The 2023 NFL Draft is less than two weeks 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 OG Kevin Dotson to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for their fifth-round pick (#153 overall), helping them merge the gap between their fourth- and first of two seventh-round picks on Day Three of the draft.
ROUND 1 (#17 OVERALL) — DEONTE BANKS/CB/MARYLAND
Analysis: Should Penn State CB Joey Porter Jr. be off the board prior to Pittsburgh’s first selection in Round One of the draft, I would not be surprised if they opt for another long, athletic, physical press corner in Maryland’s Deonte Banks. Having recently taken a deep dive into Banks’ tape, I personally see him as the better player than Porter. He has the size and length (6’0, 197lb) as well as the athleticism (4.35 40, 42” vert, 11’4” board) to become a CB1 in the league for a long time.
We will have to overlook the fact that Mike Tomlin and Omar Khan weren’t at his Pro Day for Banks to be their first-round draft choice, but both Tomlin and Khan were at the league meetings at the time of Banks’ Pro Day. The Steelers did meet with Banks formally at the NFL Combine as well as brought him in for a pre-draft visit, right after they returned from the league meetings. Throw in the fact that Banks is an underclassman and a freak athlete at a position of need and he has the makings to be Pittsburgh’s first-round draft choice and CB1 of the future.
ROUND 2 (#32 OVERALL)— ANTON HARRISON/OT/OKLAHOMA
Analysis: I have been speculating that Dawand Jones and Darnell Wright are the two OTs Pittsburgh is eyeing given its draft position, but there is another name that hasn’t been getting as much recognition that may be a better fit. That would be Oklahoma OT Anton Harrison, who has manned the left side during his time in college, starting 32 games there with one start at RT. He has adequate size (6’4 3/8”, 315lb) and the great length (34 1/8” arms) that Pittsburgh desires in its tackles. He needs to get functionally stronger, but he has shown a mean streak as a run blocker and is a fluid athlete as a pass protector.
Instead of drafting a RT and kicking Chukwuma Okorafor to LT to battle it out with Dan Moore Jr., Pittsburgh can instead draft Harrison to avoid fewer moving pieces on the OL and have Harrison battle Moore for the blindside gig out the gate. He is still young and is only scratching the surface of his potential. That makes him a great addition with the veterans Pittsburgh has assembled on the OL as the Steelers groom their future franchise LT.
ROUND 2 (#49 OVERALL)— DERICK HALL/EDGE/AUBURN
Analysis: Pittsburgh has addressed almost every roster need in free agency this offseason outside of OLB depth behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. One could stand to speculate Pittsburgh may look to land a real value on Day Two of the draft by nabbing a talented edge rusher in a deep EDGE draft class. They get Auburn EDGE Derick Hall in this scenario, a player Alex Kozora and I have profiled as a classic Steelers OLB. He has the frame Pittsburgh looks for, standing 6026, 254 pounds with 34 1/2-inch arms. Also a stout run defender, he wins with strength, power, and relentless effort as a pass rusher.
While the emphasis is to beef up both the OL and DL this offseason, OLB is a glorified DL spot in Pittsburgh’s system. Assistant GM Andy Weidl is used to having multiple pass rushers rotate in to keep bodies fresh and provide constant pressure on the QB. Hall would do just that, teaming up with Watt and Highsmith to drastically improve Pittsburgh’s pass rush.
ROUND 3 (#80 OVERALL)— GERVON DEXTER/DL/FLORDIA
Analysis: The Steelers have re-signed Larry Ogunjobi to start at defensive end and have added a couple bodies to the NT position, but they should continue to inject youth and talent into their DL. They draft a versatile defender who profiles more as a 3-tech/4i but has the size and skill set to play in the middle of the defense in defensive lineman Gervon Dexter, who has impressive size (6’6, 312lb) along with his strength to manhandle blockers. He can be a handful to block when he plays with technique and leverage. He struggled with consistency last season, having moments where the motor would run hot and cold and would become a non-factor in games.
Still, Dexter has traits you can’t teach. He could come in as a third-round pick and develop behind the starters, learning from the likes of Cameron Heyward and Ogunjobi as he rotates in during Year One and moves into a more prominent role in his second season.
ROUND 4 (#120 OVERALL)— XAVIER HUTCHINSON/WR/IOWA STATE
Analysis: The Steelers have a knack for hitting on mid-round WRs, and they could stand to draft another one to add a reliable slot option to the offense. While Calvin Austin III is coming back from a foot injury, Iowa State WR Xavier Hutchinson would be the perfect complement to Austin to round out Pittsburgh’s WR corps. Hutchinson, who stands just a shade under 6’2 and weighs 203lb, may not have freakish athleticism in terms of speed (4.53 40), but he has the versatility to play in the slot as well as on the outside. He also knows how to generate separation to get open in coverage.
He is a volume, possession receiver who can be a security blanket, having the strength and size to make contested catches. Built in a similar mold to Adam Thielen with a similar skill set, Hutchinson would be a great addition to help Kenny Pickett take a leap in 2023, giving Pittsburgh a reliable chain mover who can extend drives.
ROUND 5 (#153 OVERALL VIA TB)— CLAYTON TUNE/QB/HOUSTON
Analysis: With the pick Pittsburgh gets in the Kevin Dotson trade, it selects its future backup QB in Houston’s Clayton Tune. This may seem early to take the team’s QB3, but Pittsburgh has shown an emphasis in having good depth at QB, holding both Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph throughout the season last year while keeping Trubisky and his salary for the 2023 season. Weidl also comes from a Philly team that put an emphasis on drafting and developing young QB talent, suggesting the same may occur in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers brought in Tune for a pre-draft visit and have shown notable interest in him during the pre-draft process, having the size, mobility, and arm talent to match what they currently have in the room. He could come in as the team’s QB3 this season and take over as Pickett’s primary backup next season when Trubisky’s contract is up.
ROUND 7 (#234 OVERALL)— ANTHONY BRADFORD/OG/LSU
Analysis: After trading Dotson to Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh looks to fill his spot with a new mean, road-grading IOL. They do just that by drafting Anthony Bradford out of LSU. Slept on during the draft process, he possesses an enormous frame (6’4, 332lb) with impressive strength and athleticism. He played at both tackle and guard during his college career and profiles as a nasty run blocker, imposing his will on his opposition in the trenches. He needs to work on his lateral movement skills in pass protection, but Bradford could come in as a game day inactive his first season as he develops and provide depth with Nate Herbig on a revamped Pittsburgh OL.
ROUND 7 (#241 OVERALL)— CAM JONES/LB/INDIANA
Analysis: The Steelers round out the draft by selecting Indiana LB Cam Jones with their final draft pick. Jones missed seven games this past season due to injury and lacks ideal size (6’1, 226lb). He is an experienced prospect with tons of leadership, having been elected as a three-time team captain at IU. He has a great play demeanor and was a tackling machine for the Hoosiers, using his instincts to take him to the football with relative ease. Jones can come in and round out Pittsburgh’s ILB corps, adding another core special teamer to the fold while giving Mark Robinson and Tanner Muse competition to be the team’s third option behind the starters.