2023 Offseason Questions: How Big A Need Is D-Line For 2023 NFL Draft?

The Steelers are now in their offseason after failing to reach the playoffs in 2022, coming up just a game short of sneaking in as the seventh seed. They needed help in week 18 and only got some of it, so instead they sat home and watched the playoffs with the rest of us.

On tap is figuring out how to be on the field in January and February instead of being a spectator. They started out 2-6, digging a hole that proved too deep to dig out of even if they managed to go 7-2 in the second half of the year.

Starting from the end of the regular season and leading all the way up to the beginning of the 2023 season, there are plenty of questions that need answered, starting with who will be the offensive coordinator. Which free agents will be kept? Who might be let go due to their salary? How might they tackle free agency with this new front office? We’ll try to frame the conversation in relevant ways as long as you stick with us throughout this offseason, as we have for many years.

Question: How big of a need is the defensive line in the 2023 NFL Draft?

I tried to phrase this question at least a bit carefully to more fully get after what I mean. ‘Needs’ come in all shapes, sizes, and durations. For example, the Steelers have starting cornerbacks and starting tackles for the 2023 season, yet most seem to think one or the other is their biggest need.

Likewise, the Steelers have their starters at defensive end—both at least under contract for the next two seasons—yet that’s not the only factor to take into consideration. The investment they made in Larry Ogunjobi is pretty significant, though they could still conceivably get out of it after one year if they really needed to. And Cameron Heyward is in his mid-30s now, so you know what that means.

But should the Steelers be drafting a new defensive end at 17? Is it that big of a need? There seems to be a greater divide on that than there is on tackle and cornerback, but it’s hard to argue against building up the trenches whenever possible.

After all, the Steelers were using first-round picks on Ziggy Hood and on Heyward himself before they needed starters, preparing in advance of the inevitable and in the meantime securing quality depth. Would it really be such a travesty to have a 17th-overall pick merely rotate for a year or two, perhaps playing 3-400 or so snaps per season, before moving into the starting lineup on a full-time basis?

And here’s the thing: it’s not as though the defensive line didn’t still leave room for improvement last year. And who is their third defensive end? DeMarvin Leal is more of a hybrid whose strength would be wasted pinned into a traditional five-tech role. Isaiahh Loudermilk is a fringe roster player right now. Chris Wormley, even when healthy—and under contract—is a replacement-level player at best, and there’s no harm in doing better than that.

So how about it? Who would take Bryan Bresee or Lukas Van Ness, for example, over a Joey Porter Jr. or a Darnell Wright? Deonte Banks or Anton Harrison?

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