Is it just me or did the college football season fly by?
For some the “draft season” doesn’t start until the Pittsburgh Steelers have finished playing, but for some who truly enjoy the college game it starts in late August. For those “die hard” draft guys the search has already started on the 2024 prospects. Yep, we are the ones that look forward to next year’s first mock as soon as the current draft ends. It’s a sickness of sorts, but there are far worse things to do with one’s time.
Looking at how the Steelers’ season has gone thus far there is no doubt the team needs help with the defense and in particular the run defense. So, I will begin this two-part series with the defense. Looking back at last year, the Steelers invested heavily in the offense, personally I hope 2023 is the exact opposite.
INTERIOR DEFENSIVE LINEMAN
1 - Jalen Carter, Georgia - Once a thought and now a dream
2 - Bryan Bresee, Clemson - Love the guys heart but question the motor at times
3 - Gervon Dexter, Florida - Some will like him some won’t
4 - Mazi Smith, Michigan - If he can get inside he is a load
5 - Siaki Ika, Baylor - Folks don’t let the size fool ya he is not Casey Hampton and that’s okay
Sleeper - Keeanu Benton, Wisconsin
I would not object to drafting a couple of young prospects to help rebuild a depleted interior line group. Cam Heyward, love the guy, but he isn’t getting any younger. As for the rest, they seem to be below average at best but really struggle as a unit against the run. I do like what has been seen from DeMarvin Leal thus far. The cupboards bare folks, and most of us recognize the game is won and lost in the trenches.
1 - Will Anderson Jr., Alabama - Some around BTSC would have passed if we had a shot. Really? Wow!
2 - Myles Murphy, Clemson - I see him as more of a 4-3 DE but we do go 2-4-5 a bit
3 - Isaiah Foskey, Notre Dame - Has dropped a bit but wouldn’t mind taking a shot with the Chicago pick
4 - Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech - Has moved into 1st round discussion in some circles, not mine. Love his run fits
5 - Nolan Smith, Georgia - Torn Pec ended his season, still not sure of his fit. 18 tackles, 7 were TFL on the season?
Sleeper - Keion White, Georgia Tech
Some may feel this is somewhat a luxury pick with having T.J. Watt just signed to a new contract and also having Alex Highsmith still signed. There are no guarantees that Highsmith remains a Steeler, and do the Steelers need to look at what the defense looked like with T.J.’s replacements, when he missed a significant chunk of time? Watt doesn’t look to still be fully healthy. Having a solid No. 3 could be more beneficial than you think.
1 - Drew Sanders, Arkansas - Talk about production but where does he fit? This guy is a football player find a spot
2 - Noah Sewell, Oregon - Traditional down hill thumper with decent athletic ability
3 - Trenton Simpson, Clemson - Move around piece with production to boot
4 - Henry To’o To’o, Alabama - Get’s stuck on blocks too much for me and Yinzer doesn’t like him!
5 - Jack Campbell, Iowa - His coverage ability isn’t what stands out but he can find the football
Sleeper - Daiyan Henley, Washington State
Not going to go into a long anti-Devin Bush rant, but the proof is in the pudding. The argument can be made that with a better defensive line, Bush would/could be a better player. The problem is his contract is due and while it’s not my money I can’t see paying him to find out. Myles Jack hasn’t been much better and while Robert Spillane might understand his assignment, he isn’t athletically gifted enough to make that work.
1 - Brian Branch, Alabama - Most complete Safety in this class, box, single high and solid in run fits
2 - Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M - Box guy with coverage recognition and zone awareness
3 - Christopher Smith, Georgia - If only he had the coveted size, everything else is there
4 - Jammie Robinson, Florida State - Not a lot of ball production but has game around the LOS
5 - Brandon Joseph, Notre Dame - Versatility and vison
Sleeper - Quindell Johnson, Memphis
If Terrell Edmunds and Damontae Kazee aren’t signed Minkah Fitzpatrick is going to feel pretty lonely. Personally, for the right money I wouldn’t mind having both guys back. Will that happen? If not there are some interesting options in the draft.
1 - Cam Smith South, Carolina - Best all around game in this class
2 - Joey Porter Jr., Penn Sate - What’s not to like - length and physicality mixed with solid instincts
3 - Clark Phillips lll, Utah - Some of the best hips and feet in this class, can also slide into the slot for versatility
4 - Christian Gonzalez, Oregon - Length and very instinctual, haven’t seen the best of the young man yet
5 - Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State - Go check out his accolades and production and don’t let that 180lbs fool you
Sleeper - Cory Trice, Purdue
Most will agree the Steelers have struggled to find or develop this position and have went the free agency route to find success. Well, here we are again possibly needing to draft another prospect because free agency wasn’t kind this year. While Levi Wallace has played decent as of late, there isn’t much else to write home about. Do we know what William Jackson III is going to provide? Is Cam Sutton worth another look? The good thing is this draft is top-loaded with talent and it could trickle into the late second/early third to find a decent prospect.
These rankings are from my personal board, so opinions will vary and that’s fine because we are here for the discussion and all things Black and Gold. As always stay safe and Happy Holidays!
The offensive rankings will be out some time in the near future!