Steelers Spin: 2023 Steelers’ NFL Draft Cheat Sheet

The next generation of the Pittsburgh Steelers was launched in the 2022 offseason with the addition of quarterback Kenny Pickett as the team’s number one draft pick.

It took several games before the Steelers coaching staff acceded to the people’s wishes in giving him the starting role over journeyman Mitch Trubisky. When they did there was no looking back.

The future is now and it’s in the capable hands of Pickett and exciting young talents like WR George Pickens, TE Pat Freiermuth and RB Najee Harris.

Still-in-their-prime players like Diontae Johnson are expected to bounce back this year and we haven’t even mentioned the deep end of the talent pool on the defensive side.

This is what makes this year’s NFL Draft so thrilling for Steelers Nation. The team is rather imperfect, this we all know, yet potentially on the brink of becoming great again.

If the Steelers’ brass can get it right this week, the team could make a move to the upper echelons of the NFL elite.

The only problem? There are 31 other teams with the same mindset.

This is why we must be draft-perfect this time around. And because of this, I’ve made sure we don’t make any missteps by providing these round-by-round instructions for new General Manager Omar Khan and Head Coach Mike Tomlin.

Gentlemen. Please follow them without straying left or right in search of butterflies and you’ll be all but guaranteed a run for the roses this year.

So…let’s give it a Spin.

Best Offseason Move

The Steelers under former General Manager Kevin Colbert weren’t known for earthshaking transactions during the offseason. Traditionally, they’ve allowed free agency to be a pleasure enjoyed by other teams.

The Pittsburgh front office has been known to make some large moves via trades in the past. Probably the most successful of recent times was acquiring S Minkah Fitzpatrick in exchange for their number one pick of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Now. That was a winner.

One of this year’s transactions isn’t nearly as splashy yet might provide some of the best pound-for-pound trade value the Steelers have earned any time in the past decade.

Pittsburgh acquired WR Allen Robinson from the Los Angeles Rams for essentially a six-pack of cheap beer and a rusty harmonica. Not only that, but the Rams are essentially paying the Steelers to take him, bankrolling a huge chunk of his salary in the upcoming year.

Robinson has some injury issues, which could make this deal a fizzle if he doesn’t stay healthy, but the risk is so low because of the trade cost the Steelers would be human if they experienced some guilt for this thievery.

There’s value, of course, if Robinson ends up becoming another effective and trustworthy weapon for Pickett.

However, what’s already beneficial about the trade is what it will keep the Steelers from doing. That is spending another one of their high picks on a rookie receiver.

It’s commonly shared by NFL announcers and many fans that the Pittsburgh Steelers are exceptional in drafting wide receivers, and there certainly is plenty of truth in this line of thinking.

But is this strength actually a weakness for the team?

Are we so good at picking wide receivers, we are destroying our franchise?

Certainly, we’re all happy with George Pickens as a second-round draft pick last year. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any value from Calvin Austin last season as a fourth-round selection. It’s no fault of his due to injury, but it is what it is.

That’s two high selections out of our seven invested in wide receivers.

Are we completely sold on Diontae Johnson? He cost us a third-round draft pick and a massive contract last year.

And what about the second-round selections invested on Chase Claypool, James Washington and JuJu Smith-Schuster? We received some draft recoupment from Chase but what about the other two?

Can you imagine where the team would be today if we had invested all those blue-chip selections on offensive linemen? Can you imagine what kind of road-grading capability we would have? Or linebacking and cornerback talent like we did in the old days?

Even back to the Young Money days of Steelers star receivers. So much drama. Receivers just don’t stay around, and even when they do, they go crazy.

The Kansas City Chiefs proved you can have a premium offense with store-brand receivers, and the Steelers’ squad already has much more talent than theirs.

If there is one position the Spin would be happy to pass on throughout the entire draft, it is receiver. Fool us once, twice, three, four, five times and shame, shame on us.

Let’s do it right this year. Here’s exactly how round by round.

Round One

Here’s a look at the team’s recent Round One selections under Colbert: (2022) Kenny Pickett, (2021) Najee Harris, (2019) Devin Bush, (2018) Terrell Edmunds, (2017) T.J. Watt, (2016) Artie Burns, (2015) Bud Dupree, (2014) Ryan Shazier, (2013) Jarvis Jones, (2012) David DeCastro, (2011) Cameron Heyward and (2010) Maurkice Pouncey.

The Steelers are loaded with young offensive talent at the skill players. This is why the ONLY choice the Steelers should consider in the first round (Pick 17) is a top-tier lineman.

A top-graded offensive tackle will have the ability to not only improve Pickett’s game almost instantly but every other skilled position as well.

You get it? Draft one big guy and you improve in almost every other position. It’s like a five for one deal.

The Steelers will be tempted to draft a cornerback in this round, especially if a certain family member is available, but this would be a mistake.

The team’s offensive line has improved, but there isn’t a single position on the line that is untouchable.

