A new week has a new name mocked to the Pittsburgh Steelers for the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft. Pro Football Focus dropped its latest mock draft, giving the Steelers OT Darnell Wright at #17. Explaining the pick, author Trevor Sikkema writes:
“The Steelers do have their current offensive tackles, Dan Moore Jr. and Chukwuma Okorafor, under contract for 2023, but that’s not to say they shouldn’t look for a potential upgrade. Though Wright played right tackle for the Vols — the bigger need for the Steelers is left tackle — he is talented enough to where I’d take a chance on him and feel comfortable with the growing pains of Wright or Moore on the left side. On 507 pass-blocking snaps in 2022, he allowed no sacks and just eight pressures with an 80.2 pass-blocking grade.”
Out of Tennessee, Wright is a mountain of a man at a listed 6’6, 335 pounds with official weigh-ins to occur at this week’s Senior Bowl. In a similar mold as Max Starks, he’s a physically imposing presence and far larger than the Steelers’ current tackles. However, he doesn’t fit the mold of a grading run blocker. In fact, as Sikkema noted, pass protection is more of his calling card and his combination of length and quick feet makes him hard to get around.
Wright was a multi-year starter for the Volunteers, routinely facing quality SEC competition, once minimizing Alabama’s EDGE Will Anderson, one of the country’s top prospects. The Steelers largely draft from that pool, or at least the Power 5. Their first-round pick has been used on a major conference prospect in every draft since 2005. The last exception was QB Ben Roethlisberger in 2004, hailing from Miami (OH).
In our pre-draft scouting report, our Chandler Stroud noted Wright’s strong football IQ and ability to mirror in pass protection. But he knocked him for lacking a mean streak in the run game.
Ultimately, this is how Stroud concluded Wright’s game.
“Physically he reminds me a lot of a guy like Trent Brown. A very long tall heavy tackle with massive limbs who’s going to learn to finish guys at the next level. Football is also a game of production and if he can get to a point where he’s holding top-tier guys like Will Anderson to three tackles a game and no sacks, that’s going to be enough to not only allow him to see more than one contract in this league but thrive and I think he could potentially become an average starter in the league at his position.”
However, he didn’t give him a first-round grade, meaning drafting Wright at #17 feels like a reach. There’s a debate over it being a need, too. The Steelers could roll with Dan Moore and Chukwuma Okorafor as its tackles this season. Considering Wright’s experience is exclusively on the right side, it’s hard to see him starting over Okorafor, who got paid well last offseason. Okorafor could flip to left tackle but he’s hardly played the position in years, making for a potentially challenging adjustment.
Still, improving the trenches is a worthwhile thought and it’s nice to see a different name like Wright in this mock draft. Sikkema has Alabama QB Bryce Young as the #1 pick with the Houston Texans trading up to the top spot with the Chicago Bears to get him.