There is still a lot which has to take place before the 2023 NFL Draft, and all NFL organizations will be adjusting their team needs lists after free agency. But that doesn’t stop sites from both writing, and covering, mock drafts.
It’s big business within the current NFL landscape.
So, while the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles are preparing for the Super Bowl this Sunday, the rest of the league is in full offseason mode. And this means it’s time to really start evaluating prospects. Whether you love or hate mock drafts, it is a great way to learn about different prospects who are about to enter the NFL realm.
While most mock drafts are only one rounds, Matt Miller of ESPN 2-Round mock draft should be of special interest to the Steelers fan base. Why? Because they have three selections in the top two rounds of the draft.
With that being said, take a look at who Miller has going to the Steelers, and it’s important to note this mock draft includes trades, with one big one coming at the top of the draft.
Let’s take a look...
Projected trade: Colts move up for a QB
Multiple teams in the top 10 could try to move up to No. 1 to land their quarterback of choice, and the Bears — who already have Justin Fields — certainly should be listening to offers. In this scenario, the Colts take the plunge, sending the Bears the Nos. 4 and 35 picks, a fourth-rounder and a 2024 third-rounder to jump to the top.
I spoke to a few people in the league for context on what might seem like a fair deal, and this fits for both franchises. Indy can get its signal-caller, and Chicago should still have the chance to land a top defender while adding a haul of draft assets, including a valuable second-rounder.
1. Indianapolis Colts (via mock trade with CHI) - Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
2. Houston Texans - Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
3. Arizona Cardinals - Will Anderson Jr., DE, Alabama
4. Chicago Bears (via mock trade with IND) - Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
5. Seattle Seahawks (via DEN) - Tyree Wilson, DE, Texas Tech
6. Detroit Lions (via LAR) - Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
7. Las Vegas Raiders - Peter Skoronski, OT/G, Northwestern
8. Atlanta Falcons - Myles Murphy, DE, Clemson
9. Carolina Panthers - C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
10. Philadelphia Eagles (via NO) - Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
11. Tennessee Titans - Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
12. Houston Texans (via CLE) - Jordan Addison, WR, USC
13. New York Jets - Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
14. New England Patriots - Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
15. Green Bay Packers - Brian Branch, S/CB, Alabama
16. Washington Commanders - Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
17. Pittsburgh Steelers - Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
The biggest need in Pittsburgh this offseason is along the offensive line, but with the top three tackles already off the board, the Steelers could pivot to the secondary. Gonzalez has a unique blend of traits and production. The 6-2, 200-pound cornerback is expected to test really well at the combine, with one area scout predicting times in the 4.3-second range in the 40-yard dash. But Gonzalez is more than “just” a high-level speed player; he had four interceptions and seven pass breakups in 2022 after transferring from Colorado. He’s a perfect match of need and value, and — spoiler — Pittsburgh could wait until Round 2 to address the O-line with a pair of picks.
18. Detroit Lions - Lukas Van Ness, DE, Iowa
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State
20. Seattle Seahawks - Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
21. Los Angeles Chargers - Nolan Smith, OLB, Georgia
22. Baltimore Ravens - Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
23. Minnesota Vikings - Drew Sanders, ILB, Arkansas
24. Jacksonville Jaguars - Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
25. New York Giants - Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee
26. Dallas Cowboys - O’Cyrus Torrence, G, Florida
27. Buffalo Bills - Cody Mauch, OT/G, North Dakota State
28. Cincinnati Bengals - Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
29. New Orleans Saints (via DEN/MIA/SF) - Keion White, DE, Georgia Tech
30. Kansas City Chiefs - Derick Hall, DE, Auburn
31. Philadelphia Eagles - Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia
32. Pittsburgh Steelers (via CHI) - John Michael Schmitz, C, Minnesota
The Steelers need an offensive line makeover, and Schmitz is my top-ranked center and a legitimate top-32 prospect. His quickness and power as a second-level blocker were on display at the Senior Bowl and would immediately help the Pittsburgh unit.
