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2024 NFL Draft

Steelers Draft Digest: Two First-Round Targets Won’t Run at Combine



Pittsburgh Steelers 2024 NFL Draft Prospect Illinois DT Jer'Zhan Newton
Illinois Athletics

Two players that the Pittsburgh Steelers could be closely watching will not be participating in the 2024 NFL Combine because of injuries.

Iowa cornerback Cooper DeJean and Illinois defensive tackle Jer’Zhan “Johnny” Newton won’t be running in Indianapolis next week.

According to a report by Dane Brugler of The Athletic, Newton had foot surgery last month after he played through a partial Jones fracture during the latter part of the 2023 season. A Jones fracture is a break in the bone immediately behind a pinky toe.

Newton is considered one of the top defensive line prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft, and will likely be selected right around where the Steelers pick at No. 20 overall in the first round.

A 6-foot-2, 280-pound defensive tackle, Newton had 52 tackles in 12 games in 2023 and also added 7.5 sacks, showing advance pass-rush prowess for an interior defender. His listed height and weight are similar to former Steelers defensive lineman Javon Hargrave when he came out of South Carolina State.

Brugler also reported that DeJean will not test next week in Indy. He suffered a practice injury to his lower leg late in the 2023 season that ended his year and is still rehabbing.

The crazily athletic DeJean may try to run at Iowa’s pro day next month. His usual athleticism for his size (6-foot-1, 207 pounds) are a big part of the selling point of the productive corner. He had seven interceptions in his college career, returning three for touchdowns, and also returned punts for the Hawkeyes.

Along with Terrion Arnold and Kool-Aid McKinstry of Alabama, Nate Wiggins of Clemson and Quinyon Mitchell of Toledo, DeJean is expected to be a first-round pick and could be around when the Steelers pick at No. 20, and he has been linked to the Steelers. DeJean is currently the 18th-ranked player, according to NFL Mock Draft Database.


Speaking of McKinstry, a new mock draft from has the Steelers taking the Alabama cornerback with their first-round pick at No. 20, even with offensive linemen Jackson Powers-Johnson and Amarius Mims on the board.

“Pittsburgh successfully shored up one cornerback spot with last year’s selection of Joey Porter Jr.,”’s Gennaro Filice wrote. “Now it’s time to address the other. With all due respect to future Hall of Famer Patrick Peterson, he’s no longer the same player in his mid-30s and feels like a prime cut candidate.”