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2024 NFL Draft

Steelers NFL Draft Mailbag: First-Round Slides, Realistic Center Options?

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Pittsburgh Steelers 2024 NFL Draft Target Oregon OL Jackson Powers-Johnson

The 2024 NFL Draft is almost here, so we dipped into the mailbag to answer your questions about what the Pittsburgh Steelers have planned for the first round and beyond when the draft starts next week.

Nick Caummuso on X : What is the most likely player being mocked before No. 20 who could slip, for one reason or another, to the Steelers?

To me, the big ones are the last two quarterbacks. There are a lot of mock drafts with Box Nix and Michael Penix Jr. in the top 20. NFL Mock Draft Database has Nix going to Denver at pick No. 12 in its consensus mock draft, with Penix landing in Minnesota at pick No. 23. Of course, that is without trades.

The Steelers should be rooting for Nix and Penix to get ahead of them in the first round, because teams that don’t take quarterbacks — especially Las Vegas — could be in the mix for a piece of the deep tackle class, instead.

Edge rusher Laiatu Late is another player that I see mocked early in the first round a good bit, that I have been told some teams have off their board entirely due to medical concerns. If someone takes him — the Los Angeles Rams at No. 19 has been a popular choice — that’s another team not taking an offensive lineman.

In terms of a player the Steelers might actually want that could fall, I think the best realistic hope is tackle JC Latham from Alabama, who I don’t think will get through the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 18, but that would be the hope.

I do expect most of Amarius Mims, Graham Barton, Cooper DeJean and Brian Thomas Jr. to be available.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2024 NFL Draft Big Board

Steelers CB Joey Porter Jr. Cory Trice

Pittsburgh Steelers cornerbacks Joey Porter Jr. and Cory Trice at OTAs on May 25, 2023. – Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Drew Hannis on X: Have you heard anything about how Corey Trice looks health wise? This could impact how they view corner in the draft.

Corey Trice is working out with the team during the first phase of their offseason conditioning program. Physically, he should be close to ready for action during OTAs, given the timing of his injury. He has been off crutches since the middle of the 2023 regular season.

I don’t think they’ll go into the season betting on Trice to make an impact, but I think they’ll want to leave room so that it’s possible he could show up and beat out, say Donte Jackson, for playing time by the end of the year.

For me, I have a hard time seeing them using a first-round pick on a corner for a number of reasons, but not wanting to block any path to starting in the future for Trice (and/or Darius Rush) is one of them.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2024 NFL Draft Prospect OL Graham Barton

Graham Barton, Duke Athletics

Jonas M. Ellefsrud on X: Who are the true center prospects the Steelers would consider (if available) in the 3 first rounds? Also any scenario where they go tackle and center in first 3 rounds?

True center is an interesting way of parsing this that I’m not particularly interested in. These are the players that I think the Steelers should be comfortable playing at center at some point this season:

Round 1: Graham Barton, Duke; Jackson Powers-Johnson, Oregon
Round 2: Zach Frazier, West Virginia
Round 3: Sedrick Van Pran, Georgia
Rounds 4/6: Hunter Nourzad, Penn State; Beaux Limmer, Arkansas; Tanor Bortolini, Wisconsin

I think they could not only go tackle and center in the first three rounds, they could go tackle and center in the first two rounds. In fact, if they take a tackle in the first round, I think finding a way to get Zach Frazier becomes the next priority in the draft.

Steven Hvozdik on X: Do you think Malik Washington is on their board? How much do the Steelers/Tomlin consider bloodlines when drafting? Seems very important to them.

Yes, they scouted Malik Washington at the Shrine Bowl.

The Steelers consider NFL bloodlines to be a significant factor in terms of projecting players to the league. It’s not going to make someone faster or smarter or play with better technique, but their belief is that players that have seen the work that goes into the process and already understand what to expect because of it, will have a lower rate of totally busting.

Then again, Devin Bush’s dad played in the NFL. So maybe they’re wrong.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2024 NFL Draft Zach Frazier

West Virginia center Zach Frazier warms up before a game against Oklahoma State at Milan Puskar Stadium on Oct. 23, 2023. — Kelsie LeRose / WVSN

Matthew Hatchett on X: Can the Steelers really gamble on waiting on center until the 2nd or 3rd day? I would rather take an offensive Tackle in the first and a receiver in the second. This is a offensive league. And they need a WR that can make an instant impact!! But center is big hole now.

This is a very good question, so thank you, Matt. It’s one I’ve been struggling with. If you’ve played around with the mock draft machines at all, you know it’s very scary to try to navigate to value in the top of the draft while leaving center un-accounted for.

But the thing I consider to be Omar Khan’s signature as the general manager of the Steelers so far is his understanding of value. And there just isn’t great value in drafting center on day one, or even really early on day two, as much as I love Zach Frazier.

If it were me running the draft, they’d take a tackle in the first round and trade up in the second to make sure they got Frazier, because I’d be afraid of not getting one.

But there’s something about the way that Khan does business that makes me think he’s going to be willing to wait and roll the dice, especially with the team bringing in Day Three center prospect Hunter Nourzad from Penn State this week.