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Steelers 2023 NFL Draft Big Board: Defensive Lineman Rankings & Scouting Reports

The BTSC Big Board crew is back, ranking and analyzing all noteworthy defensive linemen in the 2023 NFL Draft.

SEC Championship - LSU v Georgia Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Draft season is here, ladies and gentleman, and BTSC is excited to bring you our exclusive NFL Draft Big Board for the third consecutive year! Between January and April, we will be giving you an in-depth look at over 200 prospects in this draft class, ranking and analyzing noteworthy prospects at each position.

We will unveil this board one position at a time, with the final top 250 draft board coming out right before the draft. This compilation of rankings, stats, and analysis is completed by a combination of BTSC staff and community members. The rankings and grades are my own and will be updated throughout the process, while the stats and measurables are compiled by site moderator SNW. The analysis is a collaborative effort, which includes myself, Ryland B., Jeremy Betz, Noah_E., Necksnation, John O’Malley, Adam Curry, Shannon White, and Steve Martucci.

UPDATE: We have a new big board site!!!

Created by BTSC member DaveInBalt, we now have a running BTSC Big Board site that can be used to track the draft on draft night! The board itself is still in progress, as I have yet to submit my full and final rankings. However, you are now welcome to access this site. Just go to to check it out!!!

As it pertains to the grading scale, first-round grades will include top-five, top-ten, mid first, and late first grades. Rounds 2-5 will have early, mid, and late grades, while sixth-round grades will simply have a generic round grade. Prospects with a Round 7 grade will not be differentiated from those with an undrafted grade.

Just like last year, each big board article will be a complemented by a separate article discussing whether or not the Steelers should draft said position in the 2023 NFL Draft. Ryland will be heading up that portion of the draft coverage once again this year.

Our next position on the board is a position the Steelers are likely to address at least once in the draft: defensive line. With Cameron Heyward aging and Tyson Alualu out of the picture, the Steelers need to look at this position group closely. DeMarvin Leal could well be Heyward’s future replacement, but there is no starting-caliber nose tackle on the Steelers’ roster. Unfortunately, quality nose tackles are few and far between in this year’s class.

If you have any thoughts on this defensive line class, be sure to share it in the comment section below. Let’s dive in!

1. Jalen Carter | Georgia | 6‘3”, 310 lbs

2022 stats: GP 13, T 32, TFL 7, S 3, FR 0, FF 2.
Wilbar’s Grade: Top 5

Ryland B.: Carter is so much fun to watch as a prospect. He’s got it all: athleticism, strength, and an impactful presence on the field. His power, leverage, and surprising explosiveness allow him to blow past blockers and constantly disrupt plays. He’s an excellent pass-rusher and run-stopper already, and his NFL potential is even further off the charts. Carter faced constant double teams at Georgia but still showed impressive effort and impact. He’s a game-breaker through and through. The only complaints I really noticed were that Carter can get knocked off balance a little too often, and he could often be a little slow off the snap. Still, his tape is around as close to a can’t-miss prospect as it gets in this draft – but his potential off-field issues tell a much different story. This spring, he was charged with reckless driving in an incident connected to a crash that resulted in the deaths of two people. Beyond that, questions have been springing up regarding Carter’s conditioning and work ethic after he looked out of shape at his Pro Day, failing to finish the drills. He’s also reportedly refused to meet with teams outside of the top 10 picks in the draft. Carter has some very, very red flags on his scouting profile, but NFL teams know far more about these issues than most fans and writers do. All we can do is speculate. What we do know is that Carter’s tape shows that he’s one of the most talented, if not the most talented player in this draft. It will be interesting where he goes on draft night; Carter is the definition of a boom or bust pick.

2. Calijah Kancey | Pittsburgh | 6‘0”, 275 lbs

2022 stats: GP 11, T 31, TFL 14.5, S 7.5, FR 0, FF 0.
Wilbar’s Grade: Late 1st

Skyfire322: Kancey is an explosive and athletic lineman and is one of the most intriguing defensive players in this year’s draft. Thanks to his initial burst and outstanding lower body strength, he can easily penetrate the line to get into the backfield in a blink of an eye, and his Combine numbers prove it. His footwork and handwork are at a level you see in seasoned NFL linemen, and he can easily fight off blockers. Kancey also has excellent awareness and will keep playing through the whistle. However, he’s severely undersized in his position, both in length and weight. This means he must overcompensate and rely heavily on his athleticism, especially against larger, more physical offensive linemen. He’s also very role-specific, so it could be to his detriment if a team plays him in the wrong position. So long as he’s with a team playing the right scheme, Kancey will add more than tremendous value and be a reliable asset and day-one starter.

