Steelers Plug Key Holes In PFF Three-Round Mock Draft

This time next week, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be gearing up to make their first selection in the 2023 NFL Draft, putting an end to all the speculation and debates.

For now though, time remains to do just that.

Pro Football Focus’ Trevor Sikkema and Connor Rogers, on a recent episode of the NFL Stock Exchange Podcast focusing on the NFL Draft, released a three-round mock draft. In that mock, the Steelers plugged some key holes on the roster.

Let’s dive in.

At No. 17 overall, the Steelers landed Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr., giving Pittsburgh a high-end cornerback with which to work under veteran Patrick Peterson, who was signed as a free agent this off-season.

Porter Jr. was the selection over the likes of Iowa EDGE Lukas Van Ness, Georgia EDGE Nolan Smith and Alabama safety Brian Branch in this exercise.

The pairing of Porter Jr. with the Steelers remains a popular one. It will only continue to generate 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 that the Steelers have a 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.

There’s certainly a feel-good story there though, and the Steelers do like feel-good stories. He’s certainly a fit on and off the field, as he’d be returning home.

If Porter Jr. were the guy, it would check a lot of the boxes that the Steelers look for, including his being an underclassman but with plenty of experience (34 games) and having NFL bloodlines. Add in the obvious need at cornerback and the pairing of Porter Jr. and the Steelers makes sense.

In his Penn State career, Porter Jr. recorded 113 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, one interception and 20 passes defensed. He also earned a number of individual accolades, including second-team All-American (2022), first-team All-Big Ten (2022), Penn State’s Most Valuable Defensive Player (2022), third-team All-Big Ten (2021), and honorable mention All-Big Ten (2020).

Following the selection Porter Jr., Sikemma and Rogers paired the Steelers with Ohio State offensive tackle Dawand Jones at No. 32 overall and Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell at No. 49 overall, shoring up areas of need in the second round.

Jones is that hulking offensive tackle prospect in which the Steelers have shown interest in recent seasons. Minnesota’s Daniel Faalele (now with Baltimore) was a guy the Steelers liked quite a bit in 2022. Jones is that guy in 2023.

Here’s what Steelers Depot’s own Ross McCorkle had to say about Jones in his draft profile for the site: 

“Jones is an intriguing tackle prospect in the NFL. He is able to generate a lot of power with good use of hands. When paired with his unique length and overall size, he will create a lot of issues for pass rushers at the next level. He moves well for a 360 pounder, but change-of-direction is obviously going to be an issue against highly athletic edge rushers.

“He will be a sought-after tackle in this draft class, and there will likely be a lot of buzz around his arm length once the official measurements come out. My pro comparison is Orlando Brown.

“He would work well in a quick passing offense that utilizes power running schemes. Zone schemes could work if he isn’t being asked to climb to the second level often. Jones played right tackle in college, but if his hand usage translates, I don’t see a reason why he couldn’t play left tackle in the NFL. He can provide the team with upside to be the long-term solution at tackle. He very well could end up on the Steelers’ radar for one of their three top 50 draft picks.”

As for Campbell, he’s arguably the top linebacker in the class, so getting him at No. 49 overall would be quite the haul for the Steelers.

Campbell was a highly productive inside linebacker at Iowa, where he finished his four-year career with 305 tackles 13.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks, three forces fumbles, 15 pass breakups, and five interceptions. Campbell also captained the Iowa defense in 2021 and 2022, showing his leadership ability, and won the Butkus Award for top linebacker in the nation this past season.

Following the selection of Campbell, the Steelers landed Texas defensive lineman Moro Ojomo at No. 80 overall, rounding out the three-round exercise by Sikemma and Rogers.

Ojomo is an intriguing defensive line piece, a guy who is able to line up all over the defensive front.

Here’s what I wrote about Ojomo in my draft profile for the site: 

“There’s a lot to like about Ojomo as a run defender. He has great length and uses it in the run game to stay clean and find the football. He’s able to hold up well inside and really understands leverage against the run. He will be able to make an impact right away at the next level as a run defender, though he’s best suited for an even front where he can slide all over the formation.

“As a pass rusher, Ojomo leaves much to be desired, though he showed real improvement down the stretch in that department in 2022. With his length and athleticism, Ojomo should be able to develop into a versatile piece that a defensive coordinator can move all around and search for matchups that favor him in the trenches. He reminds me of a guy like B.J. Hill, who is an impactful run defender, but is still trying to carve out a role in pass-rush situations.

“Ojomo will be a solid piece in a defensive line rotation. He’ll be able to stay fresh throughout games and won’t have to do too much early in his career while he continues to develop overall.”

Overall, it’s a solid three-round haul for the Steelers. The only real concern in the exercise is the selection of Jones at No. 32 overall over names like Clemson’s Bryan Bresee, Minnesota’s John Michael Schmitz and Wisconsin’s Keeanu Benton. Jones certainly fills a need, but there are serious concerns about the player.

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