The 2023 NFL Draft is less than a month away, and the Steelers are slotted to pick 17th overall in the first round. They also own the top pick in the second round thanks to the Chase Claypool trade with the Chicago Bears.
We continue to go through mock draft scenarios and project player/prospect fits who may interest the Steelers given their needs and the talent in this upcoming draft class.
In this latest edition, the Steelers trade down with the Kansas City Chiefs, netting #31, #63, and #95, keeping them in the first round but with the final selection of it.
ROUND 1 (#31 OVERALL VIA KC) — DAWAND JONES/OT/OHIO STATE
Analysis: The Steelers have committed to overhauling the offensive line this offseason, signing multiple guards to start and provide depth inside. Given their commitment to adding big people movers, it’s likely that Pittsburgh will target either Ohio State’s Dawand Jones or Tennessee’s Darnell Wright with one of its top two picks. Should the top CBs be off the board at #17, the Steelers could opt to take one of those two OTs there, or play the value game and trade back to get more draft capital while still being able to land one of those two closer to their draft-value range.
Jones ends up being the selection at the end of the first round despite skipping out on a lot of the pre-draft process. That has raised some concerns but he possesses that incredible size and arm length Pittsburgh covets. The Steelers have shown quite a liking for Jones during the process, bringing him in for a pre-draft visit while attending his Pro Day and talking with him at the Combine and Senior Bowl. Jones can come in and man the RT spot with Chuks Okorafor and Dan Moore, Jr. battling it out for the LT job, likely with Moore becoming the team’s swing tackle.
ROUND 2 (#32 OVERALL)— JORDAN ADDISON/WR/USC
Analysis: The Steelers benefit from having the top pick in the second round, having back-to-back picks in this scenario to take the last player on Day One and the first player on Day Two. They can take one of the best players who fell out of the first round with this selection. And they opt to go with a familiar name that has seemed to have lost some steam in recent weeks: WR Jordan Addison.
The Steelers didn’t attend Addison’s Pro Day and Addison didn’t have the greatest Combine performance, likely dropping his draft stock to more of an Early Day Two prospect rather than a first-round guy Still, Addison is a playmaker at the position and a natural fit in the slot, which is a position Pittsburgh desperately needs to address. He has built-in chemistry with QB Kenny Pickett and can help him take that Year Two leap and help this passing game improve from last season. Pickett has said numerous times how he wants to play with Addison again, and Pittsburgh makes that a reality at the top of Round 2.
ROUND 2 (#49 OVERALL)— WILL MCDONALD/EDGE/IOWA STATE
Analysis: The Steelers need a capable pass rusher to rotate in with T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith throughout games while also needing a suitable backup should Watt or Highsmith go down. Having tried to make do with UDFAs or cheap free agents the last couple of seasons, they opt for a long-term investment. This year’s draft is loaded with edge rushers, and the Steelers select Iowa State EDGE Will McDonald IV. McDonald is an intriguing prospect, having great length (35” arms) and notable bend around the edge. He had 34 career sacks in college, along with 40.5 TFLs and 10 forced fumbles and has the skill set to get after the QB.
McDonald is a lankier prospect, lacking ideal weight for his frame (6’4, 239lb). Still, McDonald showcased improved strength at the point of attack during the Senior Bowl and should be able to grow into his frame more at the next level. The Steelers had GM Omar Khan and Mike Tomlin at his Pro Day, suggesting the interest is there to be a potential Day Two pick. He can contribute immediately on special teams and as a rotational pass rusher as he continues to develop his body and become a well-rounded edge defender.
ROUND 2 (#63 OVERALL VIA KC)— SIAKI IKA/DL/BAYLOR
Analysis: The Steelers brought back DL Larry Ogunjobi and signed NT Breiden Fehoko in free agency to add depth to the nose tackle position. They still could use a younger, more talented player in the middle of the defense, one who can become a long-term solution. Pittsburgh opts to take Fehoko’s former teammate at LSU who ended up transferring to Baylor: DL Siaki Ika. Ika is a mountain of a man, standing 6’3 and weighing 335 pounds. He plays like an immovable object against the run thanks to his size and strength yet is surprisingly nimble on his feet as he shows flashes as a pass rusher.
