Steelers Paired With Intriguing Cornerback With Impressive Traits In The Athletic’s Latest Mock Draft

Mock draft season rolls right along, and so far it’s been the same handful of names connected to the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 17 overall, from Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr., Georgia’s Broderick Jones, Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez, Alabama’s Brian Branch, and Clemson’s Bryan Bresee, to name a few.

The Athletic’s College Football recycled a previous name very early in the cycle on Friday in its mock draft leaning heavily on a number of college football writers to put together a first round.

That recycled name? Georgia cornerback Kelee Ringo.

The Athletic paired the Steelers with Ringo at No. 17 overall, giving the Steelers an intriguing cornerback with very impressive physical traits for the position in a deep, talented class overall.

“The thought here was either offensive line or corner,” The Athletic’s Antonio Morales writes regarding the Steelers’ selection of Ringo in the mock draft. “Most of the top offensive linemen were taken, so we’re betting on traits and athleticism here to continue the recent run on cornerbacks. Ringo is raw and will lose some battles in coverage, but he has the size and speed to win his fair share, too.”

Prior to the offseason draft cycle at the start of 2023, Ringo was a consensus top-10 selection before the 2022 season, but he struggled in his redshirt sophomore campaign as he consistently got beat in coverage and struggled with mental lapses, even though Georgia’s defense was again dominant and won its second straight national championship.

Ringo, who sealed Georgia’s first national championship since 1984 in at the end of the 2021 season with a pick-six of likely No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young of Alabama in the College Football Playoff championship game, is a bit raw overall in his instincts and overall technique for the position.

That could scare some teams off early in the 2023 NFL Draft, including the Steelers, who have struggled overall to identify talent at the position and develop them, Cameron Sutton aside.

However, you cannot teach Ringo’s size, speed and overall ball skills. He’s a twitched-up athlete, one that can thrive in man or zone in the NFL and can handle all types of receivers, be they the physical, contested catch type, or the short-area burst, freakish receivers that are nightmares in space.

Ringo has all the tools, but he needs to do some developing. He’s the type of prospect you swing big on though with those tools and traits. With a new front office in place in Pittsburgh with first-year GM Omar Khan, assistant GM Andy Weidl and Director of Pro Scouting Sheldon White, the Steelers have new eyes in place to look over draft classes and make different decisions compared to what former GM Kevin Colbert did for 22 years in charge.

Still, that rawness and the struggles on film last season could also scare teams off in the first round. Steelers Depot’s own Jonathan Heitritter has him as a Day 2 prospect due to those struggles on tape and mental lapses from last season. Here’s what Heitritter had to say about Ringo in his draft profile:

“Overall, Kelee Ringo has the physical qualities you look for in an outside boundary corner. He has the size, speed, and pedigree that fits the prototype at the position, being a capable press man cornerback that can reroute receivers as well as contest passes regularly in man-on-man situations. He is physical at the catch point and as a downhill player, bringing the want-to as a hitter both in run support as well as a blitzer off the edge. Still, Ringo needs to match his physical prowess with better mental processing, needing to react quicker to the receiver coming out of his breaks and rely less on guessing and using his athleticism to make up for any mishaps in coverage.”

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