Steelers Beef Up Trenches In Dane Brugler’s 7-Round Mock Draft For The Athletic

The Pittsburgh Steelers want to play a certain style of football, at least based on the moves made in free agency.

That style? Pound the rock on the ground and stop the run at high rate defensively.

Knowing that, The Athletic’s Dane Brugler added serious beef in the trenches in his seven-round mock draft that dropped Monday morning, addressing the age-old Wendy’s commercial, Where’s the beef? 

At No. 17 overall, Brugler paired the Steelers with Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr.

“This pairing would be another entertaining story given the Porter bloodlines, but obviously this pick is more than that,” Brugler writes. “Though the Steelers added veteran Patrick Peterson this offseason, the chance to add a young, long and promising corner would be an upgrade for the present and future.”

The pairing of Porter Jr. with the Steelers remains a popular one. It will only continue to generate more and more buzz moving forward with the Steelers having a serious need at the position. Pittsburgh lost Cameron Sutton in free agency but was able to quickly replace him with veteran Peterson.

Still, Peterson turns 33 in July, and the likes of Levi Wallace, Ahkello Witherspoon and James Pierre provide depth behind the veteran cornerback.

Porter Jr. and the Steelers have been discussed ad nauseam since last summer when the former Penn State standout was projected to leave school early and enter the 2023 NFL Draft. That ended up happening, and it just so happens to line up with the Steelers’ need for a true No. 1 cornerback opposite Peterson, especially in a loaded AFC that features star quarterbacks and receivers.

While Porter Jr. is considered a high-end prospect due to his physical traits (6024, 193 Lbs., 34-inch arms, 4.46 40-yard dash, 35-inch vertical), the tape is a bit concerning. Porter Jr. can get a bit grab-happy, leading to penalties, and the production just isn’t quite there with just one career interception during his time in Happy Valley.

Following the selection of Porter Jr. at No. 17, Brugler added the beef for the Steelers with the next three picks, landing Florida offensive lineman O’Cyrus Torrence at No. 32 overall, Ohio State offensive tackle Dawand Jones at No. 49 overall, and Baylor defensive tackle Siaki Ika at No. 80 overall, addressing the trenches in a major way.

Torrence is an interesting selection, considering his questionable fit on the Steelers after the franchise added Isaac Seumalo and Nate Herbig in free agency to shore up the guard position alongside James Daniels. Hypothetically, Daniels could kick to center, Seumalo could slot in at right guard and Torrence at left guard, but that would be a lot of moving parts.

Still, the Steelers like Torrence a lot, hosting him for a pre-draft visit, along with seeing him up close and in person at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine.

“Torrence is a player the Steelers likely will consider at No. 17, and they would jump at the value of drafting him here,” Brugler writes regarding the Steelers’ pick at No. 32. “Pittsburgh wants to commit to the run game with people movers up front. Torrence certainly fits that mold.”

Torrence does fit that mold, as does Jones, who would be terrific value at No. 49 overall. Landing Ika at No. 80 overall would shore up depth defensively and would give the Steelers a high-ceiling nose tackle with some pass rush juice.

After adding the beef, the Steelers landed Purdue wide receiver Charlie Jones in the fourth round at No. 120 in Brugler’s mock draft. That addressed the need for a third receiver to pair with Diontae Johnson and George Pickens.

Jones had a breakout 2022 campaign, his first and only season at Purdue. He had 110 receptions for 1,361 yards and 12 touchdowns while helping the Boilermakers make the Big Ten Championship game. Jones is also a skilled returner, as he had 77 career punt returns for 622 yards and a touchdown while also adding 45 career kick returns for 1,002 yards and a touchdown. He was the Big Ten Returner of the Year in 2021.

Following the selection of Jones, Brugler rounded out the Steelers’ draft by taking North Dakota State fullback Hunter Luepke at No. 234 overall in the seventh round, and Georgia EDGE Robert Beal Jr. at No. 241 overall.

“The Steelers are one of the few teams interested in having a talent like Luepke in their offense. Derek Watt is unsigned, and if Pittsburgh doesn’t move Connor Heyward to this type of role, Luepke would be a great fit because of his pass-catching skills and potential special-teams impact,” Brugler writes.

As for Beal, the Steelers have shown interest in the Georgia EDGE, hosting him for a pre-draft visit.

Beal spent five years in the Bulldogs’ program, accumulating 72 total tackles and 10 sacks. His best season came in 2021, when he had 24 tackles and a team-leading 6.5 sacks. He also finished his career with 11.5 tackles for a loss.

Beal was Shrine Bowl invite but didn’t participate as he recovered from Georgia’s season after it went undefeated and won it second national championship in as many years. A former five-star recruit who played at a major program, Beal has the pedigree the Steelers like in their draft picks and ran a 4.48 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. He’s a prototypical 3-4 outside linebacker, and for a Steelers team that needs depth at that position, he could be a nice pickup on Day 3 of the draft.

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