The Steelers made dreams come true for seven picks in the 2023 NFL Draft. These players were selected because they possess many traits the team hopes will make them plus contributors for years to come as they pursue a 7th Lombardi Trophy.
One of the best ways to quantify these traits in a tangible way is by comparing the prospects to similar players that have produced at the NFL level. For this exercise, I wanted to identify realistic comps for each player that have had successful NFL careers to help set the bar for what each of these Rookies can attain as professionals if all goes well.
With that being said, here are my NFL comps for the Steelers 2023 Rookie Draft Class.
The Player - OT Broderick Jones, Georgia
Shades of - Tristan Wirfs, Buccaneers
Just like Wirfs, Broderick Jones profiles as a top tier all-round blocker with elite measurables and a nasty streak. The Buccaneers have leaned on Wirfs’ ability to eliminate opposing pass rushers off the weak side, as well as provide excellent run blocking as a premier athlete in space. Wirfs is already one of the best Left Tackles in the NFL, and Jones possesses many of the same traits heading into a big season for Pittsburgh. An early career like Wirfs would easily make Jones a fan favorite quickly in the Steel City.
The Player - CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State
Shades of - Carlton Davis, Buccaneers
I comped Porter to Davis in my pre-draft discussion of a similar nature, and I stand by that opinion. Davis has shown out as a sticky, physical press corner on the perimeter, with plenty of length and athleticism to run with the game’s most talented pass catchers. Porter fits that same description, and while neither player will likely rack up huge career INT numbers, their ability to lock down one side of the field with regularity is just as valuable. Porter can be that type of player early in his career. For Steelers fans familiar with the early 2000s teams, the other fairly obvious comp for Porter Jr. is — you guessed it — Ike Taylor.
The Player - DT Keeanu Benton, Wisconsin
Shades of - Leonard Williams, Giants
Williams is a more polished pass rusher, but for both he and Benton, it’s their length and “stack-and-shed” skills that really stand out when you watch tape. Williams consistently wins early with elite hand usage, and Benton’s wrestling background gives him a leg up in outleveraging blockers in that area as well. Benton has a chance to really pop with his athleticism, and if he does, a Leonard Williams-like impact is not far-fetched.
The Player - TE Darnell Washington, Georgia
Shades of - Marcedes Lewis, Packers
This is the comp everyone mentioned for Washington in the leadup to the Draft, and it’s because they are both physically intimidating as big, tall gamechangers at the Tight End position. What made Lewis special was his ability to affect both the rushing and passing attacks as a plus blocker and athletic receiving threat, especially in the red zone. That versatility absolutely describes Washington, who might be even more athletically gifted than Lewis. Washington is a true unicorn at the position, and should prove to be a vital weapon in Matt Canada’s offfense quickly in 2023.
The Player - LB Nick Herbig, Wisconsin
Shades of - OLB Melvin Ingram, Dolphins/ILB Shaq Thompson, Panthers
Herbig was easily the most difficult player to find a true comp for, but looking at him as an exterior rusher, he’s reminiscent of a young Melvin Ingram. Both are a little undersized for the Outside Linebacker position, but elite quickness and motor allowed Ingram to produce as a top tier pass rusher for several years for the Chargers. If Herbig can channel those attributes, he might be able to produce a similar career. Another undersized player, this time at Off-Ball Linebacker, Shaq Thompson has made his hay in Carolina using superb instincts and again, elite quickness and motor to consistently affect the play. In either role, Herbig could find success. It’s up to the Steelers coaches to put his talents to their best use and develp him.
The Player - CB Cory Trice Jr., Purdue
Shades of - Tariq Woolen, Seahawks
Trice excites me as a late round player with real upside. Last year’s Day 3 rookie sensation at CB, Woolen helped turn the Seahawks secondary into a regular nightmare for opposing QBs. Woolen’s elite length, size, and speed match closely what the Steelers got in Trice, and the 6’3”, 206 pound corner can run with anyone and boasts the position flexibily the Steelers covet, much like the rangy and versatile Woolen. For you “Legion of Boom” fans, think Brandon Browner.
The Player - Spencer Anderson, Maryland
Shades of - Cody Wallace, Steelers
Like Nick Herbig, Anderson was also a difficult player to find a good comp for, but Steelers fans will be familiar with do-it-all offensive lineman Cody Wallace, who played Guard and Center for Pittsburgh during his tenure with the team. Anderson has similar flexibility, even offering experience at both tackle positions. For both Wallace and Anderson, overcoming their fairly limited athleticism with smarts and useful versatility is the hallmark of their respective games.
What current or former NFL players would you compare the Steelers 2023 Draft selections to? Do you think the ceilings are high for the majority of these prospects? Let me know in the comment section below. As always, let’s go Steelers!