3. Mazi Smith | Michigan | 6‘3”, 326 lbs

2022 stats: GP 14, T 48, TFL 2.5, S .5, FR 1, FF 1.
Wilbar’s Grade: Late 1st

Andrew Wilbar: Mazi Smith gets a bad reputation by many fans due to limited collegiate production, much like past Wolverine prospects who have gone on to the NFL and had success. Rashaan Gary is one name who comes to mind, and, just like Gary, the issue does not lie in the player. It lies in the utilization of the player, and in Mazi’s case, it was because of his specific role. Michigan relies exclusively on their EDGE rushers to generate pressure, while the defensive tackles are utilized solely as run defenders. Despite this limitation to Smith’s overall game, Smith grew as a pass-rusher in 2022, generating pressure and pushing pockets from the interior on a relatively consistent basis. Disengaging from interior lineman and finishing on sack opportunities is the next step he needs to take, but the pass-rushing potential is there. He can also start Day 1 for an NFL team, thanks to his tremendous run-defending ability. Pick 17 may be a slight reach for the Michigan big man, but if he happens to fall to 32, the Steelers should definitely consider pulling the trigger.

4. Gervon Dexter | Florida | 6‘6”, 303 lbs

2022 stats: GP 13, T 55, TFL 4, S 2, FR 0, FF 0.
Wilbar’s Grade: Early 2nd

Noah_E: A redshirt Sophomore, Gervon Dexter is certainly an interesting prospect. He has a blend of power and finesse that you don’t see too often. He consistently eats space and has a knack for getting to the quarterback. He has the power to bull rush his way to the quarterback, as well as a very effective swim move that allows him to get into the backfield and disrupt the play. He’s a smart player that plays with good pad level and seems to understand leverage. However, he is very slow getting off the snap, and even though it worked in college it’s more than likely going to get taken advantage of in the NFL. Dexter also has trouble when it comes to double teams and will easily get taken out of the play. There’s no denying that he has the size, athleticism, and skills to be a very good player, he just has some little things that might hold him back. He’s got a ton of potential and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a team take a chance on him in the first round.

5. Bryan Bresee | Clemson | 6‘5”, 300 lbs

2022 stats: GP 10, T 15, TFL 5.5, S 3.5, FR 0, FF 0.
Wilbar’s Grade: Late 2nd

Jeremy: I am still fairly high on Bresee, a player with major pedigree who has had to work through injury and personal life struggles to remain on the field, let alone produce like a former 4 star recruit. Bresee is an elite athlete with the strength and power to overwhelm opponents and plenty of speed and quickness for the position. He’s a versatile interior defender who can play in odd or even fronts. At his best, he can take over a game up front. The health concerns are legitimate, but if he can regain his early Clemson career form, the sky is the limit for the big man.

6. Keeanu Benton | Wisconsin | 6‘4”, 317 lbs

2022 stats: GP 12, T 36, TFL 10, S 4.5, FR 0, FF 0.
Wilbar’s Grade: Late 2nd

Ryland B.: Keeanu Benton is one of my favorite defensive linemen in this class. He’s a big-bodied run-stuffer with elite size and strength, but he has surprising juice as a pass-rusher. His hands are active and violent, and he has tremendous power when collapsing the pocket. Benton does occasionally play a bit too high, which can negate the size/strength advantage he has over most offensive linemen. He also can lean a bit too far forwards when pass-rushing, which can cause him to lose his balance and any lateral agility. Benton can lose some steam as the game goes on, but this should easily be solved at the next level with some NFL conditioning as well as a defensive line rotation. Benton is a great fit for the Steelers’ late second round pick or third round pick to solidify the team’s starting defensive line.

7. Tuli Tuipulotu | USC | 6‘4”, 290 lbs

2022 stats: GP 14, T 46, TFL 22, S 13.5, FR 0, FF 2.
Wilbar’s Grade: Mid 3rd

Andrew Wilbar: Tuipolutu is a difficult evaluation, as he recently transitioned from interior defensive line to EDGE rusher. His numbers were unbelievable this past season, but where does he fit in the NFL? After dropping a substantial amount of weight, Tuipulotu will likely look to play as an EDGE rusher in the NFL, but he lacks twitch and agility. He is still learning the technique of playing the position, as his stance is still too upright, and his mindset is very much north-and-south. He does possess heavy hands and quick feet, but he relies on his strength and athleticism too much. If he remains in the 265-pound range, he will probably remain on the EDGE, but due to the uncertainty of his fit in the NFL, his grade is a little lower than I would typically give a player with his production and skill set.

