The Pittsburgh Steelers continue addressing areas of need in free agency ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft and the start of the regular season.
GM Omar Khan can’t plug all the holes in free agency though, which will lead to next month’s draft being a rather important one for the Black and Gold.
If things go the way that Touchdown Wire’s Doug Farrar projects they do in his three-round mock that dropped Monday, the Steelers will be sitting rather pretty entering the 2023 season.
In Farrar’s mock, he has the Steelers landing Georgia cornerback Kelee Ringo at No. 17 overall. That might be a bit early for the liking of many, but the Steelers have shown a lot of interest in Ringo, meeting with him at the Combine and scheduling a pre-draft visit with him. The Steelers also had head coach Mike Tomlin, along with Khan, at Georgia’s Pro Day last week.
“The Steelers did what they needed to do at the guard positions in free agency with Isaac Seumalo and Nate Herbig, so maybe they go offensive tackle here to shore up the outside. Or they might address the fact that they’re cornerback-light after losing Cameron Sutton to the Lions,” Farrar writes regarding the selection of Ringo. “Signing Patrick Peterson to a two-year, $14 million deal is a nice Band-Aid, but everybody knows that Peterson is basically on his way out in a career sense. What Peterson can do to help his new team is to get a physically gifted cornerback up from his currently inconsistent play to more stability. Ringo at his best is as good as any cornerback in this class (especially in man coverage), but the peaks and valleys are problematic. We’re guessing that the Steelers bet on Ringo’s upside, with his new coaching staff (and one veteran defensive genius) assisting with the other stuff.”
Ringo is certainly an intriguing piece at the position, but he’s generally not in the top five at the position, at least among the consensus ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Ringo checked in at the Combine at 6016, 207 pounds with 31 1/4-inch arms, 8 1/2-inch hands, and a 74 1/8-inch wingspan. Ringo clocked a 4.36 40-yard dash with a 33.5-inch vertical and a 10’2″ broad jump.
He was a consensus top-10 selection before the 2022 season, but he struggled in his redshirt sophomore campaign. He consistently got beat in coverage and struggled with mental lapses even though Georgia’s defense was again dominant and won its second-straight national championship.
Ringo, who sealed Georgia’s first national championship since 1980 in 2021 with a pick-six of Alabama’s Bryce Young in the College Football Playoff championship game, is a bit raw in his instincts and overall technique for the position.
That could scare some teams off early in the draft, including the Steelers, who have struggled to identify talent at the position and develop players there.
However, you cannot teach Ringo’s size, speed, and overall ball skills. He’s a twitched-up athlete, one that can thrive in man or zone in the NFL and can handle all types of receivers — from physical, contested-catch types to short-area burst, freakish receivers that are nightmares in space.
Ringo has all the tools, but he needs to develop. He’s the type of prospect you swing big on with those tools and traits. With a new front office in Pittsburgh with first-year GM Omar Khan, assistant GM Andy Weidl and Director of Pro Scouting Sheldon White, the Steelers have new eyes to look at draft prospects and make different decisions compared to what former GM Kevin Colbert did for 22 years.
Along with Ringo, Farrar has the Steelers landing Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer at No. 32 overall and Wisconsin interior offensive lineman Joe Tippmann at No. 49 in the second round of his three-round mock draft.
Mayer would be a terrific pairing with third-year tight end Pat Freiermuth, being able to handle the in-line blocking responsibilities in 12 personnel, while also offering the Steelers a second dynamic weapon in the passing game at the position. Mayer checked in at the Combine at 6044, 249 pounds, ran a 4.70 40-yard dash, and had a 35-inch vertical.
Steelers Depot’s Chandler Stroud had this to say about Mayer in his draft profile for the site:
“Mayer is a really impressive prospect and he’s going to make a great weapon in the NFL. He excels in every situation as a pass catcher. Screens as he’s split out wide, lining up on the lone side of the formation and running vertical routes, or even on the end line running intermediate routes like 10-yard ins and outs, crossers, over routes, etc. He can touch up his blocking ability overall, but he does have the ability at the moment to get just enough of a guy to make the necessary runs boom. He shows great strength when going up to catch the football and even after the catch. He will shake tacklers and get a lot of runs after catch at the next level. He’s hardly phased when defenders try to make contact as he releases off the line. He has great core strength in the midst of his routes fighting through traffic and that’s the trait of a seasoned veteran.”
As for Tippman, he projects as a plug-and-play center at the next level, coming from a Wisconsin program that churns out NFL-ready offensive linemen year. Tippman checked in at 6060, 313 pounds with 10 3/4-inch hands and 32 3/4-inch arms. He didn’t test in the 40, bench, vertical or any of the jumps though.
Here’s what Steelers Depot’s Jonathan Heitritter had to say about Tippmann in his draft profile for the site.
“Joe Tippmann is a big, athletic center that converted over from the defensive line and is reaping the benefits as he transitions to the pro level. He can play in a variety of blocking schemes, being able to pull, reach block, climb to the second level, work out in space, but also go straight ahead into nose tackles. He is a cerebral player that makes the checks and adjustments at the LOS and mainly needs to keep his pad level and forward lean in check to remain effective.”
Rounding out the three-round mock, Farrar has the Steelers selecting Syracuse offensive lineman Matthew Bergeron at No. 80 overall, adding a swing tackle/guard combo in the third round.
Bergeron checked in at the Combine at 6050, 316 pounds with 33 3/4-inch arms and had an 8’7″ broad jump.
Here’s what Heitritter had to say about Bergeron in his draft profile for the site:
“Matthew Bergeron is an experienced offensive lineman that has the functional athleticism to become a quality backup and potential starter at the next level. He lacks functional strength to stone wall defenders as a pass protector as well as impose his will as a run blocker while also having notable issues regarding his punch, footwork, and pad level. He is best suited for zone rushing offensive schemes that allow him to use his functional mobility to his advantage while masking his lack of play strength where he can play tackle or possibly kick inside to guard based on his measurables and film of him pulling and climbing to the second level.”
If the Steelers were to come away with those four players, that would be a pretty solid haul overall, especially on the offensive side of the football. The selection of Ringo at No. 17 overall certainly leaves much to be desired but getting a high-end tight end to pair with Freiermuth, and then adding Tippmann and Bergeron would be a big win for the Steelers.