2023 NFL Draft

Heitritter: Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2023 Mock Draft (Final Version)

Having conducted the Mock Draft Mondays for Steelers Depot the last few months, I have played through various versions of what the 2023 NFL Draft may look like for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now that it is draft week, here is the final edition of my seven-round mock draft where I attempt to guess what I think the Pittsburgh Steelers WILL DO come draft day based on Pro Day/Pre-Draft visits, interest shown at the Senior Bowl/Shrine Bowl and NFL Combine, as well as overall roster needs related to the talent at each position. So, sit back, strap in, and as the yinzers say, “Here we go.”


Analysis: I hinted that this was the direction I was going to go during the last roundtable discussion on The Terrible Podcast. In my mind, if Joey Porter Jr. is on the board at #17 overall, the Steelers will run up the card and have the Penn State product follow in his father’s footsteps and suit up in the Black and Gold.

As we have seen in the past, the Steelers pride themselves in their connections to prospects… especially their first-round selections. Joey Porter Jr. has all the ties to Pittsburgh you could dream of, being the son of former Pittsburgh Steelers player and coach Joey Porter, who served on Mike Tomlin’s coaching staff from 2014 to 2018. Tomlin and Porter were close off the field, having sons who played at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic. Tie in the fact that Pittsburgh met formally with Porter at the Combine, sent DB coach Grady Brown and Assistant GM Andy Weidl to his Pro Day, and brought him in for a pre-draft visit, and the interest is obvious.

I’m hedging the board falls Pittsburgh’s way on Day 1 of the draft and Porter falls into its lap. The team has created a great environment to develop a CB1, signing a vet like Patrick Peterson and having DB coach Grady Brown help develop a top prospect. Given his immense size and length, strengths as a press man corner on the outside, and character off the field, Porter could be the player Pittsburgh is targeting to become its CB1 of the future to kick off the draft.

Others Considered: Bryan Bresee/DL/Clemson, Deonte Banks/CB/Maryland, Darnell Wright/OT/Tennessee, Brian Branch/DB/Alabama


Analysis: I struggled with this pick, projecting Darnell Wright to be off the board by this point and debated heavily between Dawand Jones and Anton Harrison. While Harrison is the cleaner fit on the left side and is younger than Jones, the Steelers’ amount of interest in and infatuation with Jones cannot be ignored. The Steelers sent a large contingent to Jones’ Pro Day in Columbus, including OL Coach Pat Meyer. HC Mike Tomlin and GM Omar Khan took Jones out to dinner the night before and met with him at the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine. While Jones’ pre-draft visit was never confirmed, he may have been one of their Zoom calls or the Steelers already felt comfortable with their extensive exposure.

Jones may have gotten some flak for sitting out of drills and refusing to weigh in at times during the pre-draft process. This could potentially hurt his draft stock. However, should he be there at the top of the second round, I don’t see Pittsburgh passing on him. For a team that wants to become a bully and run people over on the ground, Jones is the man for the job. He is a giant human being who also has good athleticism for his size, being a former high-ranking basketball recruit. RT Chukwuma Okorafor has been serviceable, but Jones possesses far more upside and would be an immediate upgrade over Chuks in the run blocking department.

The Steelers could take Jones to either battle Chuks in training camp or kick Chuks over the left side, having him battle it out with fellow incumbent OT Dan Moore Jr with the loser becoming the swing tackle. Is there some risk in selecting Jones? Yes. However, the reward is more tantalizing, and a bad pre-draft process hasn’t turned Pittsburgh away before (i.e. Jarvis Jones), possibly helping them get their guy.

Others Considered: John Michael Schmitz/C/Minnesota, Kelee Ringo/CB/Georgia, Darnell Washington/TE/Georgia


Analysis: Alex Kozora was on the Keeanu Benton hype train before he took over at the Senior Bowl, posting a film room about how he is a perfect fit for the Steelers. Three months have passed, but nothing has changed regarding Benton’s obvious fit in Pittsburgh and the amount of interest Pittsburgh has had in the young man. Benton told me at the Senior Bowl that Mike Tomlin told him in a formal meeting that he was on their radar. That only continued after meeting with Pittsburgh again in some fashion at the Combine, having Sheldon White and LB Coach Aaron Curry attend his Pro Day, and making a pre-draft visit to Pittsburgh.

Outside of the obvious interest, Benton has what the Steelers look for in defensive linemen. Benton stands 6036, 309lb with nearly 34” arms, a benchmark Pittsburgh often seeks in its DL, one that other prospects like Bryan Bresee and Gervon Dexter don’t meet. Benton primarily played nose tackle for the Badgers, but he has the size and athleticism to be a perfect fit as a 3-technique/4i in Pittsburgh’s defense. He is a stout run defender and has enough pass rush upside to be a three-down defender in the league. Given his frame and has ability to play any spot on the defensive line, Benton couldn’t make more sense in Pittsburgh as a guy who can add more youth and athleticism along the defensive front.

