There’s one thing that Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Kenny Pickett and George Pickens all have in common: None of them play the position of left tackle.
The reason this matters is that those four players represented the Steelers' last two first-round picks and last two second-round picks in the 2021 and 2022 NFL Drafts, respectively.
Pittsburgh went into its last two drafts needing to address the tackle position, but it also needed to upgrade at running back, tight end, quarterback and receiver. What was more important? What were the top priorities?
The Steelers seemed to answer those questions—or at least they picked positions of need that also represented better draft value—with the selections of those aforementioned players.
Pittsburgh did try and address the left tackle spot by taking a chance on Dan Moore Jr. in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and he surprised just about everyone by winning the starting job in his rookie training camp and playing in 16 games. Moore was again a full-time starter in 2022, but he didn’t do much to end the clamoring for an upgrade at left tackle.
Enter Broderick Jones, the big, athletic left tackle from the Georgia Bulldogs.
Jones FINALLY became the upgrade everyone was looking for on Thursday night when Pittsburgh moved up three spots thanks to a trade with the Patriots and made the 21-year-old the 14th pick of the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Was Jones the best tackle prospect on the board heading into Thursday evening? No, not according to the experts, anyway. That prospect was either Paris Johnson Jr. or Pete Skoronski, depending on which expert you believed—it could have also been Tennessee’s Darnell Wright. But Jones was certainly a first-round prospect, and someone who was projected to go before or just after the middle of the first round.
You might say that the Steelers erred by not taking the top corner on many boards and someone who was still available—Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez—or the third-best corner—Joey Porter Jr.—but much like the previous two seasons, the Steelers couldn’t address every need at once.
The draft is about trusting your evaluations, along with your gut instincts, and making a decision.
Much like in 2021 and 2022, the Steelers felt like Jones was the perfect combination of value and need, and they showed that by trading up just a few spots to take him.
Building a team through the draft is often like refurbishing a house. You can’t do everything at once, and it often takes years. But it sure is satisfying when all is said and done.
The Steelers certainly aren’t done, but with the selection of Broderick Jones, they finally have the offensive tackle of the future everyone wanted them to take while they were busy drafting their running back, tight end, quarterback and receiver of the future.