It's been quite a busy offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers and GM Omar Khan. The good news is that the roster is really starting to take shape and in less than a month, the 2023 NFL Draft will be upon us.
After signing cornerback Patrick Peterson, linebackers Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts, interior offensive linemen Isaac Seumalo and Nate Herbig, defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko and safety Keanu Neal, plus the re-signings of defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, safety Damontae Kazee, tight end Gentry and cornerback James Pierre, Khan and assistant GM Andy Weidl have done a good job of addressing some holes in free agency, giving him some flexibility entering the draft in late April.
Now that a few moves have been made and the roster is starting to take shape, I thought it would be a good time to release my latest mock draft for the Steelers.
Below is the fourth version of my seven-round mock draft, post-free agency edition, with the caveat that I know the team isn't done making moves. If you missed my first three mock drafts, you can find them here, here and here.
As a reminder, this is what I think the Steelers will do in the draft, in terms of players and positions. As always, leave your thoughts in the comments section below, and thanks for reading!
ROUND ONE (17th OVERALL) – DAWAND JONES/OT/OHIO STATE —6082, 374 lbs.
Analysis: One thing that has become pretty clear this offseason is that Khan and Weidl want these huge people along the offensive line. Enter Ohio State's Dawand Jones. At 6082, 374 pounds, he's the biggest player in the draft, and he has pretty solid film overall. While I have some concerns about his conditioning, weight and pulling out of his Pro Day workouts with the Steelers in attendance, Mike Tomlin, Khan and a handful of Steelers personnel took him to dinner and have shown great interest since the Senior Bowl.
Jones has the ability to float between left and right tackle, although it feels like he's mostly a right tackle coming into the NFL, where he played in college. The Steelers showed great interest in Minnesota's Daniel Faalele in the 2022 NFL Draft and missed out on the big man when the Ravens selected him. They won't miss their mark on offense this time around and get a key piece to instill in the OL room in Jones.
Previous elections: Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson (W.3); Bryan Bresee, iDL, Clemson (V.2); Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois (V.1)
Others considered: Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee; Brian Branch, S, Alabama; Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
ROUND TWO (32ND OVERALL) – TRENTON SIMPSON/LB/CLEMSON — 6023, 235 lbs.
Analysis: In my last mock draft, I selected Clemson linebacker Trenton Simpson 17th overall and received a lot of pushback. It was probably fair because the more and more I watch Simpson, the more I think the first round is too rich for him. Getting him 32nd overall feels like a good spot for the athletic linebacker with solid coverage ability, something the Steelers desperately need at the position after overhauling the linebacker room this offseason.
The Steelers need a guy with elite physical attributes and advanced coverage skills. That's what Simpson brings in abundance. While some in the industry believe he is better suited to play safety in the NFL, Simpson has all the tools to be a high-level linebacker in the NFL. Simpson clocked a 4.43 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, then added a 4.22 short shuttle, a 6.89 3-cone and 40.5-inch vertical at his Pro Day, where the Steelers were heavily in attendance.
Tomlin took Simpson to dinner the night before his Pro Day as well. Based on the current linebackers room, it's clear the Steelers need that coverage inside. Simpson fits that need and would give new inside linebackers coach Aaron Curry a freakish athlete to mold. Simpson has the qualities you can't teach at the position, showing off the skills that suggest he can fill the role of a three-down linebacker while contributing like a Swiss Army knife defender.
Previous elections: John Michael Schmitz, iOL, Minnesota (V.3); Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee (V.2); Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State (V.1)
Others considered: Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State; Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia; Mazi Smith, iDL, Michigan
ROUND TWO (49TH OVERALL) – STEVE AVILA/iOL/TCU — 6034, 332 lbs.
Analysis: Pittsburgh has done its due diligence on interior offensive linemen with center and guard capabilities leading up to the draft. It may surprise some, but the Steelers have no depth behind current starting center Mason Cole, and Cole doesn't exactly project as the long-term center in the Steel City.
That's where Avila, who has a top-30 visit to the Steelers planned, could be involved. Avila has played all over the offensive line during his time at TCU. In 46 games for the Horned Frogs, he started 35 with 17 at center, two at tackle, 15 at guard. He played left guard for the Horned Frogs in 2022 when TCU advanced to the College Football Playoff National Championship.
Although he is 23 years old entering the draft, he is a long-term building block who profiles better at center than guard in the NFL. He really understands leverage and has good fundamentals overall for the position. He's not a mauler, but he moves people consistently in the run game.
Previous elections: Julius Brents, CB, Kansas State (V.3); Derick Hall, EDGE, Auburn (V.2); Keeanu Benton, iDL, Wisconsin (V.1)
Others considered: Gervon Dexter, iDL, Florida; Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah; John Michael Schmitz, iOL, Minnesota
ROUND THREE (80TH OVERALL) – TYRIQUE STEVENSON/CB/MIAMI (FL.) — 6000, 198 lbs.
Analysis: This is a little later than I wanted to take a cornerback, but that's exactly how my board fell. That said, I'm ecstatic to get a guy of Miami (FL) Tyrique Stevenson's caliber at No. 80 overall. A former Georgia Bulldog that current Steelers wide receiver George Pickens knows well, Stevenson brings serious physicality and a real edge to the position.
