The praise for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ draft haul continues. After receiving praise from media types like NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, the Steelers’ selections under GM Omar Khan have also received praise from those closest to the scouting process. Senior Bowl Director Jim Nagy called Pittsburgh a clear winner on Day Two of the draft, listing the Steelers at the top of the list in an article for The 33rd Team.
“This is Pittsburgh’s first draft without longtime GM Kevin Colbert, and his successor Omar Khan seems very comfortable in the decision-maker’s chair,” Nagy wrote. “The Pittsburgh Steelers had plenty of trade suitors for the No. 32 pick, but they did what most people inside the league figured they’d do by taking franchise legacy Joey Porter Jr. (scouting report), the long-armed Penn State cornerback.”
Khan has followed in Colbert’s footsteps by taking “Steelers” players. Those with high character, good athleticism, and upside. Pittsburgh may have been tempted to trade down from #32 — the Steelers were flooded with calls throughout Friday — but stuck with the pick to take someone it considered grabbing at 17 in Penn State CB Joey Porter. With rare length, Porter is one of the classes’ top press-man corners and goes to a Steelers defense that plays as much man coverage as just about any unit in football. There is obvious comfort in the selection, too, with Mike Tomlin literally watching Porter grow up.
Nagy praised what the team got in Wisconsin DL Keeanu Benton, a Senior Bowl attendee who had a strong week in Mobile that helped put him on the map.
“Tomlin routinely gets right up in the middle of one-on-one drills, so he got an up-close look at Benton’s dominant practice week in Mobile, Ala.,” he wrote.
As we noted at the time, it felt like Tomlin was an extra coach at the Senior Bowl. No one got as close to the action as he did, standing right next to players in 1v1 drills and having the opportunity to see how these players responded to coaching and how they interacted with teammates. With size and length, Benton is a perfect Steelers fit for their system in an era where it’s getting harder and harder to find those types of players. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin confirmed that Benton will begin his career at nose tackle but has the scheme versatility to move around Pittsburgh’s front.
Finally, Nagy praised the team’s biggest value of the night in taking Georgia TE Darnell Washington after he fell in the draft due to concerns over his knee.
“The move that pushed the Steelers to the top of this “Winners” list was landing jumbo-sized mismatch nightmare Georgia TE Darnell Washington…many teams we spoke with the past few weeks had Washington as their top-graded tight end…” Nagy wrote.
Washington appears to have had at least two surgeries in college – one on his foot, one on his right knee – and his long frame invites defenders to cut out his legs to try and tackle him. But getting one of the top-ranked tight ends in an extremely deep class is awesome value that couldn’t be passed up, especially knowing the Steelers traded down from #80 and still picked him up.
All three players could make an immediate impact in Year One. Porter could be a sub-package corner; Benton is arguably the favorite to start at nose tackle; and Washington could serve as a key part of 12 personnel and red zone packages. Add in OT Broderick Jones in the first round and Khan is putting on a show in his first NFL draft, one that’s received universal praise from fans to the media to those directly involved in the draft process.