College football’s bowl season is upon us, and after three consecutive losses for the Pittsburgh Steelers, plenty of fans are starting to count down the days until the 2024 NFL Draft. There are plenty of intriguing directions the Steelers could go this year, including both wide receiver and quarterback.
It’s time to familiarize yourself with some of the names you’ll hear bandied about this spring ahead of the NFL Draft. Here are some of the games (and players) you should be checking out. (*IF the players elect not to opt-out)
Peach Bowl: No. 10 Penn State vs. No. 11 Ole Miss
When: December 30, 12 p.m. ET
TV channel: ESPN
Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager Omar Khan has seemingly knocked it out of the park with his 2023 draft class, and a large reason for that is because he was able to draft Penn State CB Joey Porter Jr. The rookie defensive back has exceeded expectations this season and appears to be on his way to stardom in the Steel City.
Why is this important? Because there are a few more Nittany Lions that Khan should keep an eye on.
Penn State OT Olu Fashanu hasn’t allowed a sack his entire college career. Yes, he’s a left tackle, and the Steelers drafted Broderick Jones last year to hold down that spot, but when you have two guys of this caliber — you just figure it out.
Penn State OT Olu Fashanu played his most complete game of the season vs. Michigan. Outstanding day as a run blocker. pic.twitter.com/n7uNm0pwVk— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) November 13, 2023
Unfortunately, I don’t think he will be available when they are on the clock, but cornerback Kalen King likely will be. King played opposite Porter Jr. last season and had three interceptions, showing off his ballhawk abilities. Sure, he struggled against Ohio State WR Marvin Harrison Jr. this year, but who didn’t? He has plenty of tools and would be a great fit on a team that needs much more help in their secondary.
Going to the Penn State well has worked recently with both Porter Jr. and tight end Pat Freiermuth. Why not go back again?
ReliaQuest Bowl: No. 13 LSU vs. Wisconsin
When: January 1, 12 p.m. ET
How to watch: ESPN2
Picture this; you’re waking up on New Year’s Day after another devastating Steelers loss to the Seattle Seahawks the day before. George Pickens went on yet another post-game tirade, leading you to believe he won’t be a part of the team’s long-term plans.
Fortunately for us, the first window includes the most talented wide receiver in the class — LSU’s Malik Nabers.
Current LSU receivers in the NFL include the Cincinnati Bengals Ja’Marr Chase and the Minnesota Vikings Justin Jefferson. You could argue these are two of the top three wideouts in the league. Nabers has similar potential.
Nabers won the Biletnikoff award this year, given to the nation’s top WR - after finishing with 85 catches for 1,546 yards and 14 TDs. He will have a chance to prove his worth because he will be without his Heisman-winning QB Jayden Daniels — who recently opted out of this game.
To say Daniels had a season for the ages is an understatement. Daniels led the nation in total offense (412.2), touchdown passes (40), and rushing yards by a quarterback (1,134). As of this point, Nabers is considered a high first-round pick in most publications. This game could either help or hurt his stock due to the absence of Daniels.
In the infamous words of Pittsburgh legend Fred Rogers — won’t you be my Nabers?
Sugar Bowl CFP Semifinal: Washington Huskies vs. Texas Longhorns
When: January 1, 8:45 p.m. ET
How to watch: ESPN
This is another New Year’s Day delight, this time, in the form of a college football playoff game. January 1st will be the perfect day to put a butt dent in your couch, as these two high-octane offenses are sure to light up the scoreboards.
We also have another dynamic connection, as Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. is another intriguing option for the Pittsburgh Steelers. I’ll be watching both Penix Jr. and the Huskies’ star WR Rome Odunze.
Odunze is a sure-fire first-round pick in the upcoming 2024 NFL Draft. This season Odunze caught 81 passes, for 1,428 yards and 13 touchdowns. He has eight games in which he’s recorded over 100 yards receiving. The 6’3, 215 pounds Biletnikoff finalist has a vicious mean streak and has a great reputation both on and off the field.
The Steelers could use an overhaul at the wide receiver position — and some of the players in that room could learn a few things from a guy like Odunze.
Who are some players that I missed and some bowl games you will be watching? Let us know in the comments section!