8. Jaquelin Roy | LSU | 6‘4”, 297 lbs

2022 stats: GP 49, T 49, TFL 3.5, S .5, FR 1, FF 0.
Wilbar’s Grade: Mid 3rd

John O: Roy is another of the large, bulky NTs or DTs available in the draft. Roy played 676 snaps for LSU in 2022 — so he was on the field a lot. Other teams did rotations and took bigger bodies off the field for rest or to improve the pass rush (e.g., Ika from Baylor played about 440 snaps). LSU generally let Roy roll, and he stayed on the field consistently. Roy saw lots of double-teams and did ok against them. His lateral agility is far from terrific. He cannot jump. But he has some quickness and contributes as a diligent plugger with enough swerve to push the pocket and occasionally break in for a pressure or sack. Compared to other wide-bodied guys, Roy maintains a quality motor, and he undertook stunts and other line movement techniques. The 2022 season was Roy’s first season playing as a full-time starter, but he showed promise as a junior. Is he a budding star? No. Can he be part of a DL rotation? Yes, but don’t get too excited. He projects more as a “Robin” player than a “Batman.” If everything goes his way, he could develop into an interior starter, however.

9. Zacch Pickens | South Carolina | 6‘3”, 305 lbs

2022 stats: GP 12, T 42, TFL 4, S 2.5, FR 1, FF 0.
Wilbar’s Grade: Late 3rd

Jeremy: Pickens is a long, prototype interior defender who projects best as an athletic 3-tech at the next level. He’s one of my favorite mid-round DTs. As a pass rusher, Pickens naturally uses his length and footwork to out-leverage blockers and get to the QB. He has good hands and the ability to anchor to stack and shed blockers and make plays on the ball carrier. Pickens stock should rise into Day 2 as the draft approaches with his versatility and skill set. An underrated talent.

10. Siaki Ika | Baylor | 6‘4”, 350 lbs

2022 stats: GP 12, T 24, TFL 2, S 0, FR 0, FF 0.
Wilbar’s Grade: Mid 4th

Andrew Wilbar: Early in the process, I was one of the biggest proponents of drafting Ika in the early rounds of the draft. However, much has changed since then. I was in Indianapolis to see Ika’s combine workout first-hand, and all I came away with was the realization that Ika did not look big running drills. He looked fat running drills. There is a big difference between the two, and as sad as I was to change my opinion on him, I could not help but dock his grade a good bit. On tape, Ika displayed a surprising bit of twitch for a big man, but he was not an every-down player at Baylor. One reason why may have been his conditioning, which does not look to be a strong suit of his. Unless he can shed some weight and get into better physical shape, he will be limited to a short-yardage run-stuffing role.

11. Keondre Coburn | Texas | 6‘2”, 348 lbs

2022 stats: GP 13, T 29, TFL 4, S 2.5, FR 0, FF 2.
Wilbar’s Grade: Mid 4th

Andrew Wilbar: Coburn is a short-limbed run-stuffer with enough pass-rushing upside to intrigue teams on late Day 2. Due to a lack of length, I do not see him being an effective NFL pass-rusher from the interior. However, he has displayed an ability to push the pocket and make pockets collapse. As a run defender, Coburn takes up a lot of space on the interior, but he still struggles to disengage from blocks, and this inability to disengage causes him to miss tackle opportunities at the line of scrimmage in the run game. He will become a solid early-down defender with a little NFL coaching, but he is not special enough as a pass rusher to ever become more than a situational player in a rotation.

12. Kobie Turner | Wake Forest | 6‘3”, 290 lbs

2022 stats: GP 13, T 38, TFL 10, S 2, FR 1, FF 3.
Wilbar’s Grade: Mid 4th

Andrew Wilbar: Turner is not completely polished in any aspect of his game, but the upside is undeniable. As a pass rusher, Turner’s active hands and twitchiness make it difficult for linemen to contain him one-on-one. While he still needs to learn how to become a finisher, he does generate pressure with his knack for splitting gaps and ability to get upfield in a hurry. His quickness is second to only Calijah Kancey in this class, but his production as a pass rusher is rather minimal. Although Turner has the versatility to play in any scheme, his best fit is likely as a 3-technique in a 4-3 scheme at the NFL level, making him an unlikely selection for the Steelers.

