The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 season is officially in the books with the team finishing with an 9-8 record but failing to make the playoffs. With the season now in the rearview mirror, many will turn their attention toward the offseason and more specifically the 2023 NFL Draft. Now that Pittsburgh has officially been eliminated from playoff contention, they are slotted to pick 17th overall in the first round and own the top pick in the second round thanks to the Chase Claypool trade with the Chicago Bears.
While we still have the all-star games, NFL Combine, and Pro Day upcoming prior to the draft this spring, it’s never too early to go through mock draft scenarios and project player/prospect fits who the Steelers may be interested in given their current needs on the roster and the talent in this upcoming draft class.
ROUND 1 (#17 OVERALL) — DEVON WITHERSPOON/CB/ILLINOIS
Analysis: The Steelers tried to go the cheap route and invest two-year deals with an average yearly value of $4 million into CBs Ahkello Witherspoon and Levi Wallace this offseason. While Wallace has played well at times, neither cover man should be considered a #1 CB.
Pittsburgh nabs a potential CB1 here in the second round, selecting Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon. Witherspoon may not have freaky size (5’11 180lb) or physical tools, but he is a physical, feisty competitor that embodies what you look for in an NFL cover man. Witherspoon posted 41 total stops, 2.5 TFLs, three INTs, and 14 PBUs. He was named the Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year and was recently elected to Pro Football Focus’s 2022 All-American Team for his efforts this season. He has the makings to be a quality cover corner and has the demeanor of being a willing, physical run defender Pittsburgh looks for in their CBs.
ROUND 2 (#32 OVERALL)— DREW SANDERS/LB/ARKANSAS
Analysis: The Steelers desperately need to add starting-caliber talent to this ILB core with Robert Spillane and Devin bush heading to free agency and to spark a position that has been lacking in the splash play department for some time now. Drew Sanders would be a great selection in the second round as a guy that experience playing both on the edge and in the box, giving Pittsburgh a moveable chess piece at LB like the hybrid players Brian Flores has coached in the past. Sanders had a productive season in 2022, posting 103 total tackles (40 solo), 9.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, five PBUs, and an INT. Sanders is a quality pass rusher and has great range as a run-and-chase defender.
ROUND 2 (#49 OVERALL)— ANDREW VORHEES/OL/USC
Analysis: The Steelers can stand to improve their offensive line with more consistent options at either LT or LG. Andrew Vorhees has established himself as one of the most steady, reliable OL in college football as the 6’6, 325lb redshirt senior is sound in pass protection while also having the athleticism and mobility to pull and get out in space to pick up blocks in the run game. With 25 starts at right guard, 8 starts at left guard, 4 starts at left tackle, and being the starter at LG this past season, Vorhees has the versatility to play multiple positions at the next level. Vorhees is as battle-tested as they come and can push Kevin Dotson for the starting LG spot right away as a rookie.
ROUND 3 (#80 OVERALL)— KEEANU BENTON/DL/WISCONSIN
Analysis: The Steelers need to add depth and starters to their defensive line with the number of upcoming free agents they figure to have this offseason. Keeanu Benton could meet both those designations as he has improved every season in Madison and his put himself on the map as one of the better interior defensive linemen in this draft class. He possesses impressive play strength to shed blocks and push the pocket. He is a menace in the run game and brings a pass rush to the table as well, having four sacks this season. Standing at 6’4, 315lb, Benton could make himself a lot of money if he can show scouts he can be a three-down defender in Mobile and get the best of interior OL in pass rush drills.
ROUND 4 (#119 OVERALL)— MARVIN MIMS/WR/OKLAHOMA
Analysis: While the Steelers have Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, and Calvin Austin III in tow for next season, Austin is coming off a lost year and owner Art Rooney II himself expressed the need for the passing game to improve. Pittsburgh goes back to the draft and lands another great mid-round value selection here in Oklahoma’s Marvin Mims. Mims declared early as a junior after showcasing his talents the last three years with the Sooners. He can stretch the field and made leaping, combative catches despite a smaller frame (5’11, 184lb). He gets out of his breaks well and can stretch the field, creating more splash for a Steelers passing game that needs more explosive plays down the field.
ROUND 7 (#236 OVERALL)— YASIR ABDULLAH/EDGE/LOUISVILLE
Analysis: Pittsburgh should address the OLB position behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, needing a capable rotational player that can provide a pass rush if either needs a breather or is to miss extended time. Louisville’s Yasir Abdullah isn’t the biggest body at the position (6’1, 234lb), but he has become one of the better pass rushers in all of college football the last several seasons.
He has notched 19.5 sacks in the last two years combined along with eight career forced fumbles, using his height and low center of gravity to round the corner and leverage his pass rush against longer OTs. His size will suppress his draft value come April, making him a potential fit should Pittsburgh wait to address the position until Day Three.
ROUND 7 (#248 OVERALL)— DORIAN THOMPSON-ROBINSON/QB/UCLA
Analysis: Plenty of yinz aren’t going to like this, but there is a good chance that the Steelers target a backup QB of the future in the 2023 NFL Draft. With Mason Rudolph scheduled to become a free agent and Mitch Trubisky likely to be released to save cap space and to give him a chance to start elsewhere (which I assume you are all fine with), the Steelers will need to add QBs to the room. While they could go out and land another veteran, what will likely happen is sign a low-cost backup option to mentor Pickett as the team’s QB1 next season and Pittsburgh use a Day Three pick to groom their future backup QB.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson is a logical name to project here with Pittsburgh’s last pick as he lacks consistent accuracy and ideal size but is a multi-year starter that had his best season in 2022, possessing the arm and athleticism to play in Pittsburgh’s offense. He recently spoke to Steelers Depot’s own Joe Cammarota, stating he had talked to the Steelers at the East/West Shrine game, suggesting there is at least some interest there. Should they want to take the same route as last year as secure their 3rd/4th QB on the roster, the Steelers could very likely draft DTR with one of their final picks rather than try and get into a bidding war in UDFA.
What are your thoughts on the names listed above in this mock draft for the Pittsburgh Steelers? Does this present a realistic scenario that the team may take toward the 2023 NFL Draft? What did I get right? Where did I mess up? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section and thanks again for reading!