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The Khan/Weidl/Tomlin Draft Board: A prediction of what the Steelers 1st Round draft board looks like

Taking a stab at what the Steelers actual 1st-round draft rankings are ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 01 Rutgers at Ohio State Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NFL Draft is finally upon us, and after months of having an ear to the ground, it is time to begin determining what the Steelers will do with their early-round draft picks.

Today’s exercise has nothing to do about my personal draft rankings, but rather what the Steelers’ draft rankings actually are. After hearing many rumors and tidbits of information throughout the process, the rankings below are an indication as to what what I believe the Steelers’ actual draft board looks like. The focus will be on the first-round prospects, but we will also take a look at players who the Steelers seem to like both at Pick 32 and at Pick 49.

I still feel strongly as if the Steelers will look to trade back from Pick 32, as they are bound to receive numerous calls following the conclusion of Round 1. Nonetheless, we will look at options for the Steelers in both the early and middle portions of Round 2 as well.

Here is my stab at what I believe the Khan/Weidl/Tomlin Draft Board looks like.

Not considered

Bryce Young | QB | Alabama
C.J. Stroud | QB | Ohio State
Anthony Richardson | QB | Florida
Will Levis | QB | Kentucky
Will Anderson | EDGE | Alabama
Tyree Wilson | EDGE | Texas Tech
Bijan Robinson | RB | Texas
Jaxon Smith-Njigba | WR | Ohio State
Zay Flowers | WR | Boston College
Quentin Johnston | WR | Ohio State
Peter Skoronski | OT | Northwestern

Quarterback and running back will not be considered by the Steelers early in the draft, as neither position is a major need. Will Anderson and Tyree Wilson are likely to be chosen too high to even consider trading up for, and wide receiver is not a major area of concern either. The only receiver with even a chance to be selected by the Steelers in Round 1 is Jordan Addison due to the familiarity with Pittsburgh and Kenny Pickett.

The reason I added Skoronski to the list is because the team has only met with him at the combine. Considering how much attention the Steelers have given to all the other first-round tackles, I believe the Steelers view Skoronski as a guard. With guard no longer a position of need, I think it is safe to say he is not in the picture for the Steelers.

Trade-up targets in the top 10

1. Jalen Carter | DL | Georgia

Peter King reported on this one over a week ago, but I still struggle to believe this will happen, as the Steelers typically do not take chances on players with character concerns early on.

2. Paris Johnson, Jr. | OT | Ohio State

Even if Carter goes too high for the Steelers to trade up for, I do not think this precludes them from trading up for someone else. Is it likely? Probably not, but if he slips past Las Vegas, I expect the Steelers to be working the phones with teams picking in the 8-12 range.

Trade-up targets who could fall to 17

3. Joey Porter, Jr. | CB | Penn State

I think the Steelers like Porter enough to move up for him if we see an early run on corners, but I do not anticipate them actually doing so. In fact, I’m hearing Deonte Banks could go ahead of Porter, making it seem much more likely he falls to 17.

4. Nolan Smith | EDGE | Georgia

I know there hasn’t been a ton of buzz surrounding Smith and the Steelers, but the more I look at how the first round may play out, the more I think he may fall to 17. Would the Steelers take him over a tackle or corner? I’d be lying if I said I knew for sure, but we know the Steelers love linebackers with great SPARQ scores early in the draft. Smith literally checks every box for what the Steelers need at linebacker. He lacks bulk, but with T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith still in the picture, he would likely play inside linebacker on early downs anyway. He’s smart, he has a magnetic personality, and his athleticism is off the charts. This just feels like a Steelers pick, even though I do not see EDGE as a major team need. However, I do not expect the Steelers to trade up for him.

5. Broderick Jones | OT | Georgia

Jones fits the Steelers’ mold in that he is young and extremely athletic, but just like his teammate Jalen Carter, there are some character concerns. If the tackles start flying off the board early and the Steelers want one, they may have to get aggressive and move up. However, I think it is more likely Pittsburgh would stay at 17 and hope he falls to them.

6. Darnell Wright | OT | Tennessee

Wright has been a steady riser throughout the process, and the Steelers have been paying close attention. Again, moving up would require an early run on tackles, but it feels as if the Steelers’ interest is legitimate.

7. Christian Gonzalez | CB | Oregon

The Steelers typically prefer drawing from the wells of SEC and Big Ten powerhouses rather than drawing from the West Coast, but the Steelers have definitely had Gonzalez on their radar. However, inconsistency as a tackler makes him a questionable fit in Pittsburgh. That is why I think the team values Porter more.

At 17 or later

The following players are those who the Steelers will not trade up for, but have legitimate interest in. Some of these players are likely to fall to Pick 32 as well.

8. Lucas Van Ness | EDGE | Iowa

There’s no guarantee Van Ness falls to 17, and I’m not sure he’s the best option in the event he does. However, the smoke has been real surrounding Van Ness and the Steelers, who seem determined to address EDGE rusher in either Round 1 or 2. Can you say “Steelers” and “4-3 defense” in the same sentence?

