In just 35 days, the 2023 NFL Draft will kick off in Kansas City. There, teams will try to plug any of the remaining holes they feel they have on the roster.
Following an eventful free agency period (to date) for the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s looking more and more like that’s what will happen in the NFL Draft for GM Omar Khan, Assistant GM Andy Weidl and Head Coach Mike Tomlin. Though they will look to go best player available when on the clock, there are some holes that can be addressed in the draft.
That’s what happened in the latest three-round mock draft from Pro Football Focus Thursday morning. In the AFC North-only three-round mock, Gordon McGuinness addressed some major needs for the Steelers.
At No. 17 overall, McGuinness pairs the Steelers with Maryland cornerback Deonte Banks, a popular name in recent weeks that continues to be connected to the Steelers. On Tuesday, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. paired Banks with the Steelers in his latest mock draft.
Following the selection of Banks at No. 17, McGuinness addressed the trenches for the Steelers in the second round, drafting Ohio State offensive tackle Dawand Jones at No. 32 and Baylor defensive tackle Siaki Ika at No. 49. He rounded out the three-round mock draft with the selection of Houston wide receiver Nathaniel “Tank” Dell at No. 89 overall in the third round.
“Despite adding Patrick Peterson in free agency, cornerback is both a short- and long-term need for the Steelers this offseason. Banks had an impressive showing at the NFL combine and is coming off a season where he allowed a catch on just 43.3% of the passes thrown into his coverage, the second-best mark among all draft-eligible Big Ten cornerbacks,” McGuinness writes regarding the Steelers’ three-round mock draft. “Looking to the trenches in Round 2, the Steelers add two of the biggest athletes in the class. Jones could hear his name called in the first round, so it would be a great value add at the top of Round 2.
“Ika is a slight reach, based on the PFF big board, but he was impressive as a pass-rusher from the nose tackle position in college, registering 59 total pressures from 656 pass-rushing snaps across his four seasons at LSU and Baylor.”
Banks is prototypical boundary CB, having the size and length (6001, 197 pounds, 31 3/8-inch arms) along with the thick build and physicality to jam receivers at the LOS and aid in run support. The Baltimore native only had two INTs in college, but his athletic profile is extremely intriguing.
Along with prototypical size and length, Banks clocked a 4.35 40-yard dash at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine, along with a 42-inch vertical and an 11’4″ broad jump. Insane numbers.
In college, Banks played in 30 games and finished with 83 tackles, 13 passes defensed and two interceptions. He added one blocked kick. The production doesn’t scream first-round talent, but the tape shows a guy that was rarely targeted in the passing game due to his ability to jam receivers and completely shut down one side of the field.
As for Jones, he’s that hulking offensive tackle prospect in which the Steelers have shown interest in recent seasons. Minnesota’s Daniel Faalele (now with Baltimore) was a guy the Steelers liked quite a bit in 2022. Jones is that guy in 2023.
Here’s what Steelers Depot’s own Ross McCorkle had to say about Jones in his draft profile for the site:
“Jones is an intriguing tackle prospect in the NFL. He is able to generate a lot of power with good use of hands. When paired with his unique length and overall size, he will create a lot of issues for pass rushers at the next level. He moves well for a 360 pounder, but change-of-direction is obviously going to be an issue against highly athletic edge rushers.
“He will be a sought-after tackle in this draft class, and there will likely be a lot of buzz around his arm length once the official measurements come out. My pro comparison is Orlando Brown.
“He would work well in a quick passing offense that utilizes power running schemes. Zone schemes could work if he isn’t being asked to climb to the second level often. Jones played right tackle in college, but if his hand usage translates, I don’t see a reason why he couldn’t play left tackle in the NFL. He can provide the team with upside to be the long-term solution at tackle. He very well could end up on the Steelers’ radar for one of their three top 50 draft picks.”
As for Ika, he’s a good projection for the Steelers, who have a need at nose tackle though that type of value at No. 49 overall might not be ideal.
Ika was a member of LSU’s national championship team in 2020 but transferred to Baylor after the season. At Baylor, Ika had a career year in 2021, with six tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks. He had 70 tackles in his collegiate career and 10.5 total sacks. At 6’4, 350 pounds, Ika would be a massive space eater at nose tackle and could be the ideal replacement for Tyson Alualu, who is expected to retire.
Dell is a name that’s been thrown around a bit regarding the Steelers. He would be a good fit in Matt Canada’s scheme as a slot receiver and backup X receiver behind Diontae Johnson due to his route running and abilities after the catch.
Here’s what Steelers Depot’s own Chandler Stroud had to say about Dell in his draft profile for the site:
“His game is a little raw right now, but I think in time this is a kid you can see being a key role player and/or a team’s returner. His route tree needs some great development, but you can say that about a lot of players in the league and quite frankly it’s a quality of a lot of young receivers. He’s a guy with good hands but you’d like to see him catch more of those balls coming across the middle of the field. There is a lack of catch radius with him that you’d like to see improve especially given his overall athleticism. He also isn’t going to go up and grab contested catches out of the sky like some guys, so the fact that you can’t exactly throw balls up in the air and count on him ripping them away from defensive backs is a slight negative on him.”
It’s certainly an interesting haul from the first three rounds of McGuinness’ mock. All four selections plug needs overall. But the last two picks leave a bit to be desired, as a two-down nose tackle with limited pass rush abilities overall and a smaller receiver in the same mold as Calvin Austin III don’t exactly move the needle.