Big Building Block In Trenches Paired With Steelers In Latest Mock Draft From NFL Analyst

Coming out of a rather busy free agency period, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a few key areas on the roster to address in the 2023 NFL Draft April 27-29 in Kansas City.

Outside of the secondary at cornerback and safety, the biggest area of need for the Steelers remains in the trenches on both sides of the football at offensive tackle and defensive tackle. While the Steelers and head coach Mike Tomlin are “comfortable” with starting offensive tackles Dan Moore Jr. and Chukwuma Okorafor, they won’t shy away from addressing the position in the draft, should the opportunity arise.

Fortunately for the Steelers, that opportunity popped up in the latest mock draft from NFL Network’s Cynthia Frelund Thursday morning. At No. 17 overall, the Steelers landed Georgia offensive tackle Broderick Jones as he fell down the board and right into Pittsburgh’s lap.

As a reminder with Frelund’s mock draft, its team-prospect pairings are based on optimizing wins in the upcoming season only.

“My models rank last season’s O-line 26th in the league, and Jones forecasts as an impact left tackle from Day 1,” Frelund writes. “The former Bulldog’s presence should especially be felt in the pass game, where the Steelers ranked 26th in passing yards per play last season (5.97 yards).”

Jones was the third tackle off the board in Frelund’s exercise, with Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski going No. 9 overall to the Chicago Bears, and Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. going No. 14 to the New York Jets.

The selection of Jones is a sound one for the Steelers. He certainly looks the part of a potential franchise left tackle, standing 6’5, 311 pounds with 34 3/4” arms and 10 5/8” hands. Jones tested well at the NFL Combine, running a 4.97 40 while jumping 30” in the vert and 9’0” in the broad. You see that athleticism pop on the tape as he does a great job getting out in space as a run blocker, showing off his movement skills as well as his strength to overwhelm smaller defenders in the ground game.

While Jones didn’t allow a sack last season, the redshirt sophomore still is pretty raw in pass protection. He carries his hands low prior to his punch and can be inconsistent in terms of syncing his hands and feet in pass sets. He is also fairly lean as an OT and will face tougher competition on the edge at the next level. That will challenge his technique as well as his size and frame with power.

Jones is a younger prospect (he turns 22 in May) who only started 19 games in three seasons at Georgia. While he has some impressive physical traits, you often prefer tackles to have more experience and to be further along in their development before thrusting them into the starting job on the blindside. While Jones has more upside than Moore, the latter would likely continue to start over Jones for the majority, if not the entire 2023 season, until Jones is ready to take the starting job.

Based on his tape, age and overall skill set, Jones would probably start the season behind Moore and Okorafor as the swing tackle and extra in-line blocker in heavy personnel. So he wouldn’t have as big an impact on the Steelers in 2023 as Frelund is projecting, at least currently.

Were he to be the selection at No. 17 overall, the future would be really bright in the trenches for the Steelers as Jones projects as a strong left tackle long-term once he fully develops. But that’s not a win-now move for the franchise as Frelund pitches it.

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