2023 NFL Draft

Kozora: 2023 Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mock Draft (Version 2.0)

With the first wave of free agency over and Pro Days well underway, I’m putting out my second Pittsburgh Steelers mock draft of the offseason. We have a clearer picture of where the Steelers’ roster is after a busy beginning to free agency and several Pro Days that Mike Tomlin and Omar Khan attended.

Knowing that, this mock draft will shift much more strongly to what I think the Steelers will do compared to the first one when our information was much more limited. As always, let me know your thoughts in the comments below. I’ve also linked my first mock draft if you’d like to compare.

Mock Draft Version 1.0

ROUND 1 (#17 OVERALL): Dawand Jones/OT Ohio State – 6082, 374 lbs.

Analysis: The Steelers continue their trend of bringing in big people who can create first-level movement in the run game, and they don’t come much bigger than Dawand Jones. The largest man in this year’s draft, Jones has the pedigree the Steelers look for and the strength to match this team’s run-game identity. Seventeen might feel a little high but it’s important to get a tackle early as opposed to hoping one falls. Pittsburgh hasn’t used a first- or second-round pick on an offensive lineman since 2012, a drought that needs to end.

Pittsburgh used free agency to upgrade its interior offensive line and now it’s time to use the draft to improve their tackles. Jones was a right tackle in college, making the layout of a starting five potentially a little awkward. Chukwuma Okorafor will start but could shift over to left tackle, where he played in college. Overall, it’s a good problem to have.

Others Considered: CB Joey Porter Jr., DL Bryan Bresee, CB Devon Witherspoon, DB Brian Branch

ROUND 2 (#32 OVERALL): Kelee Ringo/CB Georgia – 6016, 207 lbs.

Analysis: I know many draftniks don’t love Ringo, but the Steelers might take a Georgia Bulldog in the second round in back-to-back years. Ringo has size and speed, two things Pittsburgh covets and could use in the room with a 33-year old Patrick Peterson and 4.6-40 Levi Wallace. There are concerns about tightness in Ringo’s hips and that’s valid. But the Steelers were well-represented at UGA’s Pro Day and Ringo reportedly has a pre-draft visit with the team, a key and obvious sign of interest.

Pittsburgh will draft a corner and they will do so early, almost assuredly within their top three picks. It’s a strong and deep corner class and right now, Ringo is connecting the greatest number of dots.

Others Considered: DL Mazi Smith, TE Darnell Washington, OT Darnell Wright

ROUND 2 (#49 OVERALL): Keeanu Benton/DL Wisconsin – 6036, 309 lbs.

Analysis: Dialed in on the trenches. That’s where Pittsburgh’s focus will lie in the draft. Larry Ogunjobi was brought back but there’s little in the middle at nose tackle and depth along the line is poor. Even Cam Heyward admitted the team needs more guys. Isaiahh Loudermilk isn’t going to cut it and DeMarvin Leal isn’t a run-down kind of guy. Enter Benton, a big man in the middle with length and power and surprising quickness off the snap to swipe and beat blockers off the line. He has the size to play up and down the line but would start in the middle as a 0/1 tech. His wrestling background and toughness will be attractive to the Steelers.

Others Considered: DL Gervon Dexter, EDGE Derick Hall, S Antonio Johnson

ROUND 3 (#80 OVERALL): Jordan Battle/S Alabama – 6010, 209 lbs.

Analysis: It’s a bad year to need a safety. The draft class is as weak here as it is at any position, lacking top-end names and is without much depth. Damontae Kazee returned on a two-year deal but shouldn’t be an every-down strong safety. Terrell Edmunds remains a free agent, his future uncertain. Pittsburgh needs to sign some sort of veteran box safety but they have to look at long-term options too. Battle has the size to play in the box with hit power, though he needs to trust what he sees more often to play faster. He’s the best option from a pretty weak group.

Others Considered: WR Jayden Reed, DL Karl Brooks, WR Parker Washington

ROUND 4 (#120 OVERALL): Dorian Williams/ILB Tulane – 6010, 228 lbs.

Analysis: Another new inside linebacker joins the fold. Pittsburgh has an eye on Williams, sending new LBs Coach Aaron Curry to Tulane’s Pro Day last week. Williams has decent size, tested well, and enjoyed a nice Senior Bowl week. He can play the run, cover, and rush the passer, looking strong in backs on ‘backers drills in Mobile. The 4th linebacker to help round out the room, he’d likely get his start on special teams.

Others Considered: LB Shaka Heyward, TE Payne Durham, OT Carter Warren

ROUND 7 (#234 OVERALL): Thomas Incoom/EDGE Central Michigan – 6020, 262 lbs.

Analysis: A MAC EDGE rusher. That’s such a Steelers pick. At first, I didn’t think the team attended CMU’s recent Pro Day but doubled-back and found Area Scout Mark Gorscak there. So the Incoom dream stays alive. A stout pass rusher with big 2022 production (19.5 TFL, 11.5 sacks), he’s the perfect flier candidate. Though Andy Weidl didn’t make the final call for the Philadelphia Eagles when he was there, the team consistently invested late-round picks on pass rushers. The Steelers could do it too and add some extra EDGE depth. Leal appearing to stay in his role as a hybrid player does make the need here a little less urgent.

Others Considered: TE Noah Gindorff, CB Myles Brooks, DL P.J. Mustipher

ROUND 7 (#241 OVERALL): Dorian Thompson-Robinson/QB UCLA – 6015, 203 lbs.

Analysis: My arch nemesis –  a 7th-round quarterback. After taking Chris Oladokun last year, the Steelers might be once bitten, twice shy. But the situation is different in 2023. The Steelers have only two quarterbacks and on paper — right now anyway — DTR would be the team’s No. 3. He would receive the reps in training camp that Oladokun didn’t a year ago as the No. 4 in a more unsettled quarterback room.

With Brocky Purdy’s success in San Francisco last season, every team will convince themselves they can find the next one. They won’t but they’ll still try and I could see Pittsburgh again drafting a quarterback late, especially if the team won’t budge on its UDFA model of not giving partial guarantees of base salaries and only paying meager signing bonuses. That won’t net you a top undrafted passer.

Others Considered: LS Alex Ward, WR/TE Griffin Hebert, S Chamarri Conner, QB Max Duggan

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