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Steelers 2024 NFL Draft Preview: Will the Steelers opt for a rookie over Alex Highsmith?

If the Steelers cannot extend Alex Highsmith, are there options in the 2024 NFL Draft?

Ohio State Spring Football Game Photo by Ben Jackson/Getty Images

The 2024 NFL Draft is still far in the distance, but as we mull through these dog days of the football calendar, what better time than now to look ahead at next year’s NFL Draft landscape?

Coming off a historically weak draft class from top to bottom, the 2024 class is sure to provide much better depth, while also boasting multiple elite prospects at the top. The quarterback class this past year was strong overall, but the 2024 class could potentially beat it. Caleb Williams and Drake Maye are the consensus QB1 and QB2, with Michael Penix, Jr., J.J. McCarthy, Quinn Ewers, and several others in the first-round conversation as well.

Receiver is another position expected to be stronger next year, with a potentially generational talent, Marvin Harrison, Jr., leading the pack. Interior defensive line looks surprisingly juicy on paper, while the safety class should also be set for a bounce-back year. No safeties were selected in Round 1 of the 2023 draft.

Today, we are going to break down a position the Steelers will likely look at to address depth concerns: EDGE rusher. The X-factor in all of this is Alex Highsmith, as he is currently set to hit the free-agent market next offseason. If he is unable to reach an extension with the team, could the Steelers look this way in Round 1? We will take a look at the top prospects in the class and determine which ones, if any, make sense for the Steelers.

Potential First-Round Prospects

J.T. Tuimoloau | Ohio State

My personal favorite to be the first defensive player selected in the 2024 class, Tuimoloau has superstar written all over him. At 6’4”, 270 pounds, Tuimoloau projects best as a 4-3 defensive end, but his athleticism will allow him to play in any system. He still needs to do a better job of finishing plays in the backfield, but after a sophomore season with 3.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss, he is building on a strong foundation. His game against Penn State (6 TCK, 3 TFL, 2 SCK, 2 INT, 1 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR) was one for the ages.

Dallas Turner | Alabama

Turner isn’t the biggest EDGE rusher in the world, but his explosive first step and elite quickness makes him a tough task for any lineman one-on-one. Unfortunately, Turner is likely to be long gone before the Steelers are on the clock, as he is in great position to take the SEC by storm in 2023 with his superior athleticism. Don’t be surprised if he breaks 4.5 in the 40 come March.

Jared Verse | Florida State

I am not as high on Verse as others are, as I do not see as high a ceiling with him as I do the two aforementioned prospects. Nonetheless, he possesses a solid frame with a strong core, above-average athleticism, and natural power. He possesses heavy, active hands that allow him to disengage from blockers, and his consistent pad level aids in his ability to defend the run at a high level.

Bralen Trice | Washington

Trice is a shorter, thicker, and slightly more explosive version of former Washington prospect Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, who is now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. When his hand placement is good, his toughness allows him to win reps at the line of scrimmage. When he is unable to create leverage, he struggles, as he lacks a large repertoire of moves. He relies on athleticism and power to win, and that will not be enough for him to succeed at the NFL level. However, 9 sacks and 12 tackles for loss is nothing to look past. Let’s see if he can build on that in 2023.

Fringe first-round prospects

Jack Sawyer | Ohio State
Zion Tupuola-Fetui | Washington
Brandon Dorlus | Oregon

Options for the Steelers

Jack Sawyer looks like a Steelers EDGE rusher, and he is expected to test off the charts. If he has a breakout season in 2023, be prepared to hear T.J. Watt comparisons when it comes to Sawyer. Another guy who might make sense for the Steelers is Penn State’s Chop Robinson. He is a Maryland transfer who plays with a high motor and consistently creates pressure. Can he do the same against stiffer competition in the pros, though? Only time will tell.

Which EDGE rushers are you eyeing in the 2024 NFL Draft? Be sure to light up the comment section below with your thoughts on this and all things Pittsburgh Steelers!