Others Considered: Tyrique Stevenson/CB/Miami (FL), Felix Anudike-Uzomah/EDGE/Kansas State, Mazi Smith/DL/Michigan, Julius Brents/CB/Kansas State


Analysis: I have been calling for Pittsburgh to take a backup EDGE early to add quality depth behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, and they do just that by nabbing USC pass rusher Tuli Tuipulotu in the third round. The Steelers sent Director of Player Scouting Mark Sadowski to his Pro Day in March and hosted him for a pre-draft visit. Tuipulotu gives off the vibe of a tweener between OLB and DE in Pittsburgh’s system, like DL DeMarvin Leal. However, Tuipulotu measured in at 6’3, 266lb at the Combine, losing weight to better fit the EDGE role in the NFL.

Tuipulotu had a 2022 great season for the Trojans, posting 22 TFLs, 13.5 sacks, three PBUs, and two forced fumbles. He is a good athlete for his size, having lined up with his hand in the dirt as well as in a two-point stance. He possesses the play strength to win with power as a pass rusher and has flashed the ability to get the edge as well with speed and a cross chop. He isn’t very explosive, however, and needs to be more consistent against the run and develop better hand usage to win at the next level. Still, Pittsburgh hasn’t shown a fear in taking DE converts in the past to stand up on the edge. Tuipulotu fits the mold of a stout, productive edge Pittsburgh needs to rotate in and backup Watt and Highsmith.

Others Considered: Gervon Dexter/DL/Florida, Jonathan Mingo/WR/Ole Miss, Darius Rush/CB/South Carolina, Jordan Battle/S/Alabama


Analysis: I really struggled with this pick as Pittsburgh showed a lot of interest in TE Luke Schoonmaker, who would be a good pick here, as well as LB Dorian Williams, who had LB Coach Aaron Curry at his Pro Day. However, Curry also attended the Pro Day of Wisconsin LB Nick Herbig, who just feels like a Steeler. It helps that Pittsburgh signed his older brother, Nate Herbig, this offseason, knowing that the Steelers have a thing for family ties. He also had a formal meeting with the Steelers at the Combine and reportedly has a good relationship with T.J. Watt, working with him at times during the offseason.

Herbig played on the edge in college, but his size will likely kick him to off-ball LB at the next level. While a bit of a projection, Herbig is in position to make that move as is Pittsburgh, having signed its projected 2023 starters at ILB this offseason. Herbig checks every box in with the Steelers look for in off-ball LBs, according to Alex Kozora’s study, making him an intriguing fit who could play in the box as well as add more depth on the edge given his experience and production as a pass rusher. Being able to contribute right away on special teams as well, Herbig feels like a player Pittsburgh will target in the middle rounds due to all the hats he can wear and the way he plays the game.

Others Considered: Karl Brooks/DL/Bowling Green, Dorian Williams/LB/Tulane, Jayden Reed/WR/Michigan State, Luke Schoonmaker/TE/Michigan  


Analysis: The Steelers have a history of nabbing value at the WR position. They do it again late on Day Three, selecting Michigan WR Ronnie Bell. Bell, coming off a torn ACL in 2021, put together a solid 2022 campaign, catching 62 passes for 889 yards and four TDs. Bell would be the perfect fit for Pittsburgh at the receiver position, starring in the slot for the Wolverines as a bigger receiver (6’0, 191lb) who possesses sure hands and gets involved as a run blocker. Bell makes a fair number of contested catches as a possession receiver, lacking high-end athleticism (4.54 40) to separate consistently from coverage, but is a reliable target who can move the chains.

Bell also checks every box of what the Steelers look for at WR and had the head honchos at his Pro Day in Ann Arbor. Having contributed on punt returns in college as well, Bell can fight for a roster spot as Pittsburgh’s WR5, mixing in at the slot with Calvin Austin III and on special teams as a return man or as a gunner. The 2023 season can be a redshirt one of sorts for Bell, who can step into a bigger role in 2024 depending on Allen Robinson II’s future with the team past this season.

Others Considered: Robert Beal/EDGE/Georgia, Cam Jones/LB/Indiana, Jaren Hall/QB/BYU, Noah Gindorff/TE/North Dakota State


Analysis: The Steelers close out their draft by selecting S Chamarri Conner out of Virginia Tech. Conner is a hard-hitting defensive back who brings the versatility Pittsburgh needs in the secondary, having lined up all over the defensive backfield for the Hokie defense. His best fits are as a strong box safety and nickel defender at the next level, two positions Pittsburgh has to yet address at this juncture. Conner had Director of Pro Scouting Sheldon White at his Pro Day and spoke with the team at the Combine, checking off every box in Kozora’s study at what Pittsburgh looks for at the safety position.

Conner isn’t the most fluid in coverage and needs to be more consistent as a tackler, but he would be a special-teams demon, helping fill the void of players who left via free agency and push fellow DBs Tre Norwood, Miles Killebrew, and Arthur Maulet for a roster spot. He can spend 2023 waiting in the wings behind Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee, developing his game while serving as a special teamer or game day inactive, having an opportunity to see more defensive snaps in 2024.

Others Considered: Lonnie Phelps/EDGE/Kansas, Jose Ramirez/EDGE/ Eastern Michigan/ Broderick Martin/DL/Western Kentucky, Tanner Ingle/S/NC State

To Top