Pete Prisco’s First Mock Draft Has Steelers Taking Potential Steal At No. 17

CBS Sports NFL writer Pete Prisco unveiled his first 2023 NFL mock draft on Wednesday, and had the Pittsburgh Steelers selecting former Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon at No. 17 overall.

“Top corner Cam Sutton left in free agency to sign with the Lions, and Patrick Peterson essentially got a one-year deal to replace him,” Prisco wrote. “Devon Witherspoon is a perfect Steelers corner since he’s a good tackler.”

Besides just being a good tackler, Witherspoon has shown really good ball skills, with three interceptions and 14 passes defended in 2022. During his Illinois career, Witherspoon had five interceptions and 25 passes defended. Just a month ago, it would’ve seemed pretty unlikely that Witherspoon would be available for the Steelers to take at No. 17. But a nagging hamstring injury has limited his ability to do much in pre-draft participation.

With other talented cornerbacks Joey Porter Jr. and Christian Gonzalez, and other options like Deonte Banks, Cam Smith, Kelee Ringo and Julius Brents, there’s a chance, albeit a slight one, that Witherspoon falls in this draft. It would be a major surprise if guys like Smith and Brents were taken ahead of him. But as Adam Miller wrote recently, his lack of participation in pre-draft events like his Pro Day and the NFL Combine could lead to a slide down draft boards and give the Steelers the chance to take him.

Witherspoon, the Big Ten Defensive Back Of The Year in 2022, would be a steal at No. 17. While the Steelers would be happy with any of the “big three” cornerbacks in Witherspoon, Porter Jr., and Gonzalez, it wasn’t all that long ago that Witherspoon was considered the top option out of that trio.

He also just feels like a Steeler. Lightly recruited out of high school, Witherspoon had to grind to see the field and was able to do so as early as a freshman. He played a role all four years he was at Illinois and turned himself into a surefire first-round pick. A willing tackler who excels in man coverage, Witherspoon could be the perfect addition to the Steelers defensive backfield and a good player for cornerback Patrick Peterson to mentor.

I would put the chances that Witherspoon is available for Pittsburgh at No. 17 at less than 40 percent, but if he is there, I think Pittsburgh would sprint to get its draft card in. He embodies pretty much everything the Steelers look for in a cornerback, and he could really make a difference for the Black and Gold. We’ll see if Witherspoon is able to hold his personal workout on April 5. If he is and performs well, he’ll be gone by No. 17. His performance that day will matter a heck of a lot for his draft stock, and a substandard showing could make him available for the Steelers. Needless to say, April 5 is a date for Steelers fans to monitor.

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