Built in a similar mold to Vita Vea of the Buccaneers, Ika came over from LSU when HC David Aranda took the job to become the man in the middle for the much-improved Baylor defense. The Steeler brought in Ika for a pre-draft visit and Ika can be a starting NT Day 1 in the NFL with the pass rush upside to become a foundational piece on the defensive line.
ROUND 3 (#80 OVERALL)— JOE TIPPMANN/C/WISCONSIN
Analysis: Despite investing a ton in the interior of the offensive line in free agency, the Steelers have been doing their homework on the center and guard prospects in this draft class. With an eye to the future as well as looking to continue and improve depth, they pick C Joe Tippmann. Tippmann is a big, athletic center (6’6, 313lbs). He can play in a variety of blocking schemes, being able to pull, reach block, climb to the second level, work in space, but also go straight ahead into nose tackles.
The Steelers brought in Tippmann for a formal interview at the Combine. Given the amount of interest they have shown in the center position, Tippmann could be drafted to provide depth to Mason Cole in 2023 with the plan to eventually take over his starting position, giving the Steelers a bigger, stronger player with more upside at the pivot.
ROUND 3 (#95 OVERALL VIA KC)— TRE’VIUS HODGES-TOMLINSON/CB/TCU
Analysis: The Steelers signed CB Patrick Peterson and have several guys who can play on the outside. They don’t have an answer at slot CB heading into the draft. They go back to their affinity for pedigree and bloodlines, selecting 2022 Jim Thorpe Award winner Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson out of TCU. Hodges-Tomlinson is vastly undersized for a CB, (5’8, 178lb), but he possesses the play speed (4.41 40), explosiveness (39” vert), and competitive demeanor to battle receivers on a down to down basis.
He is a willing tackler in run support and is scrappy in coverage, allowing a 34.6% completion percentage in 2022. He can be the passing down nickel and eventually overtake Arthur Maulet as the every-down nickel in Pittsburgh, giving the Steelers a playmaker at that spot that they haven’t had since Mike Hilton.
ROUND 4 (#120 OVERALL)— KARL BROOKS/DL/BOWLING GREEN
Analysis: The Steelers addressed the nose tackle position with Ika in the second round. They take their 3 technique/4i in Round Four by selecting Bowling Green’s Karl Brooks. Brooks is an interesting prospect as he played all over the defensive front in college, kicking inside to take advantage of guards with his athleticism while also standing up and rushing the passer on the edge.
Standing 6’3 3/8”, 303lb, Brooks is just a tad short for Pittsburgh’s base 3-4 DE, but his impressive athleticism and frame suggest he could fit in well there at the next level. The Steelers sent DL Coach Karl Dunbar to Brooks’ Pro Day, suggesting that they have a fair amount of interest in him in the middle rounds. Should they address nose tackle earlier in the draft, Brooks could be a nice value pick for Pittsburgh here in the fourth.
ROUND 7 (#234 OVERALL)— STETSON BENNETT/QB/GEORGIA
Analysis: Should Pittsburgh choose to take its QB3 in the draft, Georgia QB Stetson Bennett would be the ideal if eventual backup to Pickett. Bennett is an older prospect but has ample experience playing at the highest level of college football. He is more ready to step in should Pickett and Mitch Trubisky go down than other Day Three signal callers. He is extremely poised in the pocket and is accurate with the football, leading the Bulldogs to two-straight national championships. While his size and arm talent may not wow you, he is a cerebral player who has displayed great leadership time and again. He would be a great add to the locker room and a resource for Pickett as a glorified second QB coach in the room.
ROUND 7 (#241 OVERALL)— MARTE MAPU/LB/SACRAMENTO STATE
Analysis: The Steelers close out the draft by taking hybrid LB Marte Mapu out of Sacramento State in the seventh round. Mapu made a name for himself during the Senior Bowl with some impressive practices, but the Combine snub as well as the recent pec tear will likely drop his draft stock to the end of Day Three. He lacks ideal size (6’2, 1217lb), but he has the skill set to contribute in sub packages as a nickel/coverage linebacker. Showcasing his physicality during the all-star circuit, Pittsburgh could take Mapu to replace Marcus Allen on special teams and see if he can develop into a sub-package LB who can excel in coverage situations, something the Steelers have not had at the position in some time.