The Pittsburgh Steelers are pushing through the 2023 offseason. With free agency well underway to shape next season’s roster, it will be followed by the NFL draft in April. The Steelers have already added some free agent acquisitions before making their first draft selection. 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 CBS Sports, they have the Steelers addressing the cornerback position before anything else. While the position is one which needs to be addressed, the bigger question is which player and at what selection. 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 | Christian Gonzalez | CB | Oregon | Soph. |
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 Gonzalez according to thedraftnetwork.com:
Christian Gonzalez NFL Draft Scouting Report
CB, Oregon Ducks
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.
As a lean corner, bigger and stronger receivers can out-muscle him through the stem creating separation. Adding strength will be something Gonzalez needs to do at the next level.
Overall, Gonzalez offers prototypical physical attributes with his size, length, and athleticism and he pairs his elite traits with outstanding instincts and refined technique. He has the potential to be a lockdown corner at the next level and could develop into a Pro Bowl player early in his career.
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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 Gonzalez with their first pick? Or do you feel there is a better player at this position, this position should be avoided, or that Gonzalez won’t be around at the 17th pick? Personally, I would be shocked if the Steelers have an opportunity to draft Gonzalez without trading up significantly. In fact, this is one of the few mocks I’ve seen recently where Gonzalez is not taken in the top 10. To see a draft where the Steelers have there choice between Gonzalez and Porter, I just don’t get why cornerback was so devalued. But if this would come to fruition, the Steelers should be ecstatic to have the option to add Gonzalez to their defensive backfield.
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.