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5 players that should be on Steelers fans’ radars following the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine

Names that you might not have paid attention to but that are certainly on the rise — and may be high on Pittsburgh’s draft board.

NFL Combine Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

After a wild week (that felt way longer), the 2023 NFL Combine is in the books. While only one player — Michigan’s D.J. Turner — ran a 40-yard dash below 4.30, there were still countless who impressed through either athleticism testing or on-field drills.

Another major component to the Combine? Determining where teams have allocated their meetings with prospects and positional areas.

Following all of the events in Indianapolis, select players inevitably join the “risers” category and see their name associated with higher rounds in the seven weeks leading up to the draft. Below are five athletes who had received moderate attention, but due to both their performance and position, should be remembered as possible Steelers targets come late April.

Adetomiwa Adebawore, DL, Northwestern

Adebawore’s stock improved after a strong showing at the Senior Bowl in early February, where he was named National Team Practice Defensive Lineman of the Week and went viral for demolishing Jarrett Patterson in one unforgettably powerful clip. The Wildcat’s ascent only continued from Lucas Oil Stadium.

Many thought it would be a successful 40-yard dash for Adebawore if he ran in the 4.7s or low 4.8s. Instead, he elected that was nowhere near fast enough. The senior sprinted to the tune of a 4.49 40 at 6’2”, 282 pounds — the fastest time for a player to weigh 270 or more since at least 2003, and the quickest ever for an interior defensive lineman. For context, that was the same mark as receivers Jordan Addison and Tank Dell.

Adebawore didn’t only show out on the track, though. His 37.5” vertical jump was third among all defensive linemen, and his 10’5” broad jump was tied for seventh among DL. For good measure, Adebawore accumulated 27 bench press reps.

The performance garnered Adebawore a 9.84 Relative Athletic Score (RAS), per Kent Lee Platte. Safe to say it will be a performance that won’t be forgotten any time soon (and might be recognized by Madden in a Combine Hero card soon enough).

On top of his freakish athleticism, Adebawore is a sound player at a major position of need for the Steelers. His positional versatility would be a major boon to an aging defensive line with little impressive depth. While he likely wouldn’t play nose tackle, he could see action at 2-, 4- or even 6-tech or outside linebacker, leveraging his outstanding run defense and strength.

Following his Combine outing, Adebawore will likely be a Round 1-3 pick. If he’s still there at Pick 32 or Pick 49, Pittsburgh would be hard-pressed to pass him up in an effort to boost its trench play and gain an immediate impact player for a long time.

Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa

With Devin Bush and Robert Spillane both free agents and Myles Jack only having one year left on his contract — plus poor play at ILB in 2022, especially in coverage — the Steelers will firmly be in search of linebacker assistance for this year and beyond. Iowa’s Campbell may be a perfect fit, especially based on how he tested.

Though Campbell only ran a 4.65 40 — in the 80th percentile of inside linebackers since 1999, per Mockdraftable — his 6.74 three-cone drill time was the best among all LBs by a full .26 seconds. Further, Campbell’s 37.5” vertical was tied for second for linebackers, and his 10’8” broad was also second. Cumulatively, Campbell netted a gaudy 9.98 RAS.

No linebacker may go in the first round this year, especially due to the volatile play of off-ball LBs, particularly those drafted in the initial 32 picks. Yet, Campbell made a strong case to not only be the best inside linebacker in this class, but also to be picked highly.

If Campbell is available at 32 or 49, Mike Tomlin and Omar Khan might waste no time ensuring that the Iowan stays in the black and gold.

Julius Brents, CB, Kansas State

Brents had picked up steam entering March, and that has fully culminated into a flame.

The Kansas State corner measured in at 6’3” with 34” arms and an 82 5/8” wingspan. The latter was a record among cornerbacks, while his arm length was in the 99th percentile. All told, Brents’ frame renders him a force to be reckoned with in one-on-ones, especially in man coverage.

Aside from his actual body measurements, Brents excelled in athleticism testing. The Iowa transfer paced all corners in broad jump at 11’6” and was second with a 41.5” vertical. Additionally, Brents ran a 4.53 40, solid for his lanky frame.

Though Brents occasionally looked a little rigid in change of direction in drills, his combination of supreme length and explosiveness will be hard to pass up. Don’t be surprised if he emerges as a first-round talent, especially in light of the sky-high stocks of Christian Gonzalez, Devon Witherspoon and Joey Porter Jr. — all of whom might not be there when the Steelers first turn in their card.

Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland

The only corner to jump higher than Brents in Indy? Banks.

One would not have known of Banks’ stellar skill based on his podium presser, which was surprisingly lightly attended. Nevertheless, the Maryland corner more than turned heads in Lucas Oil Stadium.

Banks ran a 4.35 40 and had an 11’4” vertical to complement his 97th-percentile vertical jump. Holistically, Banks’ 98 athleticism score led all corners, per Next Gen Stats.

Though Banks said it would be a “dream come true” to play for the Ravens, he could very well wind up a Steeler. Not only would he fill a major roster void and long-term need, but Tomlin is known to have a penchant for Terrapin products. After all, his son Dino was guarded by Banks in coverage for three seasons in practice in College Park.

Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee

Peter Skoronski, Paris Johnson Jr., Broderick Jones and Dawand Jones were the headliners for the 2023 offensive tackle crop in Indianapolis, but Wright demonstrated he might need to be included in that tier.

The Tennessee OT measured well regarding size at 6’5” and 333 pounds with 33 ¾” arms. Wright combined that with a 5.01 40 and 9’6” broad jump; though his 29” vertical was only in the 62nd percentile of tackles, his RAS was still 9.47.

Wright also proved his worth during on-field drills. His acceleration and change of direction were evident during various pulling drills, and his footwork and hand usage were sound through mirror and pass dropping exercises.

NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah mocked Wright to Pittsburgh in his latest projection. That possibility may be even higher in light of how the Volunteer appeared this past week. Though the Steelers had yet to meet with Wright by Friday, the fit is there given mediocre play from Dan Moore Jr., plus Chuks Okorafor having only two years left on his contract. Wright is one of several names that may be in the mix at Picks 17, 32 or 49, especially if one of the four aforementioned offensive linemen is already taken.