The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team with clear team needs heading into the 2023 NFL Draft. Those could rank anywhere from depth at wide receiver, and range all the way to an inside linebacker who is deemed more as the future and less as the stop-gap which has been the norm since Ryan Shazier’s injury in 2017.
Matt Miller of ESPN recently updated his list of players in the upcoming draft who he deems as “first round talent”. Now, Miller has 20 total players who he deems as first round talent, compared to the 19 which he gave the same label before the NFL Scouting Combine. While the total number is important, the focus for the Pittsburgh Steelers would be specifically positions of need before the 3-day selection process.
For those wondering, here are the positions I deemed as positions of need:
Not all of these aforementioned positions have players represented on Miller’s list, but below are the players, by position, and an NFL comparison (comp) for each player.
Wide Receiver (2)
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State (No. 5)
Comp: CeeDee Lamb
Jordan Addison, USC (No. 19)
Comp: Keenan Allen
It is unlikely the Steelers consider a wide receiver in the first round, but there is a strong contingent of the fan base who is on board with the Jordan Addison/Kenny Pickett reunion in the city of Pittsburgh. Nonetheless, only two players here says something about the overall draft class at the position.
Tight End (1)
Michael Mayer, Notre Dame (No. 18)
Comp: T.J. Hockenson
Mayer is by far the best tight end in the draft, and many would assume the Steelers wouldn’t be in the mix for a tight end after it was reported Zach Gentry is being retained. Nonetheless, as of this being written the Gentry contract has not been made official, so I’m keeping this on the board for now.
Offensive Tackle (3)
Peter Skoronski, Northwestern (No. 9)
Comp: Ryan Ramczyk
Broderick Jones, Georgia (No. 12)
Comp: Dion Dawkins
Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State (No. 13)
Comp: Terron Armstead
Some think the Steelers are just fine with Dan Moore Jr. and Chuks Okorafor as the book end tackles heading into 2023, while others see this as a necessity for upgrading the roster. This draft class has some very high-end tackles in it, and most assume they’ll all be off the board by the time the Steelers pick at No. 17.
Interior offensive line (0)
Positional value has hit the interior of the offensive line, as NFL teams find high-level starters on Days 2 and 3 of the draft. The 2023 class features talented guards and centers — players such as John Michael Schmitz (Minnesota) — who could sneak into Round 1 but don’t carry an across-the-board first-round grade.
If there was one position the Steelers placed an onus on in free agency, it was the guard position; however, there could still be a center added for the post-Mason Cole era. If that is the direction the Steelers want to go in, Miller doesn’t see a singular player who is labeled with a 1st Round tag. Something to think about as the draft approaches.
Defensive tackle (1)
Jalen Carter, Georgia (No. 6)
Comp: Fletcher Cox
Last season there were several defensive linemen who could have fallen into this category, but that isn’t the case in 2023. Jalen Carter, and with his off-field issues, is the lone defensive lineman who is dubbed a first round talent. When Carter is drafted is up for debate considering the issues he is dealing with off the field.
The 2023 linebacker class is talented, and there are several players likely to be drafted in the first round — but none of them has a true Round 1 grade at this time. Players in contention for Day 1 picks are Arkansas’ Drew Sanders and Clemson’s Trenton Simpson.
Despite the Steelers signing Elandon Roberts and Cole Holecomb in free agency, there is still a need to get younger at the position and prepare for the future. Is Mark Robinson the answer for the above criteria? Seems too early to tell, but if the Steelers take an ILB in Round 1 of the draft, Miller sees this as a big-time reach.
Devon Witherspoon, Illinois (No. 7)
Comp: Darius Slay
Christian Gonzalez, Oregon (No. 10)
Comp: Byron Jones
Joey Porter Jr., Penn State (No. 15)
Comp: Marlon Humphrey
These have been the “Big 3” for cornerbacks since the end of the 2022 NCAA Football season. Not much has changed, but you might find some experts who like one over the other based on style and skill set. If any of these three players are available at No. 17, it would be a shock if the Steelers don’t pull the trigger on a cornerback.
The 2023 safety class doesn’t feature a true first-round grade after the subpar showing from Alabama’s Brian Branch at the combine. Branch, who is seen by some as a nickel cornerback, could still find his way into the top 31 picks of the draft, though. Outside of Branch, this is a weak safety class, and there is a solid chance that no others are selected in the top 50 picks.
Outside of Kyle Hamilton in 2022, the safeties who have been entering the NFL Draft are very scheme specific and situational players. There are less and less do-it-all type safeties (free or strong safety) and more players labeled as nothing more than “in the box” or “slot” type defender. Most would assume safeties in this draft are Day 2 picks at the best.
Looking at Miller’s list, what do you think about the Steelers sitting on the 17th overall pick? Is there a player you like over the others? Let us know what you think in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the NFL offseason.