In roughly 36 hours, the 2023 NFL Draft will kick off in Kansas City, giving all 32 teams the opportunity to address holes on their rosters following a busy offseason with free agency and trades.
A number of prospects will see their NFL dreams come true, but how exactly it all plays out is anyone’s guess.
Fortunately, Pro Football Focus has some best- and worst-case scenarios that could play out for the Pittsburgh Steelers starting on Thursday night in Kansas City that could leave fans ecstatic or rather upset, depending on the direction the Steelers move in under Omar Khan in his first draft as the Steelers’ general manager.
The best-case scenario for the Steelers involves having the top cornerback available to pick at No. 17 overall in the first round, according to PFF’s Jim Wyman.
“The Steelers are thin at cornerback at the moment, with the 32-year-old Patrick Peterson their top player at the position. Luckily for them, the 2023 class provides a strong cornerback group,” Wyman writes regarding the best-case scenario for the Steelers in the NFL Draft. “A potential dream scenario would be Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon falling to them, which is a possibility. Witherspoon was the highest-graded cornerback in all of college football last season, and the only real knock against him is that 2022 was the first time he put up above-average production as a starter, let alone elite production. Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr. also makes plenty of sense, going to his father’s old stomping grounds, and the Steelers could use a cornerback with his press-man abilities.”
After losing Cameron Sutton in free agency to the Detroit Lions, Pittsburgh did a nice job of pivoting quickly and inking the veteran Patrick Peterson to a two-year deal to shore up the cornerback position. Still, the group is a concern overall with Peterson, Levi Wallace, Ahkello Witherspoon, James Pierre, Arthur Maulet and Madre Harper as the lone guys on the roster at the position with NFL experience.
Fortunately for Pittsburgh, it’s a deep, talented cornerback class. Should Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon fall to 17, that would be a dream scenario for the Steelers as he exemplifies what a Steelers cornerback is. However, Pittsburgh hasn’t shown much interest in him throughout the pre-draft process, whereas they have with the likes of Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr., Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez and Maryland’s Deonte Banks.
Wyman believes that the Steelers not addressing the offensive line until the third round of the draft on Friday would be the worst-case scenario, as it would occur after the Steelers’ first three picks at No. 17, No. 32, and 49 overall.
“The Steelers don’t necessarily need to go offensive line with their top pick, as cornerback might be a bigger need. But it’s not a deep class for any offensive line spot, and Pittsburgh may risk missing out on an opportunity to improve on a very mediocre unit if they wait until the third round,” Wyman writes. “The franchise has two picks in the top 32 thanks to the Chase Claypool trade, so the opportunity for them to grab a lineman should be there.”
Waiting until the third round to grab an offensive tackle or even a center in this class would be a major mistake by the Steelers. Even if Khan and Co. decide to pass on offensive tackle in the first round, options at No. 32 and No. 49 overall — assuming they still have those picks after the first round is over — are ideal spots to grab an offensive tackle or a center, maybe even both.
After an offseason in which the Steelers brought in guards Isaac Seumalo and Nate Herbig in free agency, offensive line isn’t as big of a need as other positions, but the Steelers would be wise to continue investing around second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett, ensuring he’s protected and remains set up for success.