This is the eighth in a 10-part series that concludes Wednesday, the day before the 2023 NFL Draft starts. Each day Depot staff members offer their spin on a Steelers-related draft question.
How high of a pick would you use on an outside linebacker?
Scott Brown: First round. Not saying I would prioritize outside linebacker over offensive tackle and cornerback but edge is premium position. Not just in “Blitzburgh” but across the NFL. We saw how the Steelers’ pass rush cratered in 2022 after T.J. Watt went down with a serious injury late in the second-opening win at Cincinnati. In the two games that bookended the season — when Watt was healthiest — the Steelers had 14 sacks. They had nine in the seven games Watt missed with a torn pectoral muscle.
Drafting a third pass rusher who can contribute right away would give the Steelers injury insurance. It would also help keep Watt and Alex Highsmith fresh over the grind of a 17-game season. If the Steelers love a cornerback or offensive tackle who is available at No. 17 then by all means take that player. If they don’t then pivot to another position. Like outside linebacker.
Joe Cammarota: I would go as high as 49. It is certainly a need as depth is desperately needed there, but I think cornerback is more important. I also think that between offensive tackle and EDGE, tackle is more important. T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith have the two starting spots locked down for a while so I would go for the upgrade/possible starter at offensive tackle at 17 instead of for depth.
I don’t think you can wait until after 49 though. After the release of Jamir Jones there really is nothing behind Watt and Highsmith. While the hope is they both stay healthy, the Steelers can’t bank on that. Plus they like to rotate their pass rushers throughout the game to give their starters breathers and be fresh later in the game. You need quality backups so that when Watt and/or Highsmith are out the pass rush doesn’t lose too much juice.
Josh Carney: I can’t bring myself to say Round One, but I wouldn’t be opposed to using the 32nd pick on one. OLB3 behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith is a massive need for the Steelers. We saw how critical that position is without Watt last season. The Steelers have tried some patchwork at the position in recent years — Malik Reed, Derrek Tuszka, Jamir Jones, etc. Time to solve it for good. Names like Kansas State’s Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Auburn’s Derick Hall, USC’s Tuli Tuipulotu and even Iowa State’s Will McDonald IV make sense. Throw Georgia Tech’s Keion White in there as well. If you’re going to get a third OLB in this draft, do it rather early.
Jonathan Heitritter: I could see myself using #17 overall if the right guy was there. Will Anderson Jr. has no shot along with Tyree Wilson but should Myles Murphy fall to #17 and the top CBs and OTs are gone and I can’t trade out, it could be interesting. I would have no problem adding Murphy and finding a way to get him, T.J. Watt, and Alex Highsmith on the field at the same time on third downs.
Alex Kozora: Round One is out of the question, but I sure wouldn’t be mad about doing it sooner than later. The Steelers’ defense was a shell of itself after losing T.J. Watt last season and going into 2023 with the same lack of depth of 2022 should be a federal offense. Even since trading Melvin Ingram, Pittsburgh’s EDGE depth has been “we don’t have any, please please please no one get hurt.” Bad strategy. EDGE rushers are the engines of the Steelers’ defense. They need a rotation and they need injury protection. Round Three is a sweet spot for EDGE help though I wouldn’t kick Auburn’s Derick Hall out of bed in the second round.
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Previous Depot draft discussions:
Best draft pick in Steelers history