All of the NFL outside of two teams are in full offseason mode, and that includes preparing for the 2023 NFL Draft. For the media who cover the league, this is the time of the year when they too like to dive into draft coverage, and that also equates in the every-popular re-drafting articles.
For those who aren’t familiar with the exercise, this is when NFL experts will go back, and take a look at the draft order from the previous year and re-evaluate the teams’ selections based on how the rookie class panned out.
In this case, ESPN re-drafted the 2022 NFL Draft, and it meant a time to look at not just who these experts have the Pittsburgh Steelers taking at pick No. 20, but also how those experts also viewed other players selected by the Steelers in their 2022 draft class.
First, let’s take a look at who ESPN has the Steelers taking at pick No. 20, especially considering Kenny Pickett wasn’t available when it was their time to take to the podium. More on that later, but first let’s get to the re-draft...
20. Pittsburgh Steelers
Original pick: Kenny Pickett, QB
New pick: Derek Stingley Jr., CB
In this scenario, both Pickett and receiver George Pickens are off the board, leaving the Steelers to address another position of need. With corner near the top of the their 2023 offseason wish list, drafting Stingley would check a major box in shoring up a spot that lacked a true lockdown player after the retirement of Joe Haden. Stingley finished the season on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, but he didn’t allow a touchdown as the nearest defender in coverage and showed potential.
As you saw in the description above, the Steelers 1st and 2nd round picks in the real-life 2022 draft were already selected in this re-draft. The first player selected was none other than George Pickens at pick No. 14 — the Baltimore Ravens.
Can you imagine seeing Pickens in the purple and black going against the Steelers twice a season?? Here is what ESPN thought of the pick:
14. Baltimore Ravens
Original pick: Kyle Hamilton, S
New pick: George Pickens, WR
Hamilton was a solid pick who shook off early struggles and finished strong. He concluded the season with five passes defended and 46 total tackles. But imagine Lamar Jackson lofting touchdown passes to Pickens in the end zone. Pickens’ elite pass-catching ability — he led all rookies in yards per reception (15.4) — is tough to pass on because he provides much-needed playmaking ability on the outside.
The next member of the Steelers 2022 draft class to be selected was Pickett himself. Pickett went to the New Orleans Saints at pick No. 16. In the real-life draft Pickett to New Orleans was a real possibility, and one many experts were shocked didn’t happen.
See what ESPN had to say about the Pickett to the Big Easy:
16. New Orleans Saints (via PHI from IND)
Original pick: Jahan Dotson, WR (WSH pick from NO trade)
New pick: Kenny Pickett, QB
The Saints have struggled to find the right quarterback for the past two seasons and, with no 2023 first-rounder plus limited salary-cap space, their options aren’t great. With Chris Olave off the board, they could use the first of their two picks on a quarterback instead of starting over for the third straight year. Pickett’s numbers aren’t great — seven touchdown passes, nine interceptions — but he and the Pittsburgh offense improved down the stretch.
If you believe into these type of editorial exercises, it would suggest the Steelers have two players who many deem worthy of a first round tag after they performed one year in the NFL. Good news for the Steelers, and their future.
ESPN went a step further, and they also re-drafted the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Here, the Steelers only saw their 52nd pick be re-drafted, with no other players drafted, like DeMarvin Leal who was drafted in Round 3, move up in their draft position.
Nonetheless, here is who ESPN suggested the Steelers take at pick No. 52, considering George Pickens went in the first round.
52. Pittsburgh Steelers
Original pick: George Pickens, WR
New pick: Rashid Shaheed, WR
The Steelers have a history of successfully drafting wide receivers in the second round, but Pickens was long gone in this scenario. It was a toss-up between the undrafted Shaheed and fourth-rounder Romeo Doubs, but Shaheed edged out Doubs because of his late-season consistency and fleet-footed versatility — a big plus in the Steelers’ offense. While Doubs missed more than a month because of an ankle injury and was minimized in his return (thanks to the emergence of Christian Watson), Shaheed became a bigger factor as the season went on, finishing with two touchdowns and 488 receiving yards.
It’s definitely interesting to take a look at what could have been if things fell differently, but this was a similar story to what happened a year ago when these same experts re-drafted the 2021 NFL Draft class. The Steelers had two players, Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth, who were both off the board before it was their slated time to select.
These type of exercises can be great for banter and debate, but ultimately don’t matter much when it comes to the actual on-field product.
Nonetheless, if things went differently for the Steelers, how would you feel if the re-draft was the real-life draft? Let us know your thoughts in the comments, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the NFL offseason.