There was no mystery, as there never is, concerning where the Pittsburgh Steelers might be going in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. If they weren’t going to go and get a cornerback, then it was almost undoubtedly going to be a tackle as long as the board broke decently enough to justify it.
Nobody should be surprised, then, that Georgia tackle Broderick Jones is the newest member of the black and gold, selected last night after the Steelers traded up three spots with the New England Patriots to select him 14th overall. But where he plays and when could offer some intrigue, at least.
“In terms of the division of labor and who is going to do what, those things will be decided in the team developmental process”, head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters yesterday via the team’s website, referring to the Steelers’ tackle position with incumbent starters Dan Moore Jr. at left tackle and Chukwuma Okorafor at right. “But make no mistake, we are excited about having a young man of his talent”.
As Dave Bryan noted yesterday, nearly all of Jones’ playing experience has come on the left side, logging all 930 snaps there last season, as well as 428 in 2021. He played 9 snaps at right tackle in 2021 and 25 in 2020. But it’s not that simple.
“I practiced right tackle every day in practice”, Jones told the local media after the Steelers selected him, via transcript provided by the Steelers’ media department. “We rotated a lot at the University of Georgia because we only had a three-man rotation, so all three of us had to be ready to go at either side, so our coach did the best he could to get everyone reps every day in practice on both sides, and it worked out for the best”.
Jones was their left tackle, of course, with Warren McClendon on the other side as the starter. Georgia’s third tackle was Amarius Mims, who ended up playing nearly 400 snaps at right tackle during the year. Austin Blaske and Chad Lindberg combined to play all of 106 snaps last season, but it was the trio of Jones, McClendon, and Mims that was entrusted to play if necessary. And Jones said that he hasn’t been told yet where the Steelers expect him to play.
“They told me I’m a football player”, he said. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where they stick me on the line, I’m gonna give my best effort, my best shot, and just fight to the end. Wherever they want to put me at, they can use me wherever. I’m willing to work, continue to push and just help the team wherever I can”.
Now, chances are he will eventually wind up on the left side one way or another. After all, the vast majority of his in-game experience is on that side. But it doesn’t hurt that he had all of that practice work on the right side. Especially if he doesn’t win the starting job right away and needs to begin his career as the swing tackle.