With the 2022 season coming to a disappointing end with the Pittsburgh Steelers as they missed the playoffs despite finishing 9-8 and beating the Cleveland Browns, 28-14, in the season finale, all of the attention shifts to the offseason for the black and gold, which will be a rather important one.
That means the focus is on free agency and, more specifically, the 2023 NFL Draft.
Currently, the Steelers have three picks inside the top 50, including two in the top 32, thanks to the second-round pick acquired from the Chicago Bears for former receiver Chase Claypool.
That type of draft capital should help the Steelers land some key pieces to plug and play right away as the retooling continues. On Monday, Pro Football Focus’ Michael Renner dropped his latest mock draft following the conclusion of the regular season, and with the Steelers’ first-round pick, Renner did not disappoint.
At No. 17 overall, Renner pairs the Steelers with South Carolina redshirt junior cornerback Cam Smith, going the Steelers a potential lockdown cornerback to add to a secondary in need of some juice at cornerback, passing on the likes of Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr. and Georgia’s Kelee Ringo — two popular names connected to the Steelers throughout the 2022 season.
“Smith is the kind of heady defensive back that head coach Mike Tomlin will love,” Renner writes regarding the selection of Smith via PFF.com. “He brings with him some of the best ball skills at the cornerback position in the draft class. On 70 targets into his coverage over the past two seasons, Smith broke up 15 of them (21.4%) and picked off four more (5.7%).”
Smith is arguably the top cornerback in the class, too. The 6-foot, 188-pound cornerback was a preseason All-America selection in 2022 and was named to the 2021 All-SEC second team by The Associated Press and Pro Football Focus. Coming into the 2022 season, Smith had the second-best grade of any returning cornerback in the country by PFF at 88.4 overall.
At South Carolina in 2022, Smith started all but one game this season for the Gamecocks, missing the game against Georgia due to a concussion. In his final season with the Gamecocks, Smith recorded 27 tackles, six pass breakups and an interception. For his career, Smith recorded 91 tackles, six interceptions and 24 pass breakups in 33 career games.
A long, physical cornerback, Smith has the type of length, ball skills, and athleticism that projects well to the NFL as a prototypical boundary cover corner, which the Steelers are in need of after a trying 2022 season for the secondary. Smith also showed the willingness to get in on the action as a run defender, something that is a requirement for the Steelers at the position.
Currently, Smith is the No. 12 player on PFF’s big board and would fill a major need for the black and gold defensively.