ESPN Analyst Believes Steelers Should ‘Stay Put’ At No. 17 Overall In NFL Draft

One of the biggest questions facing the Pittsburgh Steelers heading into the 2023 NFL Draft is whether the team will stick with it’s selection at No. 17 overall in the first round or look to move up or down in the draft. While the team rarely moved around in the draft under former general manager Kevin Colbert, there’s a chance that new general manager Omar Khan will be more aggressive when it comes to draft day trades. However, ESPN analyst Bill Barnwell believes that the Steelers should stick at No. 17, and he believes their prior organizational philosophy will keep them right where they are. In an article arguing whether each team with a first-round pick should trade up, stay put, or trade back, Barnwell wrote the Steelers should stay put.

“The Steelers have not traded down in the first round of the draft since 2001, when Kevin Colbert was in his second season as director of football operations. Colbert retired after the 2022 draft and turned things over to Khan. It remains to be seen whether Khan will chart his own path, but outside of trading up three times in the first round over that stretch, this is an organization that generally stays where its picks fall early in the draft,” Barnwell said

Given that the top players at the biggest positions of need for the Steelers (namely cornerback, interior defensive line and offensive tackle) will likely be off the board at No. 17, the Steelers could always move back and pick up additional picks while snagging a cornerback (in a very deep cornerback class) somewhere in the 20s.

It’s a move that would likely come down to the wire, as the Steelers aren’t moving off No. 17 if one of the “big three” cornerbacks in Devon Witherspoon, Christian Gonzalez or Joey Porter Jr. is still on the board when their first pick comes around. While Witherspoon and Gonzalez remain unlikely, Porter Jr., who’s been connected to the team in part because of his father’s experience playing in Pittsburgh, has a shot to still be undrafted by the 17th pick.

If all three are off the board and the Steelers want to pick up extra capital, especially considering their lack of selections in the 5th and 6th round, moving down to around No. 23 with the Minnesota Vikings, as Jonathan Heitritter proposed in his mock draft today, would make sense. Guys like safety Brian Branch from Alabama, cornerback Deonte Banks from Maryland and cornerback Julius Brents from Kansas State (who visited with the Steelers today) should still be on the board. Any one of the three could help shore up Pittsburgh’s secondary.

They could also look at other options, including a slot wide receiver like Jordan Addison out of USC or Zay Flowers from Boston College, or defensive line help. Either way, I think it’s actually probably in the Steelers’ best interest to move back if they aren’t assured one of the top cornerbacks or another top player who might somehow fall down the board. Having extra draft capital isn’t a bad thing, and the Steelers could get a similar player at No. 23 or No. 24 that they’ll get at No. 17, especially if they’re committed to taking a defensive back.

We have a little less than a month until the draft kicks off, and until then, there’s going to be a lot of speculation about what the Steelers will do or should do. But I personally wouldn’t be disappointed if the team took the trade-down route in the first round, despite Barnwell believing they should stay where they are.

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