2023 NFL Draft

‘Makes More Sense To Go Offensive Tackle First:’ Draft Analyst Daniel Jeremiah Tells Steelers To Go O-Line Early

During a Thursday conference call, NFL Network lead draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said what many Pittsburgh Steelers’ fans are probably thinking. While Pittsburgh might be debating between cornerback and offensive tackle, the depth of the classes suggests the team focuses on o-line early and cornerback lately.

In his lengthy Q&A session, Jeremiah was asked about what direction the Steelers should go at #17. While the team has options, Jeremiah said, offensive tackle is the clear choice.

“I think those are the three [CB, OT, EDGE] spots,” Jeremiah said on the call via the NFL. “I think you’ve got to see how it kind of falls, how the draft falls. I would just say, if you are looking at those three, to me where they’re picking at 17, it makes more sense to go offensive tackle first. I think there’s a bigger drop-off at that position if you don’t get one there with your first pick.”

It’s hard to argue with the logic. Given their scarcity, there’s always a run on offensive tackles. If the NFL has a problem, there aren’t enough talented quarterbacks and offensive linemen in the league; everyone who doesn’t have one is looking for one. There isn’t a clear blue-chip tackle this season but several good ones in Ohio State’s Paris Johnson, Georgia’s Broderick Jones, and Tennessee’s Darnell Wright. Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski was a standout college tackle who probably kicks inside to guard.

After those names, there’s a drop into a second tier consisting of Ohio State’s Dawand Jones and Oklahoma’s Anton Harrison and those players even come with question marks. From there, it’s a big fall-off into a third tier with names like Syracuse’s Matthew Bergeron, BYU’s Blake Freeland, and Maryland’s Jaelyn Duncan. All of that is to say that once the Steelers get past pick #32, there may not be many quality tackle options left. It’s why Pittsburgh has shown interest in virtually all those top-tier names, be it Pro Days, pre-draft visits, or both, and less interest in later-round options.

Cornerback is a different story. Among the deepest classes in this year’s draft, there will be options at 32 or 49, even if that means the team can’t get a Joey Porter Jr. at 17. Players like Georgia’s Kelee Ringo, Kansas State’s Julius Brents, and Miami’s Tyrique Stevenson are all viable Day Two candidates, and Pittsburgh’s taken long looks at them.

This year’s EDGE class is somewhere in-between and harder to get a read on. Pittsburgh’s looked at a variety of options from higher-round players to later-round picks, though there’s heightened urgency here now that Bud Dupree has signed with Atlanta.

Jeremiah added regardless of the approach, the Steelers are set up for success with three picks inside the top 50, something that hasn’t happened since 1989.

“I don’t see why they couldn’t come out of those first three picks with three starters between a tackle, a corner, and an edge rusher,” he said.

The draft and the draft board at 17 is unpredictable. But from where value and need meet at the highest point, offensive tackle makes the most sense. On paper, anyway.

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