Steelers Focus On Defense In The Athletic Three-Round Mock Draft

Earlier today, Nick Baumgardner of The Athletic released his three-round mock draft, and the Pittsburgh Steelers ended up focusing on defense, with three of their first four picks coming on the defensive side of the ball. With the top three corners off the board after the New England Patriots selected Joey Porter Jr. at No. 14, the Steelers selected Clemson EDGE Myles Murphy at No. 17 before selecting Ohio State OT Dawand Jones at No. 32, Iowa LB Jack Campbell at No. 49 and Kansas State CB Julius Brents at No. 80.

“A pair of Iowa guys (sort of — Brents transferred from Iowa to Kansas State) and a true right tackle gives the Steelers upgrades at several spots of need. This feels like a Steelers draft: prospects with a lot of power and length,” Baumgardner wrote.

If the Steelers do opt to address EDGE in the first round, Murphy is probably as good of an option as they could have. Standing at 6’5 and 268 pounds, Murphy played Power 5 football at Clemson and racked up 116 career tackles with 18.5 sacks in three years. Notably, he also had a nose for the football, forcing six fumbles during his time with the Tigers. In his draft profile, Owen Straley assigned Murphy and early-to-mid Day 1 grade. He compared Murphy to current Minnesota Vikings EDGE Marcus Davenport, who has 21.5 sacks in five seasons.

As for Jones, he would give the Steelers a potential option to start at offensive tackle. A massive human at 6’8 and 374 pounds, Jones seemingly has the ideal size for the tackle position. The only question is whether it’s too much size. Jones’ weight is going to be the biggest question mark that surrounds him, especially after he didn’t weigh-in at his Pro Day and was a limited participant throughout the event. But he was a standout on the lone day he participated at the Senior Bowl, and his elite wingspan makes him a hard man to get around, especially given that he moves well for his size. He had dinner with Mike Tomlin before his Pro Day, so there’s demonstrated interest, but Jones is going to have his manage his weight if he’s going to be successful in Pittsburgh.

Even though the Steelers addressed the inside linebacker position in free agency by signing Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts, the team rotated three inside linebackers pretty regularly last year. If the team thinks Mark Robinson needs more time to develop, snagging Campbell at No. 49 would be an awesome pick. As Alex Kozora wrote during the NFL Combine, Campbell just looks and feels like a Pittsburgh Steeler. In four collegiate seasons, Campbell’s accounted for 299 tackles, including 12.5 for a loss to go along with three sacks and five interceptions. He tested well at the Combine, and he would certainly be very enticing for the Steelers if he was on the board at No. 49.

I think if Brents is around at No. 80, he would be the type of player for whom the Steelers sprint to get the card. He’s a long, rangy defender at 6’3, 198 pounds who visited with the Steelers earlier this week and was very productive during his senior season. While part of a Kansas State team that won a Big 12 Championship in 2022, Brents had four interceptions and 45 passes defended along with 45 tackles. It’s a deep corner class, and while fans might get restless waiting for Pittsburgh to take a corner if they do wait until the third round, Brents would be worth waiting for.

This draft would be a fun one for the Steelers. They shore up their EDGE depth with a guy in Murphy, who’s a first-round talent but could benefit from playing behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith for a year while. They get two good talents in Campbell and Brents later in the draft. Pair that with a high-risk/high-reward move by drafting Jones, and I think that if this were the case, Omar Khan’s first draft would be met with approval.

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