9. Deonte Banks | CB | Maryland

Banks is more than a combine darling. He is a legitimately good cornerback prospect who many inside the league have ranked ahead of Joey Porter, Jr., my number one ranked corner. We know the Maryland connection is strong within the Steelers organization, and Banks checks all the physical boxes. It should not surprise anyone if he is the pick.

10. Devon Witherspoon | CB | Illinois

Just because the Steelers have not shown interest in Witherspoon does not mean they would pass on him if he happened to fall to them. Based upon open interest, however, it seems as if the Steelers prefer Porter and Gonzalez over the Illinois product. At the end of the day, I do not know where Witherspoon ranks on the Steelers’ board, but he will be gone long before Pick 17, and I do not foresee the Steelers trading up to get him.

11. Mazi Smith | DT | Michigan

There have been multiple Steelers first-round picks in recent memory who were not brought in for one of the 30 pre-draft visits. The Steelers met with him multiple times at Michigan’s pro day, and he fits the Steelers need along the defensive line far better than any defensive lineman in this class.

12. Bryan Bresee | DL | Clemson

The Steelers seem to like Bresee, and the familiarity with Mike Tomlin only helps his cause, but it appears as if the Steelers see nose tackle as a bigger need then a 5-technique defensive end. The only way Bresee (and to a lesser extent, Van Ness) makes perfect sense is if the Steelers are transitioning to a 4-3 base defense. This interest may circle back around if Bresee ever hits free agency, but if the Steelers draft Bresee at 17 or 32, I have to seriously question what they are trying to do on defense.

13. Tyrique Stevenson | CB | Miami

The Steelers have shown a surprising amount of interest in Stevenson, who many do not even peg as a first-round prospect. While I think the draft board would really have to fall against the Steelers for Stevenson to be the pick at 17, I do believe the Steelers value him enough to take him that high. If the Steelers take a tackle at 17, there is a high probability he is the pick if the Steelers stay put at 32.

Early Round 2 targets

The following prospects are those whom I think the Steelers value highly enough to take at Pick 32, if they so happen to keep that pick.

14. Joe Tippmann | C | Wisconsin

The buzz surrounding the Steelers drafting a center is real. As I stated over a week ago, it appears as if Mike Tomlin wants a corner and potentially an EDGE rusher early in the draft, while the front office wants to revamp the offensive line. If Khan and Weidl get their way, the Steelers could very well draft a tackle and center in the first two rounds, and Tippmann fits the Steelers’ prototype for centers more than John Michael Schmitz.

15. John Michael Schmitz | C | Minnesota

Since center is not an immediate need, drafting the 24 year-old John Michael Schmitz would make no sense to me. However, I spoke with former Steelers lineman Max Starks at the combine, and he mentioned Schmitz as a name to watch for the Steelers. The interest definitely seems to be there.

16. Dawand Jones | OT | Ohio State

People are overblowing the story about Mike Tomlin asking Dawand Jones why he didn’t weigh in at his pro day after having eaten dinner with the team the night before. Could that have more substance to it than I am saying it has? Possibly, but he still seems to be the Steelers’ favorite tackle on Day 2. Because of the run-blocking scheme Pat Meyer and the Steelers are trying to build, Jones makes sense, even if he would be a reach on my personal board.

17. Will McDonald IV | EDGE | Iowa State

After having brought in all these bigger 4-3 EDGE rushers, the one 3-4 guy the Steelers have shown interest in is Will McDonald. There is a good chance he is taken in Round 1, but the Steelers do not typically travel to Iowa State’s pro day. The fact that they did this year is enough to raise at least one eyebrow.

18. Kelee Ringo | CB | Georgia

A 20 year-old corner who is big and fast? You can bet the Steelers have interest. They have kept no secret their interest in the Georgia product, and he is very much in play at 32, despite his rawness and inconsistency.

19. Julius Brents | CB | Kansas State

Outside of an average 40 time, Brents tested off the charts athletically. The Steelers brought him in for a pre-draft visit, and he checks many of the same boxes Ringo does. His outstanding length could intrigue teams in the late first round as well.

20. Jordan Addison | WR | Pittsburgh

The addition of Allen Robinson makes this less likely, but I still cannot rule it out entirely. The Steelers like drafting players they are familiar with, and it would be tempting to give Kenny Pickett his favorite weapon from his time in college.

21. Brian Branch | S | Alabama

Mike Tomlin loves defensive backs with smarts, and Branch certainly checks that box. With outside corner, nickel corner, and safety all in need of improvement, Branch may be looked at as a potential solution to more than one problem on the back end.

Targets at Pick 49

22. Anton Harrison | OT | Oklahoma

23. Keeanu Benton | DT | Wisconsin

24. Gervon Dexter | DL | Florida

25. Felix Anudike-Uzomah | EDGE | Kansas State

26. Keion White | EDGE | Georgia Tech

27. Darius Rush | CB | South Carolina

28. Sam LaPorta | TE | Iowa