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Mel Kiper pegs Steelers as intriguing team to watch in the 2023 NFL Draft

ESPN’s long-time NFL Draft expert thinks the Steelers could surprise some people in the 2023 NFL Draft...

NFL: APR 28 2022 Draft Photo by Jeff Speer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2023 NFL Draft is still a few months away, but draft news is beginning to make the headlines, as underclassmen are choosing whether or not to return to school. Mock draft season is not far off in the distance, and the Senior Bowl is less than two months away. With the college football regular season in the rearview mirror, it is time to begin breaking down team needs and prospects who could potentially fill them.

When someone mentions the NFL Draft, the first figure that comes to mind is typically Mel Kiper Jr. Say what you want about the long-time ESPN analyst, but the draft would not be what it is today without his influence. Many people love to disagree with his comments, but when he is talking about the draft, people listen, whether they want to agree or not.

In a recent article discussing the biggest questions in the 2023 NFL Draft, ESPN’s panel of NFL Draft analysts were asked to give “other teams” who could be intriguing to watch in Round 1. “Other teams” was pertaining to non-obvious teams who are not already talked about at nauseum. Kiper answered this question first and chose the Steelers. Here is what he had to say on the matter.

The Steelers have picked in the top 11 just twice in the past 20 years, and one of those was a trade up (for linebacker Devin Bush in 2019). I went to No. 11 there because that’s where they got Ben Roethlisberger in 2004 and where ESPN’s FPI has them projected in 2023. They just took quarterback Kenny Pickett in Round 1 last year, so they don’t have a need at that position. New general manager Omar Khan could try to add capital via a trade back.

The biggest intrigue surrounding the Steelers’ draft plans has to begin with new general manager Omar Khan. The Steelers are not loaded with draft capital by any stretch of the imagination, but they do currently hold three selections inside the top 50. Under Kevin Colbert, the Steelers rarely moved up and down the draft board, but could that change with Omar Khan running the ship? As an aggressively-minded draft analyst, I certainly hope so, but only time will tell. The Steelers lack depth at many positions, and moving back and gaining additional picks could speed up the rebuild if they choose the right prospects.

On defense, the glaring need is cornerback. It is clear the Steelers have no CB1, and based on a good chunk of the 2022 season, it is difficult not to wonder if the Steelers even have a true CB2. Levi Wallace has progressed nicely as the season has moved along, but Ahkello Witherspoon has been incredibly inconsistent, and Cameron Sutton has had his own lapses in coverage when the unit has not been fully healthy. Tre Norwood has not been used overly much, and Arthur Maulet does not really belong on an NFL roster, period.

On offense, it starts and ends with the offensive line. Can somebody please tell Omar Khan that left tackle is an important position to prioritize? The “get away with mediocre” mentality at left tackle has to change at some point, and in a class with several first-round prospects at the position, the Steelers would be wise to take a thorough look. The interior of the line could still use some help as well.

With all that being said, Omar Khan, Andy Weidl, and the Steelers scouting department will be keeping close tabs on all positions, and Steelers fans will be waiting with anticipation to see which way the team chooses to go.

What do you think about the Steelers as it pertains to the 2023 NFL Draft? Do you think the Steelers will be one of the more intriguing teams to pay attention to this spring? Be sure to share your thoughts on this and all things NFL Draft in the comment section below!