The Steelers are widely believed to be in the market for a starting offensive tackle at some point during the 2023 NFL Draft. That could well come as early as the first round, with their 17th-overall pick—assuming that they don’t trade up, or down. So if they were to take a tackle at 17, who is it most likely to be?
“Don’t go to sleep on the possibility of an offensive tackle, especially Darnell Wright”, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said recently in a chat. While he seemed to anticipate a selection at cornerback was more likely, and suggested it was more in need of an immediate starter, Wright was the man he named.
Later, when asked which tackles the Steelers have as their favorites, based on what he’s heard, he listed Wright, Parris Johnson Jr., and Broderick Jones, or as he called them, “The usual suspects”. Yet he didn’t mention Peter Skoronski, which I’ll get to on another day, or Anton Harrison, or Dawand Jones, some of the other tackles in the conversation in the first round.
Opinions on Wright tend to be mixed. Brian Baldinger, for example, thinks he’s the best tackle in this class. Others, like Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus, see it differently and have him on a tier below the top tackles, but still a candidate for the first round, and for the Steelers. Still another analyst, Matt Miller of ESPN, connected the dots for Wright to find his way to Pittsburgh.
Wright is somewhat interesting. He’s a big man, but he is not lacking for athleticism, yet many pigeonhole him as a right tackle. He does have meaningful starting experience at both left and right tackle, and even at guard, though his best play came in 2022 at right tackle.
Of course, it’s been many years now since credible analysts have looked down at the right tackle position. Some of the best tackles in the league are on the right side, which only makes sense, since some of the best edge rushers are on the left side. Yes, most quarterbacks are still right-handed, but their heads do swivel.
I personally don’t believe Wright by necessity has to play right tackle, though it may be his best position in the long run. If he were to start as a, that’s likely where it would make the most sense for him, though if it happens in Pittsburgh, you then have to ask who plays left tackle.
Another key question is, how are these tackles ranked on the Steelers’ board? Let’s say Wright, Johnson, and Jones are all available at 17. Who do they take? Is Dulac’s comment based on who the Steelers realistically think will be available when they select?
And what if none of them are there? What, then, is their approach at tackle? Do they take another position? Do they trade down? At what point do they end up drafting a tackle? It’s been a long time since they’ve hit the position very early. Their last tackle in the first two rounds was Mike Adams back in 2012. T.J. Watt was in high school. And Antonio Brown was still the ‘Chest Up, Eyes Up, Prayed Up’ guy everybody liked.