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2023 NFL Mock Draft: Steelers look to add a ball-hawking cornerback with their top pick

In the latest mock draft, the Steelers look to add a cornerback with questionable size but an unquestionable knack for finding the ball.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 02 Pac-12 Championship - Utah vs USC Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via 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 Pro Football Network, they have the Steelers addressing the cornerback position before anything else. With other options off the board, the Steelers opt for production over size. 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 | Clark Phillips III | CB | Utah | 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 Phillips according to

Clark Phillips III NFL Draft Scouting Report

CB, Utah Utes

Originally committed to Ohio State, Clark Phillips III flipped to Utah and developed into one of the top defensive playmakers in college football and an intriguing NFL prospect. Phillips III started all 31 games for his career, registering nine interceptions with four of those being returned for touchdowns. He was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2022.

Phillips III is a quick, twitchy, and explosive athlete that has the athleticism and movement skills to mirror and match routes. His change of direction skills and ability to transition is fluid and rapid. Phillips III showcases the ability to be disruptive at the catch point where his recovery speed and ball skills are exceptional. He displays some intriguing competitive toughness where despite his smaller frame, he is willing to come downhill and battle in space to make tackles. Phillips III has spent the overwhelming majority of his snaps on the outside but also has considerable experience playing in the slot.

When studying Phillips III, his impact and elite competitive spirit are impossible to deny. He is a dog! He improved every year at Utah where his reactionary skills developed wonderfully and he continuously showed up with impact plays in the biggest stages.

When it comes to concerns, Phillips III doesn’t offer ideal height, weight, or length. While he competes well above his weight class, teams were not shy about forcing him to play off contact and tackle. While always competitive and aggressive with no passive tendencies, there were instances in which Phillips III’s lack of size presented challenges for him getting off blocks and getting ball carriers on the ground.

Phillips III may not check all the boxes in terms of size but he’s a damn good football player that provides every other desirable trait at a high level to be an impact starter in the NFL.

Top Reasons to Buy In:

Quick feet and fluid hips

Ball skills

Competitive toughness

Coverage instincts

Top Reasons For Concern:


Tackling consistency (not due to passive tendencies)

Playing off contact

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 Phillips with their first pick? Or do you feel there is a better player at this position, this position should be avoided, or that Phillips will not make it to the 17th pick? Personally, I would be really happy with this draft pick… at pick number 32. In fact, that’s the consensus that I’ve seen for Phillips across a large number of mock draft outlets. Many have him in Pittsburgh, but as the first pick of the second round. If the Steelers don’t draft a cornerback at pick 17, then Phillips would be a great choice to start Day 2 if he were still available. But if the Steelers were looking to draft him at 17, I’m sure many Steelers fans would wish they would hit the magic “trade back” button that they think exists but isn’t always it’s so cut and dry. As for this particular mock draft, the top four cornerbacks were off the board but Peter Skoronski was sitting there for the taking. If the Steelers passed on him to take a 5’9” cornerback projected to go in the 20s or 30s, I would not be happy.