33. Houston Texans - Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah
34. Arizona Cardinals - Steve Avila, G, TCU
35. Chicago Bears (via mock trade with IND) - Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
36. Los Angeles Rams - BJ Ojulari, DE, LSU
37. Seattle Seahawks (via DEN) - Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
38. Las Vegas Raiders - Trenton Simpson, ILB, Clemson
39. Carolina Panthers - DJ Turner, CB, Michigan
40. New Orleans Saints - Tuli Tuipulotu, DT, USC
41. Tennessee Titans - Will McDonald IV, DE, Iowa State
42. Cleveland Browns - Mazi Smith, DT, Michigan
43. New York Jets - Antonio Johnson, S, Texas A&M
44. Atlanta Falcons - Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina
45. Green Bay Packers - Luke Musgrave, TE, Oregon State
46. New England Patriots - Matthew Bergeron, OT, Syracuse
47. Washington Commanders - Tyrique Stevenson, CB, Miami-FL
48. Detroit Lions - Sam LaPorta, TE, Iowa
49. Pittsburgh Steelers - Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma
The Steelers got a cornerback and a center with their first two picks and now find a left tackle of the future here. Harrison could be a target for teams earlier on Day 2 thanks to great length, fluid movement and a lot of upside. He’s 6-5 and 315 pounds, and NFL scouts I’ve spoken to say they believe he’ll continue to improve once he gets in an NFL conditioning and strength program.
For an in-depth look at these three players, check out the draft profiles below:
Christian Gonzalez has been a three-year starter in college football, playing his first two seasons at the University of Colorado. He then transferred to the University of Oregon for his final season where he established himself as one the best corners in the class.
Gonzalez is a long and lean corner with outstanding overall athleticism. He offers excellent size with the height and length to match up against opposing teams’ No. 1 receivers on the boundary. Gonzalez is a cover corner who flashes the ability to lock down his side of the field. Gonzalez is an outstanding man defender who shows the foot quickness, change of direction, and flexibility to match route combinations and stay connected at the top of the routes. He has the ability to flip his hips and carry vertically with excellent long speed. He is excellent in press coverage utilizing a well-timed punch at the line to disrupt the receiver and shows patient feet to consistently stay in front and in phase throughout the stem.
Gonzalez flashes outstanding instincts and awareness in zone coverage and is able to read the quarterback’s eyes while keying in on moving targets in his zone. He is an easy mover dropping in coverage and flashes excellent short-area quickness to close on anything thrown in front of him. With his long arms, Gonzalez is able to win most 50/50 situations and is able to knock the ball down at the catch point.
Once considered a weakness, Gonzalez showed drastic improvement with his ball skills as he set career highs in interceptions in 2022 (4). He is a very good open-field tackler and does not shy away from physicality and oftentimes looks to bring it.
Top Reasons to Buy In:
Top Reasons For Concern:
- Play strength
JOHN MICHAEL SCHMITZ, IOL Minnesota
Minnesota IOL John Michael Schmitz projects as a starting center in the NFL. There’s little question that Michael Schmitz has the frame and the IQ to play center in the NFL when you watch him on tape—he’s a large-bodied center who wins in a number of different ways.
Originally a 3-star recruit, Schmitz played his high school football at Homewood-Flossmoor High School in Flossmoor, IL. Schmitz was also a high school wrestler, and those experiences are evident quickly when watching him leverage at the point of attack in the heart of Minnesota’s offensive line. Redshirting his true freshman season, Schmitz was on campus for two years before taking over a starting role in 2019 (four starts), By the end of his collegiate career, he’d logged 36 career starts at center for the Gophers.