13. Moro Ojomo | Texas | 6‘3”, 281 lbs

2022 stats: GP 12, T 32, TFL 5.5, S 3, FR 0, FF 0.
Wilbar’s Grade: Late 4th

Jeremy: Ojomo is a true 5-tech prospect in the mold of a DeMarvin Leal. Athletic, long, and quick, Ojomo brings a lot of natural talent and skill, but needs refinement and development in the technical aspects of the game. At only 281, Ojomo can get moved off his spot by powerful linemen, but does a good job using his length and quickness to detach and make plays on the ball. He brings some pass-rush ability right away, but will need coaching to be more than an athletic role player at the next level.

14. Colby Wooden | Auburn | 6‘5”, 278 lbs

2022 stats: GP 12, T 45, TFL 11.5, S 6, FR 2, FF 3.
Wilbar’s Grade: Mid 5th

Noah_E: Wooden is a little on the smaller size for a DT but he has a solid frame with good strength. He has a fantastic bull rush and consistently disrupted plays during his college career. He’s quick off the snap and is powerful at the point of attack. He has quick hands and knows how to use them to get past Offensive Linemen. Wooden isn’t someone that’s going to eat space or really be an anchor in the middle of the line. He also lacks the agility and quickness to change direction once he’s inside the pocket. While he isn’t a bad athlete, it is going to limit him as a player but Colby Wooden is one of the most skilled defensive linemen in this draft.

15. Karl Brooks | Bowling Green | 6‘4”, 280 lbs

2022 stats: GP 13, T 50, TFL 18, S 10, FR 1, FF 2.
Wilbar’s Grade: Mid 5th

Andrew Wilbar: If you want a defensive lineman in the middle rounds with high-end production and the versatility to play in multiple schemes, Karl Brooks may be your guy. Measuring in at 6’3”, 296 pounds, with 31 ½” arms at his pro day, Brooks lacks the size and length to play 0-tech and 1-tech roles. However, he counteracts this lack of length with his quick hands and ability to gain leverage early in a rep. Surprisingly enough, Brooks was often used as a stand-up defensive end for Bowling Green, using his quickness and strength to overpower tackles and create pressure. His ideal role at the next level will be as a 3-technique in a 4-3 scheme, but for teams who play a high percentage subpackage defense, he will be extra intriguing, thanks to his ability to line up in multiple places along the defensive line.

16. Byron Young | Alabama | 6‘3”, 292 lbs

2022 stats: GP 13, T 48, TFL 5.5, S 4, FR 0, FF 1.
Wilbar’s Grade: Mid 5th

Ryland B.: Young is an experienced, technically-sound prospect who brings some interesting tools to the table. I wouldn’t say he has any “elite” characteristics that stand out, but he doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses, either. And his athleticism and effort really stand out on tape. Young isn’t undersized for the position, per se, but he just doesn’t have the same power and anchor as other linemen in this class. Still, his strong understanding of leverage results in him rarely being driven back, although he isn’t the most disruptive when it comes to collapsing the pocket. He can still be effective in run support and as a pass-rusher thanks to his good athleticism, football smarts, and motor. Due to Young’s size I see him more as a 4-3 end than a good fit as a down lineman in the Steelers’ 3-4 (if you can still call it that). He should be a solid rotational piece at the next level.

17. Cameron Young | Mississippi State | 6‘3”, 320 lbs

2022 stats: GP 13, T 37, TFL 3, S 1, FR 0, FF 0.
Wilbar’s Grade: Mid 5th

Andrew Wilbar: Young is a long-armed defensive lineman who plays like a nose tackle, despite lacking the bulk to be one in the NFL. Young measured in lighter than expected at the combine (304 pounds), which makes his evaluation a little more difficult. Could he add weight and remain inside? Absolutely, but due to the specific issues in his game, his best fit may be in a 5-technique role in the NFL, where he can use his quickness and length to create more penetration. Young does not bring much as a pass rusher at this point, but he is patient as a run defender, displaying good balance and reactionary speed. Overall, I do not see any “wow” traits in his game, but with a coach who has a specific role for him, he could develop into a nice rotational piece down the line.

18. PJ Mustipher | Penn State | 6‘4”, 323 lbs

2022 stats: GP 13, T 37, TFL .5, S 0, FR 0, FF 0.
Wilbar’s Grade: Mid 5th

Jeremy: Mustipher is a below average athlete, but he has decent tape at Penn State as a big, two-gapping run-stuffer on the interior. He anchors well and his play recognition is solid, but can get outmuscled by longer, stronger interior blockers when it’s time to shed and make a tackle. He’ll have an uphill battle to prove his poor testing numbers aren’t indicators of his ability to perform against the best of the best at the NFL. Teams looking Mustipher’s way will be wanting a rotational run-stopper that could hopefully improve as an athlete and as a technician in the right system with proper coaching.

