Draft day is upon us and the Steelers are still one of the teams that have the most directions they could go with each pick. As such, trying to predict who they will pick is no easy task, however, they have dropped subtle hints over their process as to just who they might want. So, just who will they get? Here is Steelers Now‘s seven-round 2023 NFL Mock Draft for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Round 1, Pick 17: Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
There are plenty of guys that this pick could be, and trust me, I thought about multiple players across multiple positions. Yet, I landed right back where I have been since Mobile, and that is that the Steelers really want to land an offensive tackle. So, Broderick Jones is where I went with this pick, and I tend to think it is far likelier he is on the board at No. 17 than most people would let on. I’ll outline why, but let’s just highlight the obvious interest in Jones with the Steelers watching his pro day, hosting him for a pre-draft visit, and having a formal interview in Indianapolis
Jones is perhaps one of only two true left tackles along with Paris Johnson Jr. in this first-round group. His natural tools stick out as a plus athlete who is already a high-level run blocker at this stage. Yes, he will have to work on hand usage, footwork, and other areas in pass protection but I am far more of the idea that Jones can play right away while learning how to do just that. He is not raw to the point where he can not start year one and fits Pat Meyer’s philosophies well.
There are those warts, and he is in a group of tackles where the more you watch, the more questions you come out of the tape session with each of them. I like these players still, but with a trade-up being theorized recently, there’s not a guy that jumps out like that. And I imagine some teams might opt to go to other positions than just jump on Jones or other linemen. This is just my prediction, but Jones being there at No. 17 is probably likelier than you might think.
Others Considered: OT Darnell Wright, CB Joey Porter Jr., CB Deonte Banks, DL Lukas Van Ness, DB Brian Branch
Round 2, Pick 32: Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State
The natural next pick for the Steelers feels like it should either address cornerback or defensive line. There’s just a bevy of good corners that are here at 32 overall, and while a trade-back is certainly appealing, if the right player falls to this spot, Pittsburgh ought to simply jump on that best player available right away. So, if Emmanuel Forbes is there at 32nd overall, consider me in the camp that believes Pittsburgh would have a hard time holding off.
The question would immediately become if the Steelers are comfortable with his wiry frame, but if they can overlook that, he fits all the components of what they need. Forbes is an aggressive ballhawk who brings his aggressiveness up a notch to make up for his lack of elite play strength. If you can look behind the weight questions, you have a player that has inside-out versatility and might be the best pure playmaker at the position in the class. That checks a lot of boxes for the Steelers.
Others Considered: IOL Steve Avila, IOL John Michael Schmitz, DL Mazi Smith, CB Tyrique Stevenson, CB D.J. Turner
Round 2, Pick 49: Keeanu Benton, DL, Wisconsin
I said weeks ago that it felt to me that one of Gervon Dexter, Bryan Bresee, Lukas Van Ness, or Keeanu Benton would end up as Steeler in this class, and I feel that way today, too. You can add Mazi Smith in there, though, and I nearly went there at No. 32 but Forbes was too good to pass up.
Benton feels like someone who is far too undervalued right now around the NFL Draft community and will go far higher than you expect him to in what is not a strong interior defensive line class. He is still a player fleshing out his pass rush profile but played in a defense tailor-made for the Steelers. He can play from out as a 3-technique or condense back inside as a nose tackle. There is that type of versatility that Pittsburgh is missing on the inside right now. This fit makes far too much sense, and if he’s there at No. 49, I think this is the pick.
Others Considered: IOL Joe Tippmann, IDL Gervon Dexter, TE Sam LaPorta, OL Cody Mauch, LB Jack Campbell
Round 3, Pick 80: Nick Herbig, EDGE/LB, Wisconsin
Back-to-back teammates from Madison here, but Nick Herbig really does feel like a Steelers pick, right? Sure, they just signed his brother, Nate, this offseason, but Herbig fits a lot of what the team could use on the defensive side of the football. He has an ever-evolving game that still is not fully developed. Right now, he is an effective pass rusher with heavy hands and a fantastic get-off.
So, he checks off two boxes for me. He can come in on sub-packages and be a highly effective pass rusher. Meanwhile, he has a nonstop motor and ever-growing instincts from the second level. Herbig just feels the type of front 7 chess piece that Pittsburgh could use right now as a relentless player who already understands what it takes to become good in this league. He will need to bulk up to fully be effective on the edge, however. Still, this goes beyond the brother connections and comes back far more to the natural fit of it all. Do they make him a full-time edge rusher or let him continue to develop his off-ball linebacker capabilities would be the biggest question.
Others Considered: EDGE Andre Carter II, EDGE Tuli Tuipulotu, LB Daiyan Henley, WR Jonathan Mingo
Round 4, Pick 120: Riley Moss, CB, Iowa
I think the Steelers will, at some point, double down at cornerback in this class. Listen, they need someone who can play on the outside and another who can peak back inside. Well, you could get two guys who can do both, and Riley Moss out of Iowa has done both. While some will view him as an outside zone cornerback or even an aggressive safety who can play in the slot, Moss is a playmaker who played the ‘Star’ position in Iowa’s defense.
They asked him to blitz, be a cover-down slot, and play on the outside as well. On top of that, he checks the ballhawk box with 11 interceptions over his college career. That type of skillset is something Pittsburgh should covet. His skill set is one that lends itself to fitting exactly what they like at this spot.
Others Considered: WR Charlie Jones, LB Dorian Williams, QB Jaren Hall, TE Zack Kuntz, S J.L. Skinner
Round 7, Pick 241: Clayton Tune, QB, Houston
Omar Khan said that Pittsburgh would not select a quarterback, but I am here to call his bluff. A 7th-round quarterback actually makes plenty of sense for Pittsburgh. They only have Kenny Pickett and Mitch Trubisky on the roster as it stands, and while they could look to add someone through the XFL or USFL signing period, it does seem like they could look to add someone through the draft as well.
Enter in Clayton Tune, who has all the functional mobility that the Steelers will like their backup to have. Make no mistake, coming from the Dana Holgorsen system, there will a steep curve that Tune will have to climb. However, he has high-end intangibles with good accuracy on tape already. The base of what you need is already there, and I think Tune could really be a long-term backup in the NFL.
Others Considered: TE Will Mallory, EDGE Mike Morris, S Ronnie Hickman, FB Hunter Luepke
Round 2, Pick 251: Brayden Willis, TE, Oklahoma
Pittsburgh does feel like they are in the market for a tight end, if nothing more than to push Zach Gentry as the primary blocking tight end. So, Brayden Willis could make some sense in this spot as a result. The thing that sticks out about Willis is that he just has a love for the art of blocking. It shows up on tape and he is a physical finisher that can move around an offensive formation.
That’s the thing I like about Willis this late. He gives the Steelers blocking aptitude but can move around the formation, even out to the slot, because he is not a stiff route runner or athlete. Willis offers plenty of special teams ability that can allow him to make the roster and be the blocking specialist of the team early in his career.
Others Considered: TE Blake Whiteheart, WR Grant DuBose, WR Ronnie Bell, EDGE M.J. Anderson