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Steelers 2023 NFL Draft Preview, Week 12: Is Illinois safety Sydney Brown a Troy Polamalu clone?

Taking a look at Week 12 of NCAA football action...

Michigan State v Illinois Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The 2023 NFL Draft is still months in the distance, but with college football having arrived, the beginning stages of the 2023 draft process has begun. With that in mind, it is time to dive into this week’s biggest games in the college football world, taking a look at potential Steelers draft targets to pay attention to during their respective games.

Offensive line is definitely an area the Steelers need to address, and the most likely resource for the solution is indeed the draft. Concerns at cornerback and linebacker also loom large over the Pittsburgh’s head. Although we will certainly break down prospects at other positions this season as well, these will be the primary positions of emphasis.

Nearly every week during the season, there are several highlight games that steal the headlines, but even when these games overshadow the rest of the college football landscape, we will not be negligent of the other games and prospects in action. Every week during the season, we will recap the previous week’s action and determine whose stock rose the most as it pertains to the NFL Draft.

As always, be sure to share your thoughts on this topic in the comment section below, but without further adieu, here are the top prospects and games to keep an eye on this Saturday.

Illinois vs. #3 Michigan — Noon ET on ABC

Illinois Spotlight: Sydney Brown — S (5’11”, 205 lbs); Chase Brown — RB (5’11”, 205 lbs)
Michigan Spotlight: Mike Morris — DL (6’5”, 292 lbs); Zak Zinter — G (6’6”, 320 lbs)

I truly hope the Steelers can find a way to keep Terrell Edmunds this offseason, as he has become a key component of this secondary. However, in the event the Steelers do not bring him back, consider Sydney Brown a potential replacement. The way he flies to the ball, long hair and all, brings back fond memories of Troy Polamalu. This is not an attempt to compare Brown to the Steeler legend, but he is quick, instinctual, and capable of making a game-altering play at any moment. He has 4 interceptions, 7 passes defended, and 1 forced fumble on the year.

For Michigan, here are two new players to watch. Mike Morris is having himself an outstanding season, and his athleticism could make him a fit in both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes. Zak Zinter could still return to school in 2023, but leaving while the stock is up may be a good idea. Zinter has done phenomenal work on the interior along with standout center Olusegun Oluwatimi, and both are firmly amidst the early-round conversation.

#22 Oklahoma State vs. Oklahoma — 7:30 ET on ABC

Oklahoma State Spotlight: Brock Martin — EDGE (6’3”, 245 lbs); Thomas Harper (5’11”, 180 lbs)
Oklahoma Spotlight: Anton Harrison — OT (6’5”, 315 lbs); Reggie Grimes — DE (6’4”, 273 lbs)

There are not many players of note on the Cowboys, but on the defense, Brock Martin has a chance to become a solid role player in the NFL. He is well-built, and he has will to win on each rep. Harper is the brother of 2022 draft pick Devin Harper, who rose on draft boards after great athletic testing. Do not be surprised if the same happens for Thomas.

Anton Harrison is still trying to solidify his draft status, but his combination of excellent hand usage and balance has aided in his recent rising on draft boards. Grimes has displayed pass rushing upside in 2022 with 4.5 sacks on the season, but his best career move may be to add weight and trying to move inside to a 5-technique role.

#7 USC vs. #16 UCLA — 8:00 ET on FOX

USC Spotlight: Andrew Vorhees — G (6’6”, 325 lbs); Tuli Tuipulotu — DL
UCLA Spotlight: Atonio Mafi — G (6’3”, 339 lbs); Darius Muasau — ILB (6’1”, 230 lbs)

Vorhees has been a staple on USC’s offensive line amidst the change that has taken place within the university’s athletics. His experience shows on the field, as he always seems to be aware and in the right position to block the defender. He also provides the versatility needed to play tackle in a pinch. Tuipulotu has been on a tear this season, albeit against a predominantly weak schedule. He currently has 11.5 sacks from the interior this season.

For UCLA, I have my eye on former 400-pound nose tackle Atonio Mafi. I do not expect his athletic testing to wow anybody, but he can move any defender off the ball as a run blocker. Muasau is a transfer from Hawaii who compensates his lack of great size with his range in coverage. He is currently a projected Day 3 pick.

Which prospects are you watching in Week 12? Do you think any of these players could be a fit for the Steelers? Be sure to light up the comment section below throughout the day with your thoughts on today’s action!