We’ve just about made it, folks. Just like that, the offseason of roster additions and subtractions via free agency and the months of endless draft speculation is about over.
In two days, the 2023 NFL Draft will kick off in Kansas City. No more mock drafts, no more debates about players and perceived draft slots; it all comes to an end when we find out who the Pittsburgh Steelers add to the roster with their seven picks in the NFL Draft.
Before we reach that day though, it’s time for my final mock draft for the Steelers after the busiest offseason in Steelers history.
Below is the sixth and final version of my seven-round mock draft for the Black and Gold. With much of the additions and subtractions to the roster ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft all but done, I have a good feel for what areas of need are, and what way the Steelers could address them in the draft. In case you missed my first five mock drafts, you can find those here, here, here, here and here.
As a reminder, this is what I believe the Steelers WILL DO in the draft, as far as players picked and positions targeted, not what I would do. There’s a big difference, so please understand that before continuing reading.
As always, leave your thoughts in the comment section below, and thanks for reading!
ROUND ONE (17TH OVERALL) – DARNELL WRIGHT/OT/TENNESSEE — 6060, 335 Lbs.
Analysis: I’ve been rather high on Tennessee offensive tackle Darnell Wright throughout the pre-draft process and believe he would be a great fit in Pittsburgh, so I kick off my final mock with the guy I truly believe will be the selection at No. 17 overall. At 6060, 335 pounds, Wright is the big-bodied guy that the Steelers have been searching for in the offensive trenches the last two years. Remember, Pittsburgh showed significant interest in Minnesota’s Daniel Faalele before he was drafted by Baltimore and have flirted with Ohio State’s Dawand Jones throughout the pre-draft process, too.
With the selection of Wright, the Steelers get a player with a pretty high ceiling and who could end up being the best tackle in the class when it’s all said and done. He fits in perfectly with what the Steelers are aiming to do offensively, which is run the football with authority. He’d be a nice upgrade over Chukwuma Okorafor at right tackle in the run game and would round out the offseason upgrade of the offensive line rather nicely.
Previous Selection: Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa (V.5); Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State (V.4);Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson (V.3); Bryan Bresee, iDL, Clemson (V.2); Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois (V.1)
Others considered: Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland; Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State; Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
ROUND TWO (32ND OVERALL) – DARNELL WASHINGTON/TE/GEORGIA — 6070, 270 Lbs.
Analysis: It’s a run of Darnells for the Steelers as Georgia tight end Darnell Washington comes off the board at No. 32 overall. A dynamic second tight end to pair with Pat Freiermuth, he would give Pittsburgh a two-headed monster at the position to really lean on the 12 personnel the offense utilized in 2022.
At 6070, 270 pounds, Washington is a freak athlete. He had one of the top workouts in recent memory for his position at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine. Already a talented prospect with great tape, Washington had one of the best days in Combine history, a 9.90 RAS score that’s 11th best among TEs since 1987. What makes Washington unique is his beefy frame, blocking ability, and explosiveness. He isn’t a raw prospect, a small schooler, or a tweener. He’s an in-line tight end with burst and a headache to try and tackle. Washington’s also a dominant blocker with the demeanor to match his size.
Previous Selection: Josh Downs, WR, UNC (V. 5); Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson (V.4); John Michael Schmitz, iOL, Minnesota (V.3); Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee (V.2); Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State (V.1)
Others considered: Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson; Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma; Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State
Darnell Washington draft profile
ROUND TWO (49TH OVERALL) – TYRIQUE STEVENSON/CB/MIAMI (FL.) — 6000, 198 Lbs.
Analysis: After adding veteran Patrick Peterson in free agency, the goal for Pittsburgh always seemed to be finding that young cornerback early in the draft to come in and learn under the guidance of the future Hall of Famer. Enter Miami (FL) cornerback Tyrique Stevenson.
Stevenson previously was a member of the Georgia football program and competed daily against current Steelers wide receiver George Pickens in practice before transferring to Miami. There, Stevenson broke out, putting together an impressive career, working his way into a draft prospect with significant upside. The interest from the Steelers is rather clear, too. Former cornerback turned scout Ike Taylor put Stevenson through position drills at the Hurricanes’ Pro Day, and Stevenson was a pre-draft visitor as well. Pittsburgh needs a bit of an edge in the cornerback room, and Stevenson would certainly provide that while checking a number of boxes the Steelers look for at the position.
Previous Selection: Cody Mauch, OL, North Dakota State (V. 5); Steve Avila, iOL, TCU (V.4); Julius Brents, CB, Kansas State (V.3); Derick Hall, EDGE, Auburn (V.2); Keeanu Benton, iDL, Wisconsin (V.1)
Others considered: Cedric Tillman, WR, Tennessee; DJ Turner, CB, Michigan; Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa
Tyrique Stevenson draft profile
ROUND THREE (80TH OVERALL) – TULI TUIPULOTU/EDGE/USC — 6040, 266 Lbs.
Analysis: Pittsburgh desperately needs to address the depth chart behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith at outside linebacker, and they do so here with USC EDGE Tuli Tuipuloto, who is coming off of a 13.5-sack season for the Trojans. Tuipuloto dropped weight to get down to 266 pounds to better project as an EDGE at the next level.
Tuipulotu is a good athlete for his size and really moves well. He has good play strength as a pass rusher and flashed the ability to set the edge as a run defender, though he needs to be more consistent there. With his production in college and that versatility he displayed while lining up all over the defensive front, Tuipuloto would be a nice add to the EDGE room behind Watt and Highsmith.
