CBS Sports Names Steelers’ Best, Worst, And Most Interesting Draft Picks

With the 2023 NFL Draft behind us, it’s safe to say that new general manager Omar Khan left his mark. The team traded up in the first round for only the second time since 2006, selected an offensive tackle in the first round for the first time since 1996, among other unique features of Khan’s first draft. In a Sunday article, Jordan Dajani of CBS Sports pointed out each team’s best, worst, and most interesting draft picks. 

The Steelers’ best pick, according to Dajani, was cornerback Cory Trice Jr. with the 241st overall pick in the seventh round.

“Tall, lengthy outside CB with a savvy and athletic game,” Dajani wrote in giving the team an A+ grade for selecting the Purdue corner. “Sticks to WRs and even when he doesn’t his length gets him to the football often. Tested well for his massive frame. Tremendous tackler. Super steal.”

At face value, Trice has all the makings of a day-two corner. Many projected the 6’3”, 215-pounder to be selected far earlier than the seventh round, as he was 77th on PFF’s top 100. The Steelers indeed got incredible value with this selection. If all goes well, Trice and 32nd overall pick Joey Porter Jr. will be the team’s corners for years to come.

As is often the case, Trice fell due to injury concerns, which scared many teams away from investing a draft pick in him. Nonetheless, getting a projected mid-round player in the seventh round is incredible value, and an A+ grade is certainly warranted for the value of this pick.

Conversely, Dajani noted that the team’s worst pick was the fourth-round selection of Wisconsin edge rusher Nate Herbig.

“Tiny, highly productive rusher with the full arsenal to generate pressure in college,” Dajani said. “Just major concerns about his length and size. Gets bullied a lot. Very similar to the Sutton Smith pick in 2019.”

There is merit to the concerns regarding Herbig’s measurables. At 6′ 3½”, he was in the 22nd percentile for his position, while his wingspan of 78″ was in the 14th percentile and arm length of 31¼” was in the 37th percentile according to Mock Draft Table. Sutton Smith is an interesting comparison to Herbig. A 2019 sixth-round pick, Smith did not make the team’s roster, eventually switching to fullback from his original linebacker position.

There is a good argument to be made that Herbig does not fit the prototype for an NFL pass rusher. His arm length could be an issue with tackling, and he is currently underweight at 240 pounds. Dajani cites Chris Trapasso, who gave this pick a C grade. Considering that this was a fourth-round pick, it’s hard to make a strong case that it was a bad pick. More than anything, this shows how highly regarded this draft was for the team. If your worst-graded pick is a C, it is generally a good sign.

Finally, the team’s most interesting pick, according to Dajani, was Georgia tight end Darnell Washington in the third round, which he gave an A- grade.

“Washington reportedly fell due to medicals,” Dajani wrote. “Which benefitted the Steelers. Good blocker and underrated in the passing game, this could be another ‘super steal.’ ”

The Steelers, who originally traded down from their 80th pick to 93rd, simply could not pass on the value of Washington. Granted, Washington had a fair share of injury concerns. However, as was the case with Trice, the value of this pick is incredible. A 6’7” 264-pound blocking machine, Washington’s skill set is about as unique as his measurables. Khan stated that he was surprised that Washington was available for the team at the 92nd pick, and for good reason.

Washington joins Pat Freiermuth and Zach Gentry, undeniably upgrading the tight end room. Washington will also be another target for quarterback Kenny Pickett, who also got an upgrade along the offensive line with the team’s selection of Washington’s teammate Broderick Jones. For an offensively challenged Steelers’ team, Washington’s high potential was simply too much to pass up and could culminate in the best tight end room the team has had in many years.

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