2023 NFL Draft

Steelers Load Up The Secondary In CBS Sports Three-Round Mock Draft

If the Pittsburgh Steelers’ actual mock draft plays out like CBS Sports latest try, the Steelers will have a vastly different looking secondary come 2023. Ryan Wilson put together his latest three-round projection across the NFL and mocked two defensive backs to the Steelers with their first two selections.

Starting off at #17, he has Pittsburgh taking versatile Alabama DB Brian Branch. Explaining the pick, Wilson writes:

“Pittsburgh instead targets S1, especially after losing Terrell Edmunds to the Eagles. Brian Branch is special; he can play in the slot, near the line of scrimmage or deep centerfield. And if Nick Saban trusted him at Alabama, that’s all you need to know about his NFL prospects. He ran a 4.58 at the combine but he plays much faster than that.”

Similar to Minkah Fitzpatrick, Branch isn’t regarded as a tremendous athlete but makes up for it with great game speed, in large part thanks to his processing and football IQ that allows him to play faster. He was a menace in the run game with a whopping 14 tackles for loss last season and though he’s on the lighter side, Alabama had no issue playing him close to the line of scrimmage. Just 21 years old, he checks every box the Steelers look for and they sent the house to his Pro Day, including DBs Coach Grady Brown and DC Teryl Austin. A logical pick here, though we’ll see if the Steelers focus on the trenches before the skill positions.

At #32 at the top of the second round, Wilson mocks Georgia CB Kelee Ringo to the Steelers. With no explanation beyond the first round, we can assume he did as a Cam Sutton replacement, adding speed and pedigree to help replace him. Pittsburgh did sign Patrick Peterson but he’s turning 33 and is nearing the end of his career. Ringo is a polarizing prospect critiqued for hip tightness and some believe he’s best moving to safety. Pittsburgh seems interested in him, reportedly set to host him for a pre-draft visit soon.

With the team’s original second-round pick, #49 overall, the Steelers grab EDGE/DL Tuli Tuipulotu out of USC. A heavy-handed pass rusher at 266 pounds, he broke out last year with a 22 tackle for loss, 13.5 sack season for the Trojans. It got Pittsburgh’s attention and he, like Ringo, has a Top-30 visit scheduled with the team. EDGE depth here is a need though if the team signs Bud Dupree, it’ll become far less urgent.

Finally, at #80 in the third round, the Steelers dip into the small-school waters with Sacramento State LB Marte Mapu. He made noise during the All-Star game circuit, earning the call-up to the Senior Bowl and impressing. An overhang/safety in school, he played traditional off-ball linebacker in Mobile but impressed with his coverage ability. Our Tyler Wise wrote this blurb on him after Day Three of the Senior Bowl practice. 

“He had a solid day in coverage yesterday but brought the physicality in today’s practice. He weighed in at only 217 pounds but had me checking and re-checking my roster to make sure that was his weight after seeing the way he was coming downhill in the 9-on-7 drill. Early in the period, he was eaten up by Florida OG O’Cyrus Torrence and Old Dominion OL Nick Saldiveri. The very next rep, the switch flipped for Mapu. He ran through Saldiver, giving him a shoulder to the chest and walking himself right into the unsuspecting running back. Later in the period, he came screaming downhill like a freight train, blowing up Oklahoma FB Brayden Willis on his way to a big stick on the running back, another Sooner, Eric Gray.”

It’s rare for the Steelers to draft a small schooler, especially on the West Coast. Perhaps the last one was S Scott Shields out of Weber State back in 1999, even pre-dating Colbert, but things could be different under GM Omar Khan. It’s worth noting Assistant GM Andy Weidl was once a West Area Scout and may still know the territory well.

To recap, here are the four players mocked to Pittsburgh.

#17 – Brian Branch/DB Alabama
#33 – Kelee Ringo/CB Georgia
#49 – Tuli Tuipulotu/EDGE USC
#80 – Marte Mapu/LB Sacramento State

Not a bad selection of players though the Ringo choice will draw disagreements. The biggest issue is the Steelers going defense with four straight picks and not even addressing defensive line. Nor does this team do anything along the offensive line on Days One and Two. The prospects may be fine but the roster building here is a little less logical.

Elsewhere in Wilson’s mock, he has Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud going #1 to the Carolina Panthers. Georgia DL Jalen Carter falls all the way to #8 with Atlanta while wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba is taken high at #11 to the Houston Texans. Rounding out the first round is big Ohio State OT Dawand Jones, #31 to Kansas City. Again, click here to read his entire mock. 

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