In all of the mock draft simulations and scenarios throughout the long, arduous pre-draft process, the board never broke as strongly in the favor of the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 32 overall to open the second round as it did on Thursday night after the conclusion of the first round.
After trading up to No. 14 overall from No. 17 to select Georgia offensive tackle Broderick Jones, the Steelers sat and watched the rest of the first round roll by. By the time the Kansas City Chiefs selected Kansas State edge Felix Anudike-Uzomah at No. 31 overall to close out the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, the board couldn’t have looked better for the Steelers to open the second round.
Still on the board are the likes of Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr., Alabama defensive back Brian Branch, Ohio State tackle Dawand Jones, Georgia tight end Darnell Washington, and TCU offensive lineman Steve Avila. The Steelers have plenty of options to open the second round, should they decide to stay and pick in that slot with the pick acquired from the Chicago Bears in the Chase Claypool trade.
Based on some of the work the Steelers have done in the pre-draft process involving some of the players mentioned above, there is certainly interest and a fit on the roster, which could lead to one of those players being the selection at No. 32 to open the second round of the draft from Kansas City.
The board broke so well for the Steelers due to the fact that quarterbacks Will Levis and Hendon Hooker remain on the board to start Day 2. That should lead to a number of calls to the team’s South Side facility for GM Omar Khan and Co.
According to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, teams were calling the Philadelphia Eagles at No. 30 and the Kansas City Chiefs at No. 31 to try and get back into the first round of the draft, presumably for one of the quarterbacks. Neither team budged, which seemingly puts the Steelers in the driver’s seat to start Day 2 of the draft.
This type of situation is one the Steelers have been preparing for, at least that’s what head coach Mike Tomlin stated on Monday during a pre-draft press conference.
“Man, we’re excited about it, man,” he said in video carried out by the team’s YouTube channel. “We’ve been talking about it. I think the thing that we are least familiar with about it is the amount of calls that we will be or could be getting. And that’s where we’ve spent our time is just talking about how do we organize and how do we get prepared for the receiving of the amount of interest that that pick could have. And that’s a good and exciting possibility for us.”
That possibility is now upon them, and it comes at a great time for Pittsburgh, which could really use an opportunity to trade down and recoup some draft capital.
After trading away the No. 120 overall pick in the trade up with New England to get Jones, the Steelers are currently sitting without picks in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds. They will wait from pick No. 80 in the third round until pick No. 241 in the seventh round before making a selection.
That’s a vast amount of space between picks on Day 3 of the draft when a lot of depth and valuable talent can be found.
Trading down from No. 32 to a quarterback-needy team aiming to come up for Levis or Hooker could really be lucrative for the Steelers, who could do well to recoup some of the draft capital lost via trade within the last two years. Remember, Pittsburgh’s fifth rounder at No. 151 overall was traded to Seattle ahead of the 2021 season for cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, and the sixth rounder at No. 195 overall was traded to Denver last summer before the start of the 2022 season for outside linebacker Malik Reed, who is now a Miami Dolphin.
While the names still on the board are quite enticing from a value and fit standpoint for the Black and Gold entering Day 2 of the 2023 NFL Draft, the options available to Pittsburgh as far as players available and potential trade offers coming provide the Steelers with great flexibility and opportunity ahead.