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2023 NFL Draft

Steelers 2023 NFL Draft Primer: Who Should You Watch Saturday?

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2023 NFL Draft Steelers Draft O'Cyrus Torrence

The 2023 NFL Draft may still be far away, but the Steelers and NFL teams will already scout players by this point. With the first key weekend of college football occurring, what players should fans pay attention to on a loaded Saturday?

Steelers Now breaks down just a few of those players to keep an eye on in Saturday’s most anticipated matchups.

Ohio State OT Paris Johnson Jr. vs Notre Dame 

The Steelers will pay close attention to any and all offensive linemen in the 2023 NFL Draft. One of those players that should jump onto their radar is just three hours west in Columbus, Ohio. Paris Johnson Jr. is one of the best tackle prospects in the entire class for good reason. His athletic profile is backed by the five-star pedigree that he carries with him from his time as a recruit.

There is explosiveness and smoothness to the way that Johnson moves in his pass sets that is easy to see. Oftentimes, he gets to the second level on a zone run and just clears the way with ease. The better part of this all is that Johnson lines up great with Pat Meyer’s philosophy of aggressive jump sets and independent hands. Johnson already has those skills down to a tee. There is room for Johnson to get stronger and understand how to mix up his pass sets against better pass rushers. Against skilled Notre Dame Isaiah Foskey, he should have his skills tested to the max.

Utah CB Clark Phillips III vs Florida

One of the potentially best cornerbacks in the nation, Utah’s Clark Phillips III is a ballhawk who sticks out every chance he gets. Phillips ended the 2021 season on a hot streak and uses his feet to mirror receivers at a high level. His two interceptions and 14 pass breakups are an impressive number when considering the fact that offenses actively went away from him for most of the season.

An experienced starter who has all the athletic traits to test off the charts, Phillips brings a special skillset to the cornerback position that makes him an exciting prospect. There is some serious top cornerback potential with Phillips, and the Steelers still are in search of an alpha cornerback. Could Phillips potentially be that guy? His matchup against Florida will be one of the key determining factors to that.

Oregon CB Christian Gonzalez vs Georgia

It could be easy to list someone such as Jalen Carter or Kelee Ringo here in a marquee matchup for the 2023 NFL Draft. However, those are names that fans may already be familiar with at this time. Frankly, if they perform the way they should this year, the Steelers may not have a chance at these blue-chippers. So, enter in an under-the-radar cornerback in Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez.

Gonzalez is young, but the impressive Colorado transfer was fantastic a season ago. In his two NCAA seasons, Gonzalez started 18 games and registered over 10 pass breakups. There is something about the easy fluidity and high football IQ he plays with despite being an absolute athletic freak. Gonzalez reportedly has a 42-inch vertical. If that number rings true, Gonzalez with a strong season of play could be in first-round consideration.

Syracuse OT Matthew Bergeron vs Louisville

Here is a player who gets thrown under the radar far too much. Matthew Bergeron critically helped Sean Tucker and the rushing attack to a fearsome attack up western New York in 2021. Starting since he was a freshman, Bergeron might just be one of the best tackles in the class period. Working at left tackle for the Orange, Bergeron will get tested by the explosive Yasir Abdullah on the Cardinals.

Bergeron carries a serious mean streak with him as a player and his smooth movement skills add to the high upside he carries as a player. But all of the physical tools are there with Bergeron. He carries the length, strength, mean streak, and athleticism with him. The key steps for him to beat more explosive edge rushers will be executing his punch timing and placement more effectively. Abdullah can test the improvement well in that area. If Bergeron takes a step in that area, he could be a Top-50 prospect.

Florida OG O’Cyrus Torrence vs Utah

The Florida-Utah game should end up as appointment television for Steelers fans. On one side, Phillips could end up as the top cornerback target. Then, on the other side, O’Cyrus Torrence could look to be a fix to the Steelers’ issues at left guard if things go haywire. He will start at right guard tonight against Utah after transferring up for Louisiana-Lafeyette. Torrence knows what good linemen look like, and he is a former teammate of Kevin Dotson.

Torrence is a smash-mouth, tough-as-nails competitor. His functional strength is borderline elite for where he is at and he always plays with a hot motor. Torrence needs to work on the functional football IQ of picking up twists and stunts, but a lot of the mentality and technical nature of the offensive line position is clinical to him. To this point, he is one of the top guard prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft.

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