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2023 NFL Mock Draft: The Steelers look to add an athletic defensive lineman with their top pick

In the latest mock draft, the Steelers look to replace possible missing pieces on the defensive line.

Capital One Orange Bowl - Clemson v Tennessee Photo by Megan Briggs/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 CBS Sports, they have the Steelers addressing the defensive line position before anything else. With the Steelers having several key contributors from 2022 as free agents such as Larry Ogunjobi, Chris Wormley, and Tyson Alualu, re-stocking at the position looks like it could be necessary. 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 | Bryan Bresee | DL | Clemson | Soph. |

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 Bresee according to

Bryan Bresee NFL Draft Scouting Report

IDL, Clemson Tigers

Clemson defensive lineman Bryan Bresee projects as a starting defensive lineman in the NFL. Bresee’s natural ability is evident when you watch him on film; he’s capable of penetrating and crashing through gaps with consistency and creating chaos in offensive backfields. He’s endured some incredible adversity throughout his career at Clemson, but it feels as though he’s poised to recapture his early college form upon a transition to the NFL.

Originally a 5-star recruit, Bresee committed to Clemson as the No. 1 recruit in the country from Damascus High School in Maryland. He was an accomplished football and basketball player; he had 35 sacks and 80 tackles for loss at Damascus while also averaging a double/double as a basketball standout. His impact for the Tigers was felt immediately, as he earned ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2020. His time with the Tigers since has been challenging in varying degrees. He suffered multiple injuries in 2021 and had his season ended after just four games with a torn ACL. He played through tragedy in 2022, logging snaps in 10 games amid the tragic loss of his younger sister, Ella, to cancer in September. He finished the season in 2022 before declaring for the 2023 NFL Draft in early January.

The physical skill set is just so obvious when you view his full sample size of film, particularly when he was playing at full strength as a freshman and early in 2021. He’s won on some of the shallow twists, which allow him to open his strides as he gets into a gap. That offers a clear look at why he’s been so highly regarded as a prep recruit. I like him best as a penetration 3-technique. When he’s charged with quickly getting into the backfield, you can see him at his best. He’s twitchy and can rip through lateral contact in order to uncover and then flash to the football with suddenness. He’s capable of gearing down and flattening down the line of scrimmage out of these gap charges to get into pursuit of the football.

Bresee has showcased the needed versatility to play up and down the line at Clemson and I think in the right scheme (penetration based) he could offer similar versatility in the front at the NFL level—particularly with Clemson’s tendency to reduce him down as a head-up rusher on the center to try to dictate 5-0 protection calls from the opposition. Bresee is also accustomed to drawing a crowd and his movement skills and motor allow him to routinely play through that added attention and ensure he’s providing a sufficient level of flow to the football in order to allow him to help clean up extended plays. He’s a prototypical build to play in the B-gap at the NFL level and, when fully healthy, he’s a chore for interior blockers.

Aside from some needed growth and development in Bresee’s fundamentals, he’s going to need to showcase himself as fully recovered from the injuries that piled up over the course of his final two seasons at Clemson. From an execution standpoint, Bresee could stand to be more consistent with his pad level, ensuring he is playing with leverage in the front. Too many times you caught him bubbled off the line of scrimmage when being asked to stack blockers and control gaps. I think he’s much, much better as a penetration defender and unless there’s improvement here, I’m not sure he’ll be a universal prospect for all 32 teams and instead could be a more scheme-specific player long-term.

Bresee’s ability against the run shines best when he’s flowing laterally along the line of scrimmage to stay in the hip pocket of blockers in zone looks—if you decide to run right at him with double teams, I think you can test him best based on his most recent tape. As a pass rusher, Bresee commands a lot of attention. Added focus on ways to successfully negotiate multiple sets of hands and generating forward motion through contact is going to allow his production to make the needed leap for him to live up to his physical potential.

Expectations for Bresee should be centered around him taking significant snaps early in his career and that he should be able to steadily build himself back to being the player that was the No.1 recruit in the country coming out of high school. He is more of a high-variance projection now but I am willing to bet that, medical setbacks aside, Bresee will recapture his elite form in time.

Top Reasons to Buy In:

Natural athleticism is quickly evident

Reactive quickness to finish splash plays

Scheme-diverse skill set and frame

Top Reasons For Concern:

Durability concerns highlighted with several significant injuries over three seasons

Pad-level consistency in leveraging the point of attack

Fewer than 500 snaps taken over the last two seasons

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 Bresee 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 Breese will not make it to the 17th pick? Personally, I’m not quite sure what to think of this pick. I don’t know if Bresee will be there at 17, so if he is I would be fine with the Steelers pulling the trigger. Also, I’m not big on having a first-round pick with injury concerns. On the flip side when a player like George Pickens drops to the Steelers in round two because of injury concerns, I have no problem with it. Additionally, many Steelers fans would like to see them draft Siaki Ika with the number 32 pick. This is something I would not be opposed to either, but this strategy would change the direction the Steelers go with their first selection.