When it comes to building strong teams with good depth across the board, teams that typically do that the best clean up rather well in the middle to late rounds of the NFL draft each and every season.
Entering the 2023 NFL Draft, the middle to late rounds will be filled with guys — in a rather deep draft — that will be sound value picks overall and could contribute right around in the NFL. That area of the draft will be key for the Pittsburgh Steelers under new GM Omar Khan and assistant GM Andy Weidl, though it will be rather difficult with the Steelers not having a fifth or sixth-round pick.
Of course, the Steelers could trade down in the draft at any point and scoop up some fifth or sixth round picks to ensure they can get in on the gold mine that will be the middle and late rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft. Chances are, that’s what happens.
With that said, who could the Steelers target in the mid-to-late rounds in late April’s draft?
Myself, Jonathan Heitritter and Joe Clark have you covered on six prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft who look like potential Steelers draft picks in the middle to late rounds.
Darius Rush, CB, South Carolina — 6020, 198 LBS
Cam Smith is the South Carolina CB that draws all the headlines but watch out for his teammate who has had a strong pre-draft process thus far. Darius Rush was seen as a Day Three pick prior to the Senior Bowl, but showed out in drills during the week and recorded the fastest-tracked GPS time in Mobile, being clocked at 21.65mph. Rush backed that up by running a 4.36 40-yard dash while jumping 35” in the vert and 10’1” in the broad while standing at 6’2, 198lb. Rush is a high character man who has stood out in interviews for me at both the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, having the hearts and smarts you desire in a Pittsburgh Steelers. He met informally with the Steelers at the Combine after meeting formally with the Steelers at the Senior Bowl. He met with former Steelers CB Ike Taylor and DB Coach Grady Brown in Indianapolis, hitting things off as he and Brown were in the same fraternity at different schools. Darius Rush also has extensive starting experience in the SEC, having 15 PBUs and three INTs the last two seasons. Rush has the frame and body type Pittsburgh looks for on the outside and has extensive experience playing on special teams. He would be an amazing fit in the locker room and has the play style, mindset, and character to be a perfect fit in Pittsburgh. — Jonathan Heitritter
Ricky Stromberg, iOL, Arkansas — 6030, 306 LBS
For a team with a rich history at the center position, Arkansas’ Ricky Stromberg could be next in line. He’s a massive human being that looks every bit the 6’3, 306 he weighed in at in Indianapolis. He has impressive tape, had a formal meeting with the Steelers at the Combine and started over 40 games in the SEC. The Steelers can kick Mason Cole to guard and plug Stromberg in at center, and I would expect him to be an immediate difference-maker, which isn’t something you can always say for a mid-late-round pick. He also someone who embraces the technical aspect of the game, which I’m sure Pittsburgh loved to hear in their meeting. If the team doesn’t address the offensive line early, Stromberg could be the pick in the fourth round. — Joe Clark
Carter Warren, OT, Pittsburgh — 6054, 323 LBS
Though he didn’t go through any drills in Indianapolis, which continued a quiet pre-draft process overall, Pittsburgh’s Carter Warren is undoubtedly on the Steelers’ radar. Checking int at 6054, 323 pounds with 35 3/8-inch arms, Warren has the prototypical size and length for the offensive tackle position in the NFL. While he’s still obviously dealing with an undisclosed injury, the Steelers are quite familiar with him due to his time at Pitt, as is quarterback Kenny Pickett. While people continue to pound the table for the Steelers to reunite Pickett with former wide receiver Jordan Addison, they might be better off reuniting Pickett with the man who kept him upright and clean from the blindside for many years under head coach Pat Narduzzi. A mid-round pick at left tackle that could come in and push Dan Moore Jr. could be the move for the Steelers, especially with the way they are seemingly targeting interior offensive linemen early in the process from their meetings at the Shrine Bowl, Senior Bowl and the Combine. — Josh Carney
Jammie Robinson, S, Florida State — 5105, 191 LBS
Another Senior Bowl DB that has stood out to me during the pre-draft process is Florida State S Jammie Robinson. Robinson had a formal meeting with the Steelers after meeting with them at the Senior Bowl as well. He is on the smaller side of things, standing 5’11, 191lb, but plays much bigger than his size. Robinson flies to the football with reckless abandonment, throwing his body around as an aggressive tackler. He has shown versatility to line up as safety or in the nickel, making him an attractive option in the middle rounds to fill either spot. He lacks great length and has mediocre long speed (4.59), but Robinson has similar characteristics to former Steelers CB Mike Hilton as an undersized, but productive player in the slot for several seasons, being an aggressive hitter and capable zone coverage defender. His measurables should suppress Robinson’s draft stock to the third of fourth round, presenting Pittsburgh with a player that can double down as the team’s third safety and nickel/dime defender should they not re-sign Damontae Kazee. He’s a relentless worker and high-character man as well, making him a player that would fit will in the Black and Gold. — Jonathan Heitritter
Charlie Jones, WR, Purdue — 5113, 175 LBS
Jones isn’t a guy that we’ve talked about a lot, but if the Steelers don’t go WR early, he would be a really interesting selection. While he declined to talk about who he met with at the Combine, Jones, who ran a 4.44 40-yard dash, could be a potential weapon in the slot. At Purdue this past season, Jones had 110 receptions for 1,361 yards and 12 TD, and in 2021 he won the Big Ten Returner of the Year when he was at Iowa. Pittsburgh hasn’t had a reliable return man in a long time, and with Steven Sims muffing a few punts, they could be in the market for a guy who’s shown to be a very capable return man. Jones is a prospect that I think is going to have a long NFL career in some capacity, and if the Steelers don’t end up with an early-round receiver, that career could start in Pittsburgh. — Joe Clark
Trey Dean III, S, Florida — 6021, 200 LBS
With the likes of Terrell Edmunds and Damontae Kazee set to hit free agency, and versatile depth safety Tre Norwood coming off of a rather disastrous second season in the NFL, there’s a clear, obvious need for some safety help in Pittsburgh. That’s where Florida’s Trey Dean III could come into play. Versatility is a big part of Dean’s game, having played deep safety, box safety, slot cornerback and boundary cornerback during his time in college. He is a big, physical safety that can cover ground and lay the wood. He doesn’t have great long speed, but he has sold instincts and consistently finds himself around the football. He was the MVP of the East-West Shrine Bowl with two interceptions and made plays all week. Dean met with the Steelers in Las Vegas and then had an informal meeting with Pittsburgh in Indy. If the Steelers are looking for a versatile, physical safety to maybe replace Kazee in a three-safety set, Dean is that guy. — Josh Carney