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2023 NFL Mock Draft: The Steelers look to add a physical cornerback with their top pick

In the latest mock draft, the Steelers look to add another “Cam” to their defense.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 03 Georgia State at South Carolina Photo by Charles Brock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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 mock drafts by Pro Football Network, they have the Steelers addressing the cornerback position before anything else. With one of the Steelers top corners in Cam Sutton being a free agent, the Steelers could use some additional talent either through the draft or free agency. 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 | Cam Smith | CB | South Carolina | 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 Smith according to

Cam Smith NFL Draft Scouting Report

CB, South Carolina Gamecocks

Cam Smith developed into an impact starter for South Carolina, where he routinely matched up with top competition and conceded very little in coverage.

Smith is a highly-competitive defender that plays the game with confidence and physicality. He’s a twitchy athlete with good speed, loose hips, and quick feet that lead to sticky reps in man coverage. Smith is patient and balanced at the line of scrimmage and he’s more than willing to crowd and leverage releases to create early disruption on routes. I love the way he competes to get off blocks and tackle. He’s an enthusiastic tackler that is never passive. Smith features dynamic click-and-close ability when driving back down the stem to invade the catch point. He is a poised defender that never panics. Smith showcases outstanding ball skills where his body control ability to locate the football leads to exciting plays on the ball in the air. Overall, Smith is a sharp processor with excellent play recognition skills.

While it’s easy to love his aggressiveness as a tackler, there are times that Smith doesn’t do a good enough job wrapping up and looks to take out the feet of the ball carrier, which leads to an occasional whiff. For his physical style of play, ideally, he’d have a touch more weight on his frame. I find Smith to be mostly patient and balanced at the line of scrimmage, but he does have some over-eager moments when looking to create jams where he fires his hands with dead feet and it causes him to fold at the waist and get off-balance. Smith fell victim to frequent penalty flags in 2022, mainly due to some grabbiness in coverage that will need to be corrected.

Smith has the makings of a quality starting cornerback in the NFL and it’s not unreasonable to think he can start early in his career.

Top Reasons to Buy In:

Quick feet and fluid hips

Coverage instincts and ball skills

Physicality and competitive toughness

Top Reasons For Concern:

Tackling consistency

Over-aggressiveness in coverage

A touch lean

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 Smith 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 Smith will not make it to the 17th pick? Personally, I have no problem with this selection as long as the Steelers feel Smith is the right fit for what they want to do. As K.T. Smith has said previously, there are cornerbacks selceted at the top of the draft that are so talented they can succeed regardless of scheme fit, but most others need to be the right player for the style of defense. Also, while I expect things to change in player rankings over the next few months with the NFL combine and pro days, Smith is currently ranked as the 17th prospect by The Draft Network so I don’t feel that it would be a reach for the Steelers to take him in the first round.