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Steelers Address OL In Latest CBS Sports Mock Draft Following Initial Moves In FA

Following a flurry of moves in the early stages of free agency, Pittsburgh Steelers GM Omar Khan now has some real flexibility entering the 2023 NFL Draft, especially in the first round.

Cornerback Patrick Peterson, linebackers Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts, interior offensive lineman Nate Herbig, defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi and safety Damontae Kazee are all expected to be Steelers moving forward. While those moves are exciting and certainly address some holes, there are a few that remain for the Steelers.

For CBS Sports’ Josh Edwards, the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft is a good spot to address one of those holes. In his latest mock draft, Edwards has the Steelers grabbing Tennessee offensive tackle Darnell Wright at No. 17 overall.

“A run on left tackles has occurred, but Pittsburgh could stand to upgrade both positions,” Edwards writes regarding his selection for the Steelers in his latest mock draft. “Darnell Wright has proven to be an athletic player who has shown improvement since last year. He upgrades the protection for Kenny Pickett and Najee Harris.”

While Wright might be a plug-and-play right tackle, it doesn’t exactly fix the Steelers’ offensive line, at least the way many believe it needs to be fixed. Steelers right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor was solid last season in pass protection and passable as a run blocker, pairing with James Daniels on the right side of the offensive line to form a stout pairing.

Okafor might not exactly fit what the Steelers want at the position in their run-heavy system, which is a mauler at right tackle. Okorafor is more athletic and a finesse guy, rather than a brute-strength type of player. That’s what Wright profiles as, though he is very raw.

The Steelers have shown interest in Wright, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. Fowler stated that there is belief in the league that Wright could kick inside to guard, and that is where the Steelers could see him, making him a fit in Pittsburgh.

At 6’5″, 342 pounds, Wright certainly fits the profile of what the Steelers are looking for in the trenches. He would be a good addition for depth and competition for guys like Okorafor or left guard Kevin Dotson, depending on how the Steelers view.

Steelers Depot’s own Chandler Stroud profiled Wright ahead of the draft and had this to say about the Volunteer in his draft profile:

“Darnell Wright’s game has such a low floor, but it feels initially that his game has an incredibly high ceiling as well. He won in different ways against opponents in different games, but his execution is going to have to become much more consistent. Lunging at defenders was something that hindered him slightly and against the faster rushers of the world like T.J. Watt, that simply won’t do. He must learn to play faster, simply put. However, he has great strength that showed up in a multitude of ways. He isn’t going to throw guys out of the club consistently, but one glaring thing about his game is the guy knows where the ball is going, and he knows how to get himself between defenders and the ball carrier.”

In Edwards’s mock, players like Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski, Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr., and Georgia’s Broderick Jones were already off the board by the time the Steelers came up at No. 17 overall. So too were cornerbacks Joey Porter Jr. and Christian Gonzalez, though Devon Witherspoon was on the board — he went one pick later at No. 18 to Detroit — as was a popular name like Alabama cornerback-safety hybrid Brian Branch.

It will be interesting to see how free agency continues setting up the draft board a particular way for Pittsburgh. Wright would be a good addition to an offensive line that was rebuilt last season and performed above expectations. But he feels like a right tackle or a guard, rather than a left tackle, which might not exactly address the Steelers’ biggest overall need overall.

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