For the first time in a few seasons, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first-round draft target has a certain level of uncertainty. That is, the team did not hide their interest in the quarterback position before selecting Kenny Pickett in 2022, nor their interest in running back Najee Harris before selecting him in 2021. This time around, the team effectively has two first round picks at 17 and 32, and it is anyone’s guess which position-of-need the team will target with them. In a Friday conference call, NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah made his best guess for what position the team will opt to target, as recapped by Michael Baca.
“The Steelers can go several ways with the Nos. 17 and 32 overall picks,” Baca prefaced. “Having needs at offensive line, cornerback and defensive line. Jeremiah believes there are a few O-line prospects who could be rookie starters, should Pittsburgh look to solidify second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett’s protection.”
Indeed, the Steelers’ biggest roster holes are arguably along both sides of the trenches and the cornerback position. Should the team opt to select an offensive lineman, which they’ve only done in three out of 19 first-round picks since 1999, Jeremiah highlighted a few potential targets for them.
“If you’re looking at tackle, [Tennessee’s] Darnell Wright is the one that I put there (in my mock),” Jeremiah said. “If they end up waiting on tackle, I think Matthew Bergeron from Syracuse could be one that maybe they take at 32. There are some good interior options: Steve Avila from TCU, [Florida’s] O’Cyrus Torrence. I think those guys are just plug-and-play. You’re not going to win the press conference, the draft party with those two guys, but I think they’re just plug-and-play, solid starters immediately.”
Whether the Steelers select a guard or tackle is largely dependent on whether they intend to replace Dan Moore at the left tackle position or left guard Kevin Dotson. On one hand, Moore’s play, while having seen a big improvement from his rookie year, still leaves a bit to be desired relative to many tackles in the league. On the other, Dotson is on an expiring contract (while Moore has two years left on his rookie deal), has a history of injuries prior to 2022, and committed a team-high 11 penalties this past season.
Assuming the team is seeking to replace Moore, Jeremiah points out Darnell Wright as a target for the team at pick 17, and Matthew Bergeron as pick 32. A consensus five-star recruit out of West Virginia, he started four seasons at tackle for the volunteers, playing his freshman, sophomore, and senior seasons on the right side and his junior season on the left side. At 6′ 6″ and 342 pounds, he is a big-body tackle with excellent hand use, and made First-team All-SEC his senior season. Be sure to check out his draft profile.
Meanwhile, Bergeron is a Canadian prospect that became a full-time starter his sophomore season at Syracuse. Much like Wright, he has experience at both left and right tackle. Bergeron was an All-ACC honorable mention in 2021, and was named to the second team in 2022. During the Senior Bowl Bergeron met with Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin.
For an in-depth analysis of Bergeron as a prospect, be sure to check out his recently uploaded draft profile.
If the Steelers opt to select a guard to replace Dotson, Jeremiah highlights O’Cyrus Torrence, and Steve Avila as potential targets for them. Torrance was a three-star recruit, and played his first three seasons at Louisiana–Lafayette before transferring to Florida for his 2022 Senior season. He started 13 of 14 games in his true-freshman season at right guard, and was named second-team All-Sunbelt Conference in his sophomore season. He went onto make first-team All-Sun Belt his junior season, and was a first-team All-SEC and consensus All-American his senior season. Be sure to check out his draft profile, too.
As for Avila, he was a four-star recruit out of Texas, and a five-year starter for TCU, with experience at both guard and center. He was a consensus All-American in 2022, and first-team All-Big 12 in 2021 and 2022. He had remarkable durability through 46 games, and a solid frame for his position. Be sure to also check out his draft profile.
Which offensive line prospects do you think the Steelers will target in the first round? Comment below!