With this year’s NFL Combine wrapping up and free agency just more than a week away, I wanted to drop my first Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2023 mock draft. It’s still early in the draft process and what happens the next month will offer more clues to what direction the team will go. What occurs in free agency, what Pro Days the team attends, etc. But this is where I’m at now, guys who make sense and fit needs for the team.
As always, let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
I’ll have a new Steelers’ mock draft after the first initial wave of free agency.
Round 1 (#17 Overall): Joey Porter Jr./CB Penn State – 6024, 193 lbs.
Analysis: The dots don’t get any easier to connect than Porter Jr. There’s an obvious question of if he’ll fall to the Steelers and it’s certainly possible he doesn’t. But if any of the “Big Three” corners slips a bit, it could be him, the third corner off the board and a QB-heavy class at the top potentially pushing him down.
Physical with rare length, he’s a good athlete that can contribute in sub-packages out of the gate. The Steelers’ interest here is clear, the bloodlines with Joey Porter Sr. and the unique knowledge they’ll have into his son’s game. That creates a level of comfort at a position that needs that top-end guy. High-impact plays are a concern here, just one career interception, but his length will tip passes and let others make plays. The Steelers don’t have great depth here and Levi Wallace is only signed through 2023.
Others Considered: DL Bryan Bresee, OL Darnell Wright, LB Drew Sanders, WR Zay Flowers
Round 2 (#32 Overall): Jack Campbell/ILB Iowa – 6045, 249 lbs.
Analysis: After a tremendous Combine workout, Campbell isn’t a guy the Steelers can risk waiting on. With uncommon size for the position that’s filled with so many 6’1, 225-pounders who are good athletes but aren’t actually great at the inside linebacker, Campbell sticks out. He’s smart, physical, and his Indy workout shows short-area quickness he’ll need in underneath zone and matching routes by running backs out of the backfield. Inside linebacker looks thin with Devin Bush gone and Robert Spillane a pending free agent (though likely to be re-signed) while Myles Jack won’t play past 2023.
Campbell is a leader and productive and ticks the boxes Pittsburgh looks for. Bonus – he won’t even have to change his uniform.
Others Considered: TE Darnell Washington, WR Jordan Addison, OL John Michael Schmitz
Round 2 (#49 Overall): Gervon Dexter/DL Florida – 6055, 310 lbs.
Analysis: Defensive line is currently the Steelers’ biggest area of need. Unfortunately, the class here isn’t the strongest to help them out. Still, Dexter is a big body and good athlete whose movement skills are similar to Stephon Tuitt, though he lacks the ideal length Tuitt had to play along the line. He’s a bit of a work in progress, he plays too high and tall, but there’s tools and traits for DL Coach Karl Dunbar to work with to pair with his SEC pedigree.
Dunbar’s son Karmichael became Florida’s strength and conditioning coach in 2022, giving the Steelers extra insight into a guy like Dexter.
Others Considered: DL Keeanu Benton, EDGE Derick Hall, OL Matthew Bergeron
Round 3 (#80 Overall): Tyler Steen/OL Alabama – 6050, 321 lbs.
Analysis: Originally had USC guard Andrew Vorhees here but he suffered what could be a serious injury working out at yesterday’s Combine that would impact his draft stock. Switching to Steen here. A Vanderbilt transfer, Steen became the Crimson Tide’s left tackle for 2022, starting all 13 games.
A Senior Bowl invite, he saw action at guard and had a strong week. A lack of length may keep him inside but he’s a thick body with strength and the ability to anchor against power rushes. Comes from a military family and Pittsburgh will like the discipline that brings, too. Steen can challenge Kevin Dotson for the starting left guard job and even if he loses, Dotson is in the final year of his rookie deal. Pittsburgh likes their guards big and Steen fits the bill.
Others Considered: S JL Skinner, CB Darius Rush, DL Zacch Pickens
Round 4 (#119 Overall): Ronnie Hickman/SS Ohio State – 6004, 203 lbs.
Analysis: Pre-free agency mocks are harder to project not knowing who will and won’t be re-signed. Pittsburgh has two pending safety free agents in Terrell Edmunds and Damontae Kazee. It’s doubtful both are playing elsewhere next season but neither may be in the team’s long-term plans.
Hickman has good size and the want-to to attack the run downhill. He lined up all over the Buckeyes’ defense though profiles best in the box. In 2021, he finished with 99 tackles while forcing a pair of fumbles the last two years. His technique needs work and he too often falls off tacklers but he can develop as a backup and special teamer for a year.
Others Considered: OL Ricky Stromberg, ILB Shaka Heyward, WR Jayden Reed
Round 7 (#236 Overall): Jadon Haselwood/WR Arkansas – 6022, 215 lbs.
Analysis: Late-round flier on a big, vertical receiver. Pittsburgh might have more of a need in the slot but Haselwood can act as insurance behind George Pickens, Pittsburgh’s Z-receiver tasked to go up and win 50/50 balls. Haselwood has a big frame with large, ten-inch hands who transferred from Oklahoma to Arkansas for the 2022 season. He’s a straight-line player with 4.6 speed but has hops with a 37-inch vertical and 10’3″ broad. Could be a practice squad stash in Year One.
Others Considered: EDGE Jose Ramirez, WR Dontayvion Wicks, TE Payne Durham
Round 7 (#248 Overall): Lonnie Phelps/EDGE Kansas – 6023, 244 lbs.
Analysis: Sticking with one holdover from my Senior Bowl mock draft. Have a feeling this team will use one of its two seventh round picks on a pass rusher. Phelps isn’t a perfect mold of what the team looks for at the position but in the seventh round, it’s hard to find perfect. Phelps has a bit of size and not-terrible length with 25 TFL and 15.5 sacks over his last two years, transferring from Miami (OH) and still being productive with the Jayhawks. With him, a still-versatile DeMarvin Leal, Quincy Roche, and perhaps an undrafted free agent and low-level veteran signing, the depth should be better here than it was in 2022
Others Considered: QB Max Duggan, EDGE Thomas Incoom, LS Alex Ward