The Pittsburgh Steelers have a decision to make come the first day of the NFL Draft. Do they want to address their offense first, or their defense? There are certainly arguments for both sides, but as of right now it seems people are leaning more towards to offensive side.
One of those people leaning offense is CBS Sports’ Josh Edwards who put out a mock draft today which has the Steelers addressing their offensive line by taking Ohio State product Paris Johnson Jr.
“Pittsburgh’s offensive line has shown improvement throughout this season but Johnson is a more sustainable option at left tackle to block for Najee Harris and protect Kenny Pickett,” wrote Edwards as his reasoning for Pittsburgh selecting Johnson Jr.
While the Steelers offensive line certainly improved over the course of the season, the left side of the offensive line still has their issues. Both left tackle Dan Moore Jr. and left guard Kevin Dotson had their struggles this season, especially early on which hampered the offense to start the year. While they both did improve it would be hard to argue that they could not be upgraded from.
Johnson Jr., a guard turned tackle, was excellent this past year at left tackle even though it was his first year as a tackle in college. He has great size for a left tackle, standing at 6’6 and weighing 310 pounds and is also readily available playing is 23 straight games dating back to 2021.
Johnson Jr. was graded very highly by PFF this year in his first college season at left tackle. PFF gave him a grade of 83.1 and had him down as only giving up two sacks and twelve hurries in 13 games. While he still has work to do to become more comfortable at left tackle at a higher level (he played it in high school), he clearly has a good base. And with the way Steelers offensive line coach Pat Meyer improved the whole unit this year it would be hard to imagine he couldn’t help Johnson Jr. reach a high ceiling.
However, one thing that may prevent the Steelers drafting an offensive tackle in the first round is that they don’t draft tackles that high. The last time they drafted a offensive tackle in the first round was back in 1996 when they took Jamain Stephens at pick 29. Since 1996, the Steelers have drafted four interior offensive lineman in the first round with three of them being guards (Alan Faneca, Kendall Simmons, and David DeCastro) and one center, Maurkice Pouncey.
While this doesn’t mean that the team won’t buck that trend this year, it could mean the Steelers try and upgrade over Dotson before Moore Jr. But, with Andy Weidl heading up the scouting this year things could be different. Maybe under Weidl Pittsburgh will place more of an emphasis on the offensive tackle position than former general manager Kevin Colbert did. It will certainly be something fun to look forward to monitoring this offseason.