2023 NFL Draft

Stacking The Box: Steelers Set Up To Hit Trenches Hard In 2023 NFL Draft

Alex Kozora worded it best: this has been the busiest Steelers offseason ever.

GM Omar Khan and assistant GM Andy Weidl kicked off their tenure as the top men in the front office with a bang, starting by trading WR Chase Claypool in-season for the right to what has become to top pick in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft. They have pieced together the most active free agency period Pittsburgh has ever seen, signing outside free agents including CB Patrick Peterson, S Keanu Neal, LBs  Cole Holcomb, Elandon Roberts, and Tanner Muse, DL Breiden Fehoko and Armon Watts, and OL Isaac Seumalo and Nate Herbig. They also brought back several of their own key free agents and just agreed on a trade with the Rams to acquire veteran WR Allen Robinson for pennies on the dollar.

Simply put, the Steelers have left no stone unturned when it comes to retooling their roster prior to the start of the 2023 NFL Draft. With the first night of action just about a week away, The Steelers have set themselves up to go several different directions, having solidified starters at CB, SS, OG, LB, and slot WR. While CB and OT remain this team’s biggest perceived needs and their most likely first-round selection, Pittsburgh’s offseason moves have it set up to do what it set out to do this season: become a more physical team in the trenches on both sides of the ball.

Sure, the team added two starting-caliber OGs into the fold of the offensive line, but the tackle position looks to be ready for a makeover as well with names like Darnell Wright from Tennessee and Dawand Jones often being associated with Pittsburgh as an upgrade over either Dan Moore Jr. or Chukwuma Okorafor. Pittsburgh also hasn’t been shy when scouting the center position, showing heavy interest in John Michael Schmitz from Minnesota, Joe Tippmann from Wisconsin, and Steve Avila from TCU as potential value selections who could become Pittsburgh’s future at the position for years to come.

The defensive line brought in several names to factor in at nose tackle and re-signed Larry Ogunjobi to start opposite Cameron Heyward in Pittsburgh’s sub packages along the interior They still could use a young, talented 3 tech/4i with pass rush upside to groom behind Heyward and Ogunjobi. Drafting a top-tier NT also could give Pittsburgh a long-term solution in the middle of the defense rather than relying on average journeymen rotating in to get the job done.

The EDGE class is one of the deepest in this year’s draft, having nearly 15 names deserving of a third-round grade or earlier. This means that Pittsburgh should have quite a value present itself on Day Two of the draft and potentially on Day Three, giving the team a cheap, long-term solution at OLB3 behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith as the defense bolsters its depth at pass rusher.

While Pittsburgh added two starters and a core special-teams ace at LB this offseason, they still, lack a home-grown solution at the position it has missed since Ryan Shazier. Addressing the position on Day Two of the draft is plausible with Jack Campbell from Iowa, Trenton Simpson for Clemson, and Drew Sanders from Arkansas all being likely Round 2 picks. However, there will be several options available later on Day Three in the fourth round that can become depth pieces initially with the potential to develop into a starter as is the hope with ILB Mark Robinson.

With Pittsburgh trading for a proven veteran like Allen Robinson, it could turn its attention to upgrading over Zach Gentry at TE2. This draft class is loaded at TE from top-to-bottom, meaning that a great value will be available to Pittsburgh either early in the draft with a guy like Darnell Washington on Day Two or someone like Zack Kuntz or Payne Durham being available on Day Three.

Simply put, the Pittsburgh Steelers are set up to hit the draft hard to become the bully in the AFC North. While it still is likely that this team will take a CB with one of its top two picks and that WR and S can’t be ruled out, the additions to the roster as well as the focus of this pre-draft process could have Pittsburgh turning its attention to loading up at OL, DL, EDGE, and possibly off-ball LB with four of its top five picks.

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