Previous Selection: Darius Rush, CB, South Carolina (V.5); Tyrique Stevenson, CB, Miami (FL) (V.4); Keeanu Benton, DL, Wisconsin (V.3); Julius Brents, CB, Kansas State (V.2); Henry T’oTo’o, ILB, Alabama (V.1)
Others considered: Zach Harrison, EDGE, Ohio State; Derick Hall, EDGE, Auburn; Tyler Steen, OT, Alabama
ROUND FOUR (120TH OVERALL) – BRYCE FORD-WHEATON/WR/WEST VIRGINIA — 6040, 221 Lbs.
Analysis: The last time the Steelers waited this late to draft a guy with the height, weight and speed package at receiver that West Virginia’s Bryce Ford-Wheaton possesses, things turned out pretty well, for a few years anyway. That receiver with similar traits was Clemson product Martavis Bryant, who had an impressive stint with the Steelers before bouncing around the CFL and XFL.
Ford-Wheaton ran a 4.38 40 at the Combine and that number shows up on tape, especially after the catch. His ability to create after the catch, along with his size, really stands out as a he’s a problem for defenses trying to get on the ground. Though he still has some development left as a receiver overall, he could immediately slot in as a special-teams piece and could give the Steelers a weapon to use in the red zone or as a field stretcher as he works on his game behind Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, and Allen Robinson.
Previous Selection: SirVocea Dennis, LB, Pittsburgh (V.5); Jonathan Mingo, WR, Ole Miss (V.4); Jose Ramirez, EDGE, Eastern Michigan (V.3); Carter Warren, OT, Pittsburgh (V.2); Nathaniel “Tank” Dell, WR, Houston (V.1)
Others considered: Xavier Hutchinson, WR, Iowa State; Clayton Tune, QB, Houston; Ji’Ayir Brown, S, Penn State
Bryce Ford-Wheaton draft profile
ROUND SEVEN (241TH OVERALL) – BRODRIC MARTIN/IDL/WESTERN KENTUCKY — 6045, 337 Lbs.
Analysis: After an offseason marked by additions to the defensive line featuring the re-signing of Larry Ogunjobi and the signings of Breiden Fehoko and Armon Watts, the defensive line position might be pushed down the board quite a bit for the Steelers. If that’s the case, there’s still a good chance to land an intriguing piece, which occurs here with Western Kentucky’s Brodric Martin.
I previously mocked Martin to the Steelers in my fourth version of my mock draft, and I’m circling back. A massive guy at 6045, 337 pounds, Martin had a really strong showing at the East-West Shrine Bowl in Las Vegas. He really flashed good strength and some intriguing juice as a pass rusher.
Martin started his career at North Alabama, spending two seasons there before transferring to Western Kentucky where he started 14 of 28 games and earned C-USA Honorable Mention honors in 2022. He has long arms (34 3/8″) and a huge wingspan (84 1/4″) and really eats up space. He is on the older side (turns 24 in May), but with 31 career starts and plenty of production, he is a solid flier late on Day 3 and could pan out. Remember, defensive line coach Karl Dunbar was at Martin’s Pro Day.
Previous Selection: Cory Durden, iDL, North Carolina State (V.5); Brodric Martin, iDL, Western Kentucky (V.4); John Ojukwu, OL, Boise State (V.3); Mitchell Tinsley, WR, Penn State (V.2); Jerome Carvin, iOL, Tennessee (V.1)
Others considered: Chamarri Conner, DB, Virginia Tech; Jordan Howden, S, Minnesota; Spencer Anderson, iOL, Maryland
ROUND SEVEN (251ST OVERALL) – KORY CURTIS/QB/GANNON — 6030, 247 Lbs.
Analysis: I am calling my shot here, much like Alex Kozora did last year with South Dakota State’s Chris Oladokun. The Steelers are going to select a quarterback in this draft; it just feels like a matter of when, not if. After missing out on Houston’s Clayton Tune earlier in the draft, the Steelers land a former Division II star whom they helped get in front of scouts at the Duquesne Pro Day in Gannon quarterback Kory Curtis.
A walk-on at Ohio State before transferring to Bryant and then Gannon, where he was a two-time Harlon Hill Trophy finalist (D2 equivalent of the Heisman), Curtis is an intriguing package of size, arm strength and accuracy. Though the competition level is certainly a concern, the Steelers liked enough of what they saw to help get him to a Pro Day. Selecting him with the pick swap with the Rams is a good way to avoid the undrafted free agent bidding war on quarterbacks, much like the Steelers did last season with Oladokun.
Curtis can sit and develop behind Kenny Pickett and Mitchell Trubisky, and presumably a quarterback from the XFL, CFL or USFL at this point as he adjusts to the NFL game. He doesn’t project as anything more than a QB2 in the NFL, but he has some intriguing traits for the position overall with an impressive resume.
Previous Selection: Daniel Scott, S, California (V. 5); Chamarri Conner, CB, Virginia Tech (V.4); Brenton Strange, TE, Penn State (V.3); Dante Stills, DT, West Virginia (V.2); Andre Jones, EDGE, Louisiana (V.1)
Others considered: Alex Forsyth, iOL, Oregon; Jerome Carvin, iOL, Tennessee; Max Duggan, QB, TCU