Entering the 2023 NFL Draft, offensive tackle and cornerback were two of the biggest needs for the Pittsburgh Steelers, at least according to NFL draftniks leading up to the three-day selection process.
The Steelers showed that they believed offensive tackle was their biggest need Thursday night, trading up from No. 17 overall to No. 14 with the New England Patriots to select Georgia’s Broderick Jones, giving Pittsburgh one of the top tackle prospects in the class.
The move, which required Pittsburgh to send No. 120 overall to the Patriots in the fourth round on Saturday, earned the Steelers the label of first-round “winner” from ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. Friday morning.
“Pittsburgh got a plug-and-play starter at tackle. He didn’t allow a single sack on 446 pass block snaps for the national champs last season,” Kiper Jr. wrote regarding Pittsburgh’s selection of Jones at No. 14 overall. “The Steelers moved up three spots with the Patriots, trading away No. 120 overall to do it, and these are the types of trades up the board I like. Giving up a fourth-round pick won’t hurt the rest of this team’s haul, which includes two second-round picks. I expect Jones to start in Week 1.”
Expecting Jones, who started just 19 games at left tackle for Georgia over three seasons, to start in Week 1 is quite the reach.
Jones is a younger prospect (he turns 22 in May), and while he has some impressive physical traits, you often prefer tackles to have more experience and to be further along in their development before thrusting them into the starting job on the blindside. While Jones has more upside than Steelers incumbent left tackle Dan Moore Jr., the latter would likely continue to start for the majority, if not the entire 2023 season, until Jones is ready to take the starting job.
Even if he’s not a Week 1 starter like Kiper Jr. — who called him a “plug-and-play starter” — is expecting, it’s still a good pick by the Steelers. They got a guy they targeted throughout the draft process and had to give up very little to go up and get him, jumping a team like the New York Jets to secure a potential franchise left tackle for quarterback Kenny Pickett.
While Jones didn’t allow a sack last season, the redshirt sophomore is still pretty raw in pass protection. He carries his hands low prior to his punch and can be inconsistent in terms of syncing his hands and feet in pass sets. He is also fairly lean as an OT and will face tougher competition on the edge at the next level. That will challenge his technique as well as his size and frame with power. Still, there’s a lot to like with Jones, and the Steelers did very well to land a guy at a position of need and continue to invest in the protection in front of Pickett and third-year running back Najee Harris.