PFF Identifies Pair Of Early, Late-Round Draft Fits For Steelers

Plenty of names certainly turned some heads and generated some buzz throughout the week in Mobile during the 2023 Senior Bowl, and now a pair of them could be ideal fits for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2023 NFL Draft.

According to Pro Football Focus’ Trevor Sikemma, Ohio State offensive tackle Dawand Jones and South Carolina cornerback Darius Rush are ideal early- and late-round draft fits for the black and gold, especially after their performances in Mobile in late January and early February.

“Since head coach Mike Tomlin was front and center at the Senior Bowl, why not give him two Senior Bowl players for this exercise?” Sikemma writes regarding Jones and Rush being two ideal fits for the Steelers in the NFL Draft. “The Steelers need a lot of help at offensive tackle, and the 6-foot-8, 375-pound Jones would be a welcomed addition (they could also flip Chukwuma Okorafor to left tackle, where he played in college. Pittsburgh will have to address a hole at outside cornerback, too, and Rush consistently put together good reps in Mobile.”

The Senior Bowl is an important stop on the pre-draft process road trip for the Pittsburgh Steelers and head coach Mike Tomlin every year.

Oftentimes, the franchise grabs multiple players in the draft that were in Mobile competing in the Senior Bowl. That could be the case this season once again, especially with new GM Omar Khan in charge and assistant GM Andy Weidl getting his hands on the pre-draft board for the first time as a member of the Steelers.

Jones continues to be a popular name regarding the Steelers, as he’s one of the better tackles in the class overall. While he’s most likely a right tackle exclusive guy, he’s got a very similar career path to big guys like Kansas City’s Orlando Brown Jr. and Baltimore’s Daniel Faalele as far as tackle goes.

Those two guys with massive human beings with questions about movement skills, but Brown Jr. has flipped between right and left tackle in his career and developed into one of the better tackles in the NFL, while Faalele continues to develop in Baltimore.

Jones had a great first practice in Mobile in front of coaches, scouts and media members before shutting it down for the rest of the week to avoid injury. Though I’m sure that was frustrating to many, he showed what he needed to in that one practice, and should be a popular name in the back half of the first round and early in the second round.

Here’s what Steelers Depot’s own Ross McCorkle had to say about Jones in his draft profile:

“Jones is an intriguing tackle prospect in the NFL. He is able to generate a lot of power with good use of hands. When paired with his unique length and overall size, he will create a lot of issues for pass rushers at the next level. He moves well for a 360-pounder, but change-of-direction is obviously going to be an issue against highly athletic edge rushers.

“He will be a sought-after tackle in this draft class, and there will likely be a lot of buzz around his arm length once the official measurements come out. My pro comparison is Orlando Brown.”

He’d certainly be a fit for the Steelers up front based on what they want to do, which is run the football and bully people, something current right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor doesn’t quite fit with.

With Jones as the early-round fit, Rush is the late-round fit for the Steelers in Sikemma’s opinion.

The Steelers desperately need help at cornerback after Ahkello Witherspoon flamed out in his second season with the Steelers after signing a two-year deal in free agency, and the trade for William Jackson III produced no return on investment as he was injured upon arrival, placed on Injured Reserve and was never activated.

Add in Cameron Sutton slated to hit free agency and it’s quite clear the Steelers need to add some pieces in the cornerback room.

That’s where Rush could come in.

He had a very strong week in Mobile, making a number of plays while showcasing his abilities in coverage with good footwork and physicality. Here’s what Steelers Depot’s Jonathan Heitritter had to say about Rush entering the Senior Bowl game: 

“Darius Rush gets less attention than his potential first-round former teammate Cam Smith but Rush’s measurables, play style, and character make him a fine prospect in his own regard. He possesses great length and athleticism for the position, posting the fastest GPS-recorded time during the week of practices of any player. He has a short memory, moving on from any mistakes and bouncing back to make plays in the passing game. He has a couple of picks and several PBUs throughout the week, being named the American CB practice player of the week by his peers. Given his willingness as a run defender and special teams capability, Rush can contribute right away as a rookie as he works his way into the lineup.”

Slightly overlooked in his own program, Rush could be that gem late on Day 2 or on Day 3 that really blossoms. The Steelers have a significant need at cornerback, and should they decide to pass on the position early on and wait until the middle or later rounds, Rush is a name worth monitoring.

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