After taking Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett with their first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, an early mock 2023 NFL Draft has the Pittsburgh Steelers heading back across the hall to their South Side neighbors and finding first-round talent.
A mock 2023 NFL Draft by Cam Mellor of Pro Football Network released on Wednesday has the Steelers, projected to pick 11th, taking Pitt defensive tackle Calijah Kancey with their first selection.
“Calijah Kancey has the ability to play a bevy of positions at the NFL level,” Mellor wrote. “Though smaller in stature, the road map for his dominance at the NFL level is that of former Pittsburgh Panther Aaron Donald.”
That’s a lofty comparison, but in his time at Pitt, it’s one that Kancey has made reasonable. After redshirting in 2019, he worked his way into the rotation at defensive tackle as a freshman in 2020, playin in 11 games and starting four. He had 27 tackles, seven of which came for a loss and 1.5 sacks to earn freshman All-America honors from the FWAA, Rivals and The Athletic.
In 2021, he started all 14 games as the Panthers won their first ACC title and made it to the Peach Bowl. Kancey finished the season with 35 tackles, a whopping 13 of which went for a loss, and seven sacks. He also had one pass breakup and two quarterback hurries. For that performance, he was named first-team All-ACC and a third-team Associated Press All-American, and he’s coming back for a repeat performance.
“That’s the standard here, sacks and TFLs,” Kancey said in March during spring practice. “Everyone here is ready, a lot of young guys stepping up and a lot of older guys just polishing and knocking off the rust.”
The Steelers began to address the age of their defensive line in the 2022 NFL Draft with the selection of Texas A&M tackle DeMarvin Leal in the third round. Taking Kancey with their top pick next year would shore up the position for years to come.