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2024 NFL Draft

Senior Bowl Takeaways: Steelers Target OL, CB Standouts

The Senior Bowl started on Tuesday. From the first practice, what are the biggest takeaways?



Pittsburgh Steelers Senior Bowl

MOBILE, Ala. — The Pittsburgh Steelers and 31 other teams are in Mobile, Alabama, for the Senior Bowl this week. They will get to see some of the top prospects from across the nation and evaluate the best fit for their team. With Tuesday marking the week’s first practice, what were the takeaways from the day?

Multiple OL Standouts

The offensive line group stands out in a positive light here. It’s just a really talented group, but three guys stood out above the rest from those talented players already.

The best offensive lineman was Jackson Powers-Johnson. It’s rare for a center to go in the first round, but Powers-Johnson has played himself into legitimate first round hype. His movement skills for someone of his size, over 330 pounds, is so rare. And yet, he has only started for one legitimate season. For someone that inexperienced at center to play the way he did speaks to coaching, but also the rare player he is coming out of college.

On the day, Powers-Johnson showcased elite core strength, and even reset his hands twice after getting beat initially underneath his pads. But he is a former wrestler and understands how to maximize leverage and win at the point of attack. It should be no surprise that he has already made a name for himself.

Oklahoma’s Tyler Guyton is the second player. I had watched enough of him to get just a little bit familiar with him, but the talk was always about his limited tape, and that he might be a raw player. Instead, on Tuesday, Guyton looked polished and wicked in pass protection. His footwork is insanely quick, and he has recovery length and quickness to mirror edge rushers even when they beat him initially.

Guyton is not a perfect player. On some of the reps he did win, Guyton’s hands got wide and that could leave him open to getting bull rushed or called for holding. But he has a fiery intensity to his game and the athleticism is there. I think he helped his stock tremendously and looks like a starter.

Lastly, Oregon State’s Tailese Fuaga reiterated what I already saw on film. Fuaga’s such a polished technician and just looks natural. His hands are great, and he has a toolbox equipped for each type of pass rusher that he will see in the NFL. Fuaga saw speed rushers, power rushers, and all of the types on his first day in Mobile but nothing spooked him.

He’s even -based in his frame, and Fuaga has the power behind his hands to stun pass rushers significantly. Once his hands get inside, good luck getting off. He is someone else who continued to stamp his draft stock.

Beasts of Texas

One the other side of the ball, there were two interior defensive lineman who stuck out as impressive. Baylor’s Gabe Hall is someone I did not have squarely on my radar, but the traits popped off in person. He is disruptive. For the Steelers, I think a guy like Hall fits well into their sub-packages, but he looks quick enough to slide out to base end. But it’s Hall’s hands and an exciting array of moves that pop off the tape to make you excited about his upside. With a quick first step, he is someone to circle.

The other is Texas A&M’s McKinley Jackson. If you want a fiery player who goes out there with his hair on fire, he’s the guy. Jackson has good length and gets into offensive lineman’s chests easily with his power. His speed-to-power conversion sticks out well. The first step is just insane, and some of the reps looked incredible in one-on-ones, but then he wrecked shop during the inside run period of practice while two-gapping. That was impressive. I’m looking forward to seeing more.

Steelers Focus on OL

Okay, back to the offensive line for a second. Mike Tomlin is all around these guys, but there was an in-depth group of people attending for Pittsburgh. General manager Omar Khan, assistant general manager Andy Weidl, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, and others are in Mobile, but where Tomlin goes is usually a solid indication on just who the Steelers are looking at in the 2024 NFL Draft.

And all he did for the entire day was hang around the offensive line. He stood right on the heels of all of these one-on-ones the entire time, talking to guys like Guyton and Powers-Johnson throughout the afternoon and morning. Tomlin is not lying when he is says he is a junkie come this time of year. But the early indications are simple — the Steelers are looking at offensive line.

Two CB Targets

The cornerbacks struggled at times on Tuesday. For example, Penn State’s Kalen King, who has procured some first-round hype, did not look like a first-round player all day. In fact, he was even called out by North Carolina wide receiver Tez Walker who beat him during the final competition period of practice.

But second, two other guys lived up to the hype. For one, Toledo cornerback Quinyon Mitchell. Wow, did this kid put on a show. He walked up in press coverage and played in off-man. He has both the speed to keep up with receivers down the field, but the length at the line of scrimmage to snuff them out. And he’s fluid in his transitions and turns to keep up with receivers. This was a statement day for him.

Meanwhile, Oregon’s Khyree Jackson is a freak athlete. Before 2023, he was at Alabama, where he played mostly special teams. But at Oregon, he finally played a took off. This is another guy who is 6-foot-3 and looks like he will run in at least the 4.4s, but he is so technically sound.

Given Jackson and Mitchell’s measurements and physical attributes they fit the ideal Steelers cornerback quite well. I would keep an eye out for them.

A WR Rises Above the Rest

Georgia wide receiver Ladd McConkey was seen talking with Tomlin at one point in the practice session, and so it is little surprise that he ends up being the best receiver on the day. Others had trouble making big plays and sticking out, but not McConkey. He is just so smooth and explosive out of his routes.

But McConkey showcased he has a diverse route tree and plenty of long speed to win down the field. There were others who had a solid day, like Michigan’s Roman Wilson, but no one came close to the consistent separation and domination that McConkey displayed throughout the entire practice.