NFL Mock Draft Database is No. 151, which puts him in the middle of the fifth round — and in a tough spot for the Steelers to take him. They don’t have a pick between their fourth rounder at No. 119 and their first of two sixth-round selections at No. 178.

Tanor Bortolini NFL Mock Draft Database


The Steelers have significant needs along the offensive line, but it’s not clear that Bortolini is a perfect fit for any of them. The Steelers are in need of a tackle, either a left tackle to replace Dan Moore Jr., or a right tackle that would swap Broderick Jones to the left side and accomplish the same thing.

Though Bortolini did play some tackle at Wisconsin, his arm length and lack of explosive athleticism will likely limit him to playing inside at the NFL level.

The Steelers have a significant need at center, as well, with Mason Cole released after two seasons as the club’s starter. Bortolini certainly fits there, and with a ton of college experience, could be a day one starter.

But he’s a lower-upside option than many of the other players the Steelers could be considering at center. Bortolini is technically very sound. He positions himself well and has a solid anchor against bigger players. He snaps the ball consistently and has the athleticism to trap and pull.

In many ways, Bortolini offers a lot of what Cole was bringing to the position, without the snapping issues. He’s not a powerhouse that’s likely to finish blockers to the ground, and he may have some trouble with true two-gap nose tackles. Bortolini can block his assignment, but he’s unlikely to open up a gaping hole with a punishing block like a Zach Frazier or Jackson Powers-Johnson.

The Steelers have traditionally been a team that puts more emphasis on the center position than most, and without any incumbent players at the position, it’s hard to envision them waiting until Day Three for an answer. But if they feel they can afford to do so, Bortolini could be a play-now option, and even if the Steelers want to address the position in future seasons, he could slide to guard or a swing backup position.