The Pittsburgh Steelers are heading into the 2023 offseason. With free agency as the next big event to shape next season’s roster, it will be followed by the NFL draft in April. The Steelers will have a number of decisions with players who were on the 2022 roster and will have the opportunity to add some free agent acquisitions before making their first draft selection. The NFL combine and player pro days will also shape the team’s big boards before the draft.
When talking about mock drafts or NFL free agency, you have to first identify the team’s main needs for the offseason. Before any gains or losses in free agency, there are some who would like to see the Steelers go with either offensive line or defensive line with their first-round pick. Others feel inside linebacker or cornerback could be on top of the list. With plenty of chances for the Steelers to shape their roster prior to April, their goal is usually to get into position to draft the best player available rather than target a specific position. When it comes to what position the team will select with their first pick, it is certainly up for debate.
In one of the latest one-round mock drafts by CBS Sports, they have the Steelers addressing the offensive tackle position before anything else. Although the Steelers got improved play from their offensive line as the season went on, it does not take it off the table to be a place to look for an upgrade. Since the Steelers could go in any number of directions with their first selection, it is important to look at all the possibilities presented by various mock draft outlets.
Check out the Steelers 17th pick:
17. Pittsburgh Steelers | Paris Johnson Jr. | OT | Ohio State | JR |
Being early in the draft process, there may be some players most fans are not familiar with. If this is the case, here is a breakdown of Jones according to thedraftnetwork.com:
Paris Johnson Jr. NFL Draft Scouting Report
OT, Ohio State Buckeyes
A consensus five-star recruit from Cincinnati, Paris Johnson Jr. was the Buckeyes’ starter at right guard in 2021 before kicking over to left tackle in 2022. While Johnson proved to be an impact starter for Ohio State, he’s also a standout in the classroom where he’s received a number of academic accolades. Johnson also has an extensive background in volunteering and has already established a foundation to help veterans and underprivileged children.
Johnson came into his own in 2022 as Ohio State’s left tackle, especially as the season moved along and he gained more experience at his natural position after spending 2021 at right guard. Johnson is an explosive athlete with easy movement skills. He has exceptional range as a run blocker and can be trusted to execute longer pulls. He pairs top-end mobility with an impressive frame that features an athletic build with long limbs. Johnson has plenty of high-level flashes where his blend of size, power, and athleticism leads to dominant reps.
Overall, I am impressed with his ability to recover from both a body position standpoint and re-fitting his hands through reps to gain control. His tenacity and mean streak show up with consistency while executing with a finisher’s mentality. He does well to take the air out of reps with his ability to jump set and set the clamps. He also has the foot quickness, control, and length to thrive with vertical sets. There’s so much to like about his size, athleticism, coordination, and development.
When it comes to areas for growth, adding functional strength should be at the top of Johnson’s priorities. Increasing his lower-body strength and power will elevate his game, making him more dynamic in creating displacement in the run game and shoring up his anchor. Johnson’s hand technique can further develop, especially when it comes to eliminating some of his two-hand strikes and not putting himself in so many positions to re-fit hands. Those two-hand strikes have occasionally left him vulnerable to inside moves. Johnson does have some tendencies to drop his head and lunge which takes away from his ability to sustain and control reps. Johnson only played left tackle for one season and ideally would have more reps there entering the NFL, however, that also makes him appealing given what he’s showcased to this point.
Johnson has the makings of an early NFL starter at left tackle with the ceiling to grow into an impact starter and pillar for his unit at the next level.
Top Reasons to Buy In:
Size and athleticism
Coordination, recoverability, and controlled aggression
High ceiling with an excellent baseline
Top Reasons For Concern:
Need for improved functional strength
Developing hand technique
Only one season at left tackle
For all you who are preparing yourself for the draft, what do you think of the selection? Would you be on board with the Steelers taking Johnson with their first pick? Or do you feel there is a better player at this position, a different one who may still be available, or that Johnson will not make it to the 17th pick? Personally, I am still fine with the Steelers bolstering the offensive line with their first pick this year. When it comes specifically to Johnson, where he falls in the draft will likely come more into shape as the draft process unfolds as he only announced he is heading to the draft last week. As for the player, I would love for this to be the pick for one personal reason...
BTSC exclusive interview with Paris Johnson Jr.!
On Tuesday, BTSC will have an exclusive interview with Paris Johnson Jr. on The Steelers Fix podcast with Jeremy Betz and Andrew Wilbar. Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for more information about the interview, or catch it Tuesday at 12 PM EST on the BTSC podcast network on any of your favorite podcast providers.