The Pittsburgh Steelers got their tackle in the first round by trading up to get Georgia’s Broderick Jones with the 14th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. But did the Steelers feel like they needed to get a tackle?
Head coach Mike Tomlin had said before the draft, at the NFL annual meeting, that he was “comfortable” with Dan Moore Jr. and Chukwuma Okorafor in the spots they had both manned since 2021. But on draft day, the Steelers’ aggressive trade up to get Jones seems to be a sign that the team had focused in on drafting a tackle in the first round.
Tomlin confirmed as much during an appearance on the Rich Eisen Show this week, calling tackle a “position of priority” for the team. That’s one of the reasons the club traded up to make sure they’d get Jones, he said.
“There was a run on the position, starting with, I think, Darnell Wright at about 10 where they were coming off pretty clean,” Tomlin said. “We just had that as a position of priority and we had Broderick as an individual of priority.”
The big reason for the trade up, though, was the position of the New York Jets at No. 15, who were likely to take Jones if given the chance.
“We were speculating there,” Tomlin said. “We knew with the acquisition of Aaron Rodgers and so forth, they might be fishing in those waters. And so we did what we thought we needed to do to get the player and the position that we coveted.”
The Steelers found a unique trade partner in the New England Patriots, who seemed quite content to let the Steelers come up and keep Jones from going to the Jets, getting just a fourth-round pick in return — below book value for the selections involved.
“I’m not going to delve into the relationship between New England and the Jets, let’s just say I’m glad we found a partner,” Tomlin said. “I’ll put it this way: there wasn’t a lot of hesitation on New England’s end.”
Of course, now that the draft-day drama is in the past, the big focus for the Steelers is on the player, and Tomlin is optimistic about what the future holds for the big Bulldogs tackle.
“He’s really talented. The things that you can’t coach, pedigree-related things: he’s big, he’s powerful, he’s athletic, he’s got really good body control,” Tomlin said. “He’s experienced a lot of success. There’s no substitute for success — individual success, collective success, the national championships he’s been a part of — I think all of that is a good platform for building a quality career. And he’s done it all in a very short period of time. He’s a third-year junior. He just turned 22 two days ago. That’s exciting for me. I love young guys. I like to be a part of their growth and development, not only as players, but as people. He’s a nice piece of clay, as we like to say. He’s got a lot of tools to work with. He’s got a nice demeanor. He loves the game. He has an outgoing personality. He’s an alpha personality type. All of those things were attractive to us.”