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2023 NFL Mock Draft: Steelers look to add a hometown defensive lineman with their top pick

In the latest mock draft, the Steelers look to add another player from the team next door with their first-round selection.

Rhode Island v Pittsburgh Photo by Joe Sargent/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 conclusion of 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 the latest mock drafts by Sportsnaut, they have the Steelers addressing the defensive line position before anything else. While the position is one which needs to be addressed, the bigger question is if the first round is the place to do it. 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 | Calijah Kancey | DT | Pittsburgh | Jr. |

Still being in the middle of the draft process, there may be some players most fans are not familiar with. If this is the case, here is a breakdown of Kancey according to

Calijah Kancey NFL Draft Scouting Report

IDL, Pitt Panthers

A Miami, Florida native, Calijah Kancey took his talents to Pittsburgh and developed into one of the most dynamic defensive linemen in college football. After emerging as a starter late in 2020, Kancey was a first-team All-ACC selection in 2021 before earning consensus All-American honors in 2022 while also being named ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

Kancey is a spark plug on the interior of the defensive line. He plays with incredible urgency and fires into the neutral zone with quickness and intent. He’s extremely physical and tough, willing to exchange power with blockers that have 30-plus pounds on him on a weekly basis. He does well to take advantage of his quickness and built-in leverage to win with first contact, shoot gaps, and work to the edges of blocks. Kancey is slippery working off contact and he’s pretty flexible. Overall, his contact balance is very impressive given his size.

His style of play lends itself well to gap penetration, which gives him chances to make plays behind the line of scrimmage against the run and pass. His motor always runs hot and he battles to be around the football. Kancey keeps his hands engaged and showcases the ability to string together moves and get off blocks.

There’s no denying that Kancey is considerably undersized and lacks length. It’s easy to love the way he plays with quickness, urgency, and competitive toughness, but his frame presents challenges forecasting him to the next level. Kancey has to work overtime to clear his pads and simply cannot afford any technical lapses. He severely lacks mass and length, which brings into question how the dynamic playmaking ability he showcased at Pitt will translate to the NFL with any degree of consistency.

Projecting Kancey to the next level is challenging. Can he be an outlier? At a minimum, he should provide exciting penetration skills for an up-the–field defense but forecasting the extent of his role is difficult.

Top Reasons to Buy In:

Penetration Skills

Flexibility and variety of ways to beat blocks

Motor and competitive toughness

Top Reasons For Concern:

Mass and length


Scheme and role specificity

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 Kancey with their first pick? Or do you feel there is a better player at this position, this position should be avoided, or that Kancey is worthy of the 17th pick? Personally, I am wary of the player who shoots up the board based on their combined results. Kancey was projected as a third-round pick at the end of January and is now the best option at 17? I’m not so sure. Although the notion of a slightly undersized defensive lineman with great speed and quickness out of Pitt is enticing (see the 2014 NFL draft), I’m not sure if this trend where Kancey continues to rise will continue all the way to the end April. But perhaps it does. I would really be surprised if this is the pick saying Joey Porter Jr. was still on the board. But if this is the pick come April 27, I’m not going to be angry.

Note: This series began in January and will run all the way up to the 2023 NFL draft. Each week highlights a new player. For this reason, sometimes it takes an outside-the-box mock draft in order to highlight a different possibility. These mock drafts are in no way an endorsement from BTSC.