It’s crystal clear that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ top priority this offseason is addressing the offensive line. But unless there is a fly in the wall that will deliver us information on their NFL Draft big board, we are only left guessing what their approach to rebuilding that o-line this offseason would look like.
Though there’s been plenty of speculation that they’ll start rebuilding the o-line in the draft, there have been plenty of surprise draft picks from the Steelers in the past, with cornerback Artie Burns and safety Terrell Edmunds being two that immediately come to mind.
If the Steelers bypass the OL in the first round, here are five players at other positions they could consider at No. 20 in the 2024 NFL Draft.
Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo
Toledo cornerback Quinyon Mitchell has had a “Sauce Gardner” like meteoric rise ahead of the 2024 NFL Draft. The New York Jets star cornerback and 2022 Defensive Rookie of the Year was selected fourth overall after starting the process viewed as a mid-late first-round pick by various prognosticators. The same could happen with Mitchell, who also played his college football in the same state as Gardner (Cincinnati) at Toledo (Ohio).
However, if he happens to be available at pick 20, the Steelers may want to run their draft card to the table.
Mitchell has everything you look for in a lockdown outside cornerback. He’s incredibly instinctual, has above-average straight-line speed, is a force at the line of scrimmage, and he possesses incredible ball skills.
He had arguably the most impressive Senior Bowl week of any player on the field. Don’t believe me? Check out some of the reviews from experts with a much higher IQ than me:
If there is one concern with Mitchell it’s the level of competition he faced, as he didn’t exactly play in the SEC. However, I think he silenced most of those critics in Mobile.
Byron Murphy II, DL, Texas
At some point in this draft, Pittsburgh will look to add to the trenches on the defensive side of the ball, and Murphy is someone who has caught my eye.
He’s a versatile DL who can line up inside or outside and has an incredible burst off the ball. After the week we just went through with the T.J. Watt vs. Myles Garrett drama, you’re probably going to want to throw me through a wall for citing this next stat. But…
2024 #NFLDraft IDL Pass Rush Win %:— Daniel Griffis (@DanDGriffis) December 9, 2023
20.1%- Byron Murphy II, Texas
15.5%- Jer'Zhan Newton, Illinois
15.2%- T'Vondre Sweat, Texas
14.7%- Leonard Taylor III, Miami
10.4%- Brandon Dorlus, Oregon
9.9%- Kris Jenkins, Michigan
Yes, I just mentioned pass rush win rate. But it’s a fair indicator of how much of a freak Murphy II is.
The game is moving away from the classic 3-4 nose tackles and more towards these great athletes - similar to the Steelers second round pick last season in Keeanu Benton. Murphy II would create a dynamic duo up front for years to come.
Brian Thomas Jr., WR, LSU
Last year USC WR Jordan Addison garnered plenty of attention as talks of reuniting him with his college quarterback Kenny Pickett made their rounds in the Steel City. I was in favor of that move, even with wide receivers Diontae Johnson and George Pickens in the building.
The Steelers NEED another weapon. Their offense has been historically bad over the past few seasons. How could anyone be opposed to adding the wide receiver who led college football with 17 receiving touchdowns last season? Those came from both the slot and outside, so he can make plays over the middle of the field consistently — an element the Steelers just do not have.
This is a deep draft at wide receiver, with the likes of Marvin Harrison Jr., Rome Odunze, and Thomas’ teammate Malik Nabers likely all going in the top 15, that should push Thomas Jr. down the board. In any other year, he’s probably a top-15 selection.
Jeremiah Trotter Jr., ILB, Clemson
Inside linebacker is another hole that Pittsburgh must aggressively address this offseason. After many injuries last year, the ILB room was shuffled more than a deck at a blackjack table at the Bellagio.
The Steelers love themselves some football bloodlines. Clemson linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr. is the son of former All-Pro Jeremiah Trotter, who played at a high level for more than a decade in the league.
Trotter is a polished linebacker prospect who, most importantly for this roster, can cover. The Steelers have been missing that component on defense ever since the loss of Ryan Shazier. That sideline-to-sideline ability to play in space has been sorely lacking, and Pittsburgh is guilty of flopping with the likes of Devin Bush.
Trotter Jr. can help right that ship from jump street.
Clemson LB Jeremiah Trotter Jr. is an old school linebacker.— Quinten Krzysko (@ButkusStats) February 8, 2024
✅Stout frame with enough mass to stack blockers and make plays through contact
✅Rangy run defender with a natural feel for navigating traffic and finding the football
❌Lacks explosiveness to make up ground quickly… pic.twitter.com/5Ed5UIaEE2
Javon Bullard, S, Georgia
I’m reaching a bit here, but I wanted to give five different players at five different positions, instead of just listing a bunch of cornerbacks.
Georgia safety Javon Bullard is viewed as a second-round pick by most experts, but as noted earlier, so were former Steelers first-round selections Burns and Edmunds.
The difference is that Bullard can be a star. He reminds me so much of Lions defensive back Brian Branch, who certainly was on Pittsburgh’s radar last offseason.
He’s a high IQ safety, at least on the stat sheet, who has great coverage ability and can play the slot if need be. Bullard is also a hard hitter and can play in the box, allowing ball hawk Minkah Fitzpatrick to roam in center field, which is what he’s one of the best at.
If there’s a “shocker” pick, this could be it. But I certainly wouldn’t hate it.
What are your thoughts on this group? Do you have a favorite player from the bunch you’d like to see the Steelers target?