While there are certainly some concerns regarding his long speed and somewhat stiff hips, he profiles as a guy who can thrive in a Cover 2 and press-man system. He has the ball skills and trusts himself to play on set pieces. It's also worth noting that the Steelers saw a lot of him in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, where he had a solid week. They also sent former cornerback and new organizational scout Ike Taylor to Miami's Pro Day where the former Steelers great put Stevenson through drills and got a good look at the standout.
While Stevenson needs some work in zone and off-man coverages, he is a high-ceiling guy who would be a solid piece to add under Patrick Peterson's tutelage.
Previous elections: Keeanu Benton, DL, Wis. (V.3); Julius Brents, CB, Kansas State (V.2); Henry T'oTo'o, ILB, Alabama (V.1)
Others considered: Keeanu Benton, DL, Wisconsin; Xavier Hutchinson, WR, Iowa State; Kyu Blu Kelly, CB, Stanford
ROUND FOUR (120th OVERALL) – JONATHAN MINGO/WR/OLE MISS — 6016, 220 lbs.
Analysis: This may not be exciting for people to hear, but the Steelers will draft a wide receiver within the first four rounds. It will happen. The depth chart behind Diontae Johnson and George Pickens is a real concern, even with the return of Calvin Austin III, who didn't play last season as a rookie due to injury.
Ole Miss wide receiver Jonathan Mingo is an exciting weapon to add to a room that continues to reshape. He's a guy who has a top-30 pre-draft visit scheduled with the Steelers, too. Mingo works best in space, has a solid feel for where the soft spot will be in the zone, and shows the ability to play on the outside or in the slot, though he had most of his 2022 success in the slot. His release off the snap is good and his long speed is solid. If he grows his route tree and tightens up some of his technique in and out of breaks, he has NFL starter upside. In the short term, he could carve out a niche on an NFL team as a physical slot receiver in the right situation.
The Steelers need that physicality after the catcher out of the slot. They haven't had that since JuJu Smith-Schuster was on the roster. They tried that with Chase Claypool last season and it just didn't work. Mingo has some intriguing traits that make him a good fit for what the Steelers are looking for at the position.
Previous elections: Jose Ramirez, EDGE, Eastern Michigan (W.3); Carter Warren, OT, Pittsburgh (V.2); Nathaniel “Tank” Dell, WR, Houston (V.1)
Others considered: Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, CB, TCU; Jaquelin Roy, DT, LSU; Sam LaPorta, TE, Iowa
ROUND SEVEN (234th OVERALL) – BRODRIC MARTIN/iDL/WESTERN KENTUCKY —6045, 337 lbs.
Analysis: A little later than I wanted to wait for defensive line help, but Western Kentucky's Brodric Martin is a good consolation prize. A huge guy at 6045, 337 pounds, Martin had a really strong showing in the East-West Shrine Bowl in Las Vegas. He certainly flashed good strength and some exciting juice as a pass rusher.
Martin began his career at North Alabama, spending two seasons there before transferring to Western Kentucky where he started 14 of 28 career games and earned C-USA Honorable Mention honors in 2022. He has long arms (34 3/8″) and a huge wingspan (84 1/4″) and really eats up space. He's on the older side (turns 24 in May), but with 31 career starts and plenty of production, he's a solid flyer late on Day 3 and can strike out.
Previous elections: John Ojukwu, OL, Boise State (V.3); Mitchell Tinsley, WR, Penn State (V.2); Jerome Carvin, iOL, Tennessee (V.1)
Others considered: DJ Dale, iDL, Alabama; Brock Martin, EDGE, Oklahoma State, Jalen Redmond, DT, Oklahoma
ROUND SEVEN (241ST OVERALL) – CHAMARRI CONNER/CB/VIRGINIA TECH — 6005, 205 lbs.
Analysis: Even with the signings of Keanu Neal, Patrick Peterson and Damontae Kazee, and the earlier pick of Tyrique Stevenson, the Steelers still have to address the slot role. Virginia Tech's Chamarri Conner profiles as a sub-package cornerback with good ball skills at the next level.
Steelers Director of Pro Scouting Sheldon White personally attended Virginia Tech's Pro Day and got a good look at Connor, who had a strong showing and has a 9.06 RAS score. Conner is a smart and physical player and an enthusiastic tackler who takes his responsibilities in run support seriously. He loves to button, trigger, fly to the football and finish. He is never passive when given opportunities to hit and tackle and played primarily in the slot for the Hokies' defense. He has the mentality and toughness needed to play closer to the ball. Conner is mostly a sound processor and shows good skills for anticipating routes in zone coverage.
This late in the draft, that kind of skill is worth taking a chance on. In his career, Conner recorded 314 tackles, 21.0 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and four interceptions to go along with 19 pass breakups and four forced fumbles. He can really play and can push for a role in the slot right away in Pittsburgh, much like Tre Norwood did as a rookie in 2021.
Previous elections: Brenton Strange, TE, Penn State (V.3); Dante Stills, DT, West Virginia (V.2); Andre Jones, EDGE, Louisiana (V.1)
Others considered: Malik Cunningham, QB, Louisville; Sean Clifford, QB, Penn State; Spencer Anderson, iOL, Maryland
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