Schmitz is a powerful center that offers the kind of stature that would shine in an inside zone and between-the-tackles gap running system. Offering effective punch and pad power as a run blocker, Schmitz projects as someone capable of generating the needed wash in the front to allow backs and lead blockers to hit gaps with confidence. There’s a stout anchor in pass protection present here as well. Schmitz does well against both interior blockers and second-level pressure players to slam the door shut and sit down on his hips to prevent collapse into his quarterback’s lap. What really got me excited, however, was the ability to execute cut-off and reach blocks when runs needed to gain a man to the run strength—Schmitz showcased surprising lateral mobility but also very efficient hands to twist and manipulate defenders to allow his guard to push and release to the second level. Furthermore, I thought he was a cerebral player with his strike timing and attacks to either create a firm stun punch or deconstruct defenders and get them off of their base at the point of attack. A multi-year starter at center, this is a player who identifies pressure opportunities with consistency, he processes front movement well and stays patient to ensure action doesn’t fold back his way before committing and pushing off his landmark to transition into a help blocker.
While his ability to execute reach blocks and add numbers to the front is a surprising quality, I’m not fully certain Schmitz is well suited for wide and outside zone concepts with regularity based on some of his functional athleticism. Schmitz will, when needing to string out the point of attack, seemingly overextend himself and his long-range athleticism appears to be a limiting factor. On these reps, he’ll get caught with his weight out overtop of his toes, allow his balance to whittle away, and lunge and miss contact. Quick-footed interior defenders did test him at times when climbing as well—consistency in his angles is an area where polish can be afforded. Generally, I do believe there is some tightness in the core—nothing that will prohibit him for playing effectively at the point but as a result he may end up with a smaller menu of assignments in space than some other centers have. Schmitz has played exclusively as a center during his time at Minnesota, but he’s got a build to play guard and did play tackle in high school—any level of versatility is something I’d consider a bonus, not a strength of his resume.
Expectations for Schmitz should be that this is a starting player on your offensive line sooner rather than later. He has the capabilities to step in and process NFL information and has the physical profile to handle A-gap defenders and maintain push or a clean pocket.
Top Reasons to Buy In:
- Sturdy build offers a strong anchor in protection
- Fluid and athletic enough to flow laterally with the point of attack
- Very effective hand implementation to win first contact
- Well-tenured player who processes information in the middle well
Top Reasons For Concern:
- Not sure he’s an overly dynamic player with plus explosiveness or flexibility
- Angles in space can be tested by more rangy defenders
- Pad level is something that will be a point of emphasis
- Will be a 24-year-old rookie
A four-star recruit, Anton Harrison chose Oklahoma over the likes of Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State. He earned playing time as a freshman in 2020 before settling in as the Sooners’ blindside protector in 2021 and 2022.
Harrison has the physical profile of an appealing NFL offensive tackle prospect. He features a long and athletic build with good arm length. Harrison is thick in his lower half and he’s far from maxed out. He has the athleticism needed to mirror rushers and handle speed off the edge while offering plenty of range as a run blocker. Harrison has quick and nimble feet with loose hips, which makes it natural for him to redirect, work laterally, and get into space. I like his overall balance and how he plays within himself, rarely getting overextended or top-heavy.
The key for Harrison moving forward is getting stronger and developing his footwork in pass protection to better take advantage of his length and movement skills. While Harrison isn’t overpowered at the point of attack, he is far from a people-mover that creates consistent displacement in drive-block situations. With more functional strength and by executing with better leverage, Harrison will become an even more effective blocker in the run and pass games. His pass sets are inconsistent in terms of getting the depth and width necessary to frame blocks. Too often Harrison will open his hips too soon and create soft angles for rushers to work through, which can be improved with more consistent footwork in his kickslide. Harrison has room to improve his hand technique where his timing and placement can be erratic and inconsistent.
With increased functional strength and technical growth, Harrison has the potential to be a starting left tackle in the NFL early in his career.
Top Reasons to Buy In:
- Length and movement skills
- Pass protection ability
- Body type
Top Reasons For Concern:
- Functional strength
- Inconsistent pass sets
- Hand placement and consistency with leverage
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the 2023 NFL offseason.