19. Jalen Redmond | Oklahoma | 6‘2”, 279 lbs

2022 stats: GP 12, T 23, TFL 10, S 4, FR 0, FF 0.
Wilbar’s Grade: Late 5th

Adam C: Redmond was an inconsistent player at the college level, without much production. However, a great performance at the combine put him on the radar for a lot of people, and showed NFL teams he has the athleticism and traits to be successful, he just needs the right coaching to translate those raw abilities into production. He has good size and great explosiveness off the snap. He has played at almost every position across the defensive line, so teams will like the versatility. His likely best position at the next level is on the interior, due to great power and explosiveness, and an ability to anchor well against double teams.

20. Dante Stills | West Virginia | 6‘4”, 280 lbs

2022 stats: GP 12, T 26, TFL 9, S 4.5, FR 1, FF 2.
Wilbar’s Grade: Late 5th

Andrew Wilbar: I had a little higher grade on Stills’ brother, Darius, who is currently a free agent. However, Dante is an intriguing prospect in his own right, bringing an intriguing blend of speed, tenacity, and instincts. Stills is a great penetrator, anticipating pass-rushing lanes and getting small to sneak through small openings in gaps. I have concerns as to whether or not he can hold up against the run in the NFL, but he does a good job disengaging from blocks and making plays against the run despite his lack of size. With someone as schematically versatile as Stills, there is bound to be interest from NFL teams in the later rounds.

21. Brodric Martin | Western Kentucky | 6‘5”, 320 lbs

2022 stats: GP 14, T 31, TFL 1.5, S 1.5, FR 0, FF 1.
Wilbar’s Grade: Late 5th

Andrew Wilbar: Martin is an intriguing option in the later rounds of the draft due to his outstanding combination of length and size. Measuring in at his pro day at 6’4 ½”, 330 pounds, with 35” arms, Martin is able to overcome many of his athletic limitations with his long arms and ability to gain leverage on short-limbed linemen. Unfortunately, he will not have the same success against experienced NFL linemen, as he plays with his pads too high. He is a true 2-gap defender who does a nice job anticipating plays pre-snap, but due to his lack of mobility, he is not likely to ever become a finisher as a pass rusher. He will push the pocket from time to time, but he is not someone you will want on the field in obvious passing situations.


22. Jerrod Clark | Coastal Carolina | 6‘4”, 345 lbs

2022 stats: GP 12, T 41, TFL 10, S 3.5, FR 0, FF 0.
Wilbar’s Grade: 6th

23. Nesta Jade Silvera | Arizona State | 6‘2”, 306 lbs

2022 stats: GP 12, T 56, TFL 4.5, S 1.5, FR 0, FF 1.
Wilbar’s Grade: 6th

24. Momar Fall | CSU Pueblo | 6‘6”, 276 lbs

2022 stats: GP 12, T 56, TFL 9.5, S 6.5, FR 0, FF 0.
Wilbar’s Grade: 6th

25. J-Min Pelley | Calgary | 6‘5”, 330 lbs

2022 stats: GP 16, T 15, S 4, FR 0.
Wilbar’s Grade: 7th/UDFA

26. Taron Vincent | Ohio State | 6‘2”, 300 lbs

2022 stats: GP 13, T 25, TFL 2.5, S .5, FR 1, FF 0.
Wilbar’s Grade: 7th/UDFA

27. Tyler Lacy | Oklahoma State | 6‘4”, 295 lbs

2022 stats: GP 9, T 27, TFL 8.5, S 3, FR 1, FF 0.
Wilbar’s Grade: 7th/UDFA

28. Kai Caesar | Ohio | 6‘1”, 310 lbs

2022 stats: GP 14, T 28, TFL 7, S 5.5, FR 0, FF 1.
Wilbar’s Grade: 7th/UDFA

29. DJ Dale | Alabama | 6‘3”, 307 lbs

2022 stats: GP 12, T 17, TFL 3.5, S 2.5, FR 1, FF 0.
Wilbar’s Grade: 7th/UDFA

30. Fabien Lovett | Florida State | 6‘4”, 315 lbs

2022 stats: GP 7, T 10, TFL 2, S 1, FR 0, FF 1.
Wilbar’s Grade: 7th/UDFA

What are your thoughts on this year’s defensive linemen? Which ones make the most sense for the Steelers? Let us know in the comment section below, and stay tuned to BTSC as we give you all the draft content you need leading up to Thursday’s draft!