The Pittsburgh Steelers will surely consider drafting an offensive lineman in the first round of next week’s draft. It’s extremely likely that the lineman will be an offensive tackle, or at least would be a tackle-capable player. And Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus believes there are four players at the position who would not be a reach for the Steelers to take at 17 overall.
“I think Peter Skoronski, if he was to fall, he’s a top-10 pick for a lot of people”, he said on 93.7 The Fan with Andrew Fillipponi and Chris Mueller. “Paris Johnson [Jr.], I would say. Broderick Jones from Georgia. And then, I’m lower on Darnell Wright from Tennessee. He’ll probably be the Steelers’ pick so I can come on the radio next week to say, ‘I didn’t love the Steelers’ pick’. I’m lower on Darnell Wright but I get it”.
Wright is the most likely of the four to actually be there, so if the Steelers do end up taking an offensive lineman in the first round without trading around, he is likely to be their pick. And then Palazzolo would get the chance to hop back on to local radio and draw fire for not loving the pick. But he explained why, noting that Wright has some standout tape—but not enough of it.
“Darnell Wright was fantastic against Will Anderson. There was probably 10 pure one-on-one matchups that they had in pass protection. Wright did stone him, but that’s one game”, he said, referring to the Alabama pass rusher who may be off the board before any of these linemen are taken. “I look at his entire career. Every single snap taken into account. It just doesn’t match up with other successful offensive tackles, particularly in the first round”.
Palazzolo noted in particular that Wright is “not great in the run game” and has a strong tendency to fall off blocks and not sustain them. “The numbers are screaming ‘risky pick’ for me”, he added, though every pick carries with it some degree of risk.
Will the Steelers’ first-round draft pick be an offensive lineman? There’s a very good chance it will be, though cornerback and the defensive line will probably also be regarded as strong possibilities. It ultimately depends on how the board breaks.
I have no way of knowing this, but if I were to guess, I don’t think there is a candidate in the first round this year about which the Steelers would feel so strongly that they would trade up. Perhaps Johnson might be the strongest candidate, or cornerback Christian Gonzalez, but I’m not sure I would favor either move, especially if it were to cost them one of their second-round picks.
Pittsburgh’s starting tackles in 2022 combined to play all but one snap. They had the greatest consistency of personnel along the offensive line throughout the entire season, with the same starting five logging well over 90 percent of all offensive snaps.
The starting lineup will already be changing, however, with the signing of guard Isaac Seumalo in free agency. An early draft investment in the tackle position could well result in a 40 percent changeover to the unit—and for the better.