2023 NFL Draft

Steelers Go EDGE In First Round Of Newest NFL.com Seven Round Mock Draft

For whatever it’s worth, it feels like Iowa EDGE Lukas Van Ness is gaining at least a little steam to be on Pittsburgh’s radar pick #17. That’s reflected in Chad Reuter’s latest mock draft for NFL.com, a hearty seven-round addition that was Van Ness keeping his black and gold Iowa jersey and going to Pittsburgh.

Explaining the pick, Reuter writes:

“Van Ness’ versatility means the Steelers could use him inside or outside. Sometimes he moves like T.J. Watt on the edge, and other times, his game mirrors that of former Pittsburgh star end Aaron Smith.”

Van Ness has size at 6’5, 272 pounds with length but it might make him something of a tweener with the Steelers, something they’re already wrestling with in DeMarvin Leal. With 13 sacks over his last two seasons, despite playing in a rotational role, there is production and he Van Ness crucially check the box of having Mike Tomlin and Omar Khan attend his Pro Day workout. That can’t be ignored. Still, he’d be drafted to serve as the team’s #3 OLB in the short- and probably long-term, assuming an extension gets done with Alex Highsmith, and though Van Ness can move around, getting him enough snaps to justify a first-round selection is tricky. And a comparison to Aaron Smith seems…odd.

At pick #32, Reuter mocks the Steelers Oklahoma LT Anton Harrison. A logical selection given the team’s interest in the classes’ top offensive tackles, including a pre-draft visit with Harrison. Only 21 years old, he’s athletic and is a good pass protector who would immediately challenge Dan Moore Jr. for the starting job. There’s a steep fall off in the tackle class, as there often is, early in the second round so waiting after 32 for one is risky.

With the team’s other and original second-round pick, 49 overall, the Steelers grab Illinois DB Sydney Brown. A high-energy safety with the ability to play slot corner, Brown broke out in 2022 and picked off six passes. With a hot motor who supports the run, Brown is high-character and enters the draft alongside his twin brother Chase, a RB also coming out of Illinois. Brown could help bridge the safety/slot needs the Steelers have.

At pick #80 in the third round, Reuter mocks energetic Houston WR Tank Dell to the team. Similar to Calvin Austin, Dell lacks size (5083, 163) but was a playmaker for the Cougars. Despite a small frame, he was a red zone machine and the most productive wideout inside the 20, using his burst and route-running to create space.

Still, after trading for Allen Robinson and with Austin’s presence, this pick feels less likely, as fun as it might look on the field.

Heading into Day Three, the Steelers grab USC CB Mekhi Blackmon at #120 overall in the fourth round. A feisty corner at the line of scrimmage, he’s projected to play inside at the next level. A Colorado transfer to USC, he intercepted three passes last season and was active around the ball with 66 total tackles. In our scouting report, Tyler Wise put a fourth-round grade on him so this matches well.

Finally, with the team pair of seventh-round picks, the team grabs Louisville LB Yasir Abdullah and Michigan C Olu Oluwatimi. Abdullah, undersized at just over 6’0, played on the EDGE with 19.5 sacks the last two seasons. But he’ll likely transition to an off-ball linebacker who can line outside the tackle in sub-packages the next level. He tested well at the Combine with a 4.47 40, 36.5 inch vertical, and 10’9″ broad jump.

Oluwatimi this late in the draft is a surprise. Though he could be considered a sleeper, seeing him drop this low is a shock. The 2022 Rimington Award winner as college football’s best center, he’s a two-time transfer from Air Force and Virginia. With over 40 career starts and good tape, he should go higher than this but would be a steal in the seventh round and provide depth behind Mason Cole.

As a recap, here are the prospects mocked to the Steelers in Reuter’s seventh-round draft.

Steelers’ 7-Round Mock Draft

#17 – Lukas Van Ness/EDGE Iowa
#32 – Anton Harrison/OT Oklahoma
#49 – Sydney Brown/DB Illinois
#80 – Tank Dell/WR Houston
#120 – Mehki Blackmon/CB USC
#241 – Yasir Abdullah/LB Louisville
#251 – Olu Oluwatimi/C Michigan

Overall, it’s an interesting cast. Van Ness at the top would be a mild upset given the Steelers’ other first-round candidates while Harrison in the second round feels more conventional. Brown is solid while Dell is a good player even if Pittsburgh would have to hunt for ways to use him. Oluwatimi is the best value of the whole class.

You can check out the rest of Reuter’s mock at the link here. #1 is Alabama QB Bryce Young while Mr. Irrelevant at #259 is West Florida WR David Durden. And you better believe we have a scouting report on him. 

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