It’s simple. Draft the best offensive lineman available.

Round Two

Here’s a look at most of the team’s Round Two selections under Colbert: (2022) George Pickens, (2021) Pat Freiermuth, (2020) Chase Claypool, (2018) James Washington, (2017) JuJu Smith-Schuster, (2016) Sean Davis, (2015) Senquez Golden, (2014) Stephon Tuitt, (2013) Le’Veon Bell, (2011) Marcus Gilbert, (2012) Mike Adams, (2010) Jason Worilds, (2008) Limas Sweed, (2007) Lamar Woodley, (2005) Bryant McFadden, (2004) Ricardo Colclough and (2003) Alonzo Jackson.

Full props to Claypool for being valuable enough to be traded for Chicago’s premium second-round selection (Pick 32).

It’s essentially a low first-round selection, and for this the Steelers need to simply rinse and repeat.

That’s right…choose the next best offensive lineman. You think I’m nuts? Offensive linemen are just about the most reliable and safe picks you can make in an NFL Draft. They typically “are what they are” and stay on the teams who first drafted them longer than most other positions.

But the true talents typically are off the board early. David DeCastro. Maurkice Pouncey. Kendall Simmons. Alan Faneca. All first-round picks.

I know. I know. You really want to choose a wide receiver, don’t you Steelers front office? Rather. At this pick, ask yourself this question: “Where’s the beef?”

Now…with the second selection of Round Two (Pick 49), here is where you have permission to choose the best available of these options: Cornerback, Middle Linebacker or Defensive Lineman.

However…if you’re feeling a bit frisky, I’m going to allow you to do something crazy. Trade it away to upgrade either one of your first two draft picks on offensive linemen.

Elite offensive linemen are SO much more valuable than merely good offensive lineman. It’s what creates game dominance if your guy is beating up theirs.

If you need to dump this lower second-round pick to get one of the top two left tackles, dump it like a bad habit. Or if it’s needed to give you the perfect mauler with choice number two, let it rip.

Round Three

Here’s a look at the team’s recent Round Three selections under General Manager Kevin Colbert: (2009) Mike Wallace and Keenan Lewis, (2010) Emmanuel Sanders, (2011) Curtis Brown, (2012) Sean Spence, (2013) Marcus Wheaton, (2014) Dri Archer, (2015) Sammie Coates, (2016) Javon Hargrave, (2017) James Conner, (2017) Cameron Sutton, (2018) Chukwuma Okorafor and Mason Rudolph, (2019) Justin Layne, (2020) Diontae Johnson and Alex Highsmith, (2021) Kendrick Green and (2022) DeMarvin Leal.

If you haven’t chosen a cornerback yet, this is the last Round you will be permitted to do so. Hoping that you’ll find another Ike Taylor in a lower round is much more hopeful than probable.

Slow cornerbacks can’t compete in the NFL. Their days always end chasing a rabbit into the end zone. Speedy, unathletic cornerbacks get burned by route runners in the NFL. Speedy, athletic cornerbacks that can’t catch? Those are in the fourth round. Just ask Ike.

If there isn’t a top-tier cornerback that has slipped through the cracks, take that position off the board.

At this point, your choices will only be defense. Middle linebackers or defensive linemen.

Read my lips. You do not need an edge linebacker.

Round Four

Recent Steelers fourth rounders include: (2011) Cortez Allen, (2012) Alameda Ta’Amu, (2013) Landry Jones and Shamarko Thomas, (2014) Martavis Bryant, (2015) Doran Grant, (2016) Jerald Hawkins, (2017) Joshua Dobbs, (2019) Benny Snell, (2020) Kevin Dotson and Anthony McFarland Jr., (2021) Buddy Johnson and Dan Moore, (2022) Calvin Austin.

This may surprise most NFL fans, but things start getting thin already by the fourth round. Sure, there may be a few who have terrible measurables but end up being a halfway decent professional, but those stories are more outliers statistically speaking.

Yes, you can rattle off a list of those who turned out to be great NFL players, but then I get to unravel the long, long scroll of those who played for two years and moved on to their next adventures hanging out with normal people like us.

So…at this point, I’d go for a defensive lineman, even if you already selected one. You can always use more big bodies to rotate in on the D.

Round Five

Nothing to see here. Move along.

Round Six

Still nothing to see here. What are you staring at?

Round Seven

Recent Steelers seventh rounders include: (2012) Kelvin Beachum, Terrence Frederick,  David Paulson, and Toney Clemons, (2013) Nicholas Williams, (2014) Rob Blanchflower, (2015) Gerod Holliman, (2016), Tyler Matakevich and Demarcus Ayers, (2017) Keion Adams, (2018) Joshua Frazier, (2019) Derwin Gray, (2020) Carlos Davis, (2021) Pressley Harvin III and Tre Norwood, (2022) Chris Oladokun and Mark Robinson.

These are the last two selections Pittsburgh has remaining in the draft. I’ll be honest. I really don’t care. Have fun Omar.

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