Steelers Trade Up, Land Key Building Block In Three-Round PFF Mock Draft

Sitting at No. 17 in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers are in a precarious spot when it comes to landing that potential franchise altering piece. The 17th pick isn’t a bad spot but based on projections during the pre-draft buildup, sitting where the Steelers are could make it difficult to land that true foundational piece.

That’s why Pro Football Focus’ Mike Renner has Steelers’ GM Omar Khan and assistant GM Andy Weidl being rather aggressive in his latest three-round mock, trading up to No. 12 overall with the Houston Texans to land a franchise altering piece in Georgia offensive tackle Broderick Jones.

In the trade up, the Steelers give up picks No. 17, 80 and 120 to move up five spots and land one of the top tackles in the class.

“The Steelers saw the tackle run and decided to flip Pick Nos. 17, 80 and 120 to jump the tackle-needy Jets for Broderick Jones. He could truthfully replace either of the Steelers’ starters on the outside from last year,” Renner writes. 

The selection of Jones is a sound one for the Steelers. He certainly looks the part of a potential franchise left tackle at 6’5, 311 pounds with 34 3/4” arms and 10 5/8” hands. Jones tested well at the NFL Combine, running a 4.97 40 while jumping 30” in the vert and 9’0” in the broad. You see that athleticism pop on the tape. He does a great job getting out in space as a run blocker, showing off his movement skills as well as his strength to overwhelm smaller defenders in the ground game.

While Jones didn’t allow a sack last season, the redshirt sophomore still is 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 for an OT that 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.

Jones is a younger prospect (he turns 22 in May) who only started 19 games in three seasons at Georgia. 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 Dan Moore Jr., the latter would likely continue to start over Jones for the majority, if not the entire 2023 season. Or at least until Jones is ready to take the starting job.

Based on his tape, age and overall skill set, Jones would probably start the season behind Moore and Chuks Okorafor as the swing tackle and extra in-line blocker in heavy personnel. So he wouldn’t have as big an impact on the Steelers in 2023 as Renner is projecting, at least currently.

Following the selection of Jones at No. 12, the Steelers flipped to the defensive side of the football at No. 32 overall in Renner’s mock draft. They landed Kansas State edge Felix Anudike-Uzomah to kick off the second round.

“Anudike-Uzomah is the perfect type of bendy edge rusher to put across from T.J. Watt,” Renner writes. “Those two will meet often at the quarterback in the coming years if he’s the pick.”

Anudike-Uzomah is capable of turning the corner and bending the edge but he prefers to start his rushes with power to test the tackle and make him worried about getting beat down the middle, not around. Despite being only 255 pounds, he’s lauded for his play strength and power.

With very little depth behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, the Steelers need to address the OLB3 role, which is where Anudike-Uzomah would come in.

At No. 49 overall with their last pick in the three-round mock draft due to the trade up, the Steelers landed South Carolina cornerback Cam Smith in interesting fashion, with the highly ranked cornerback falling into Pittsburgh’s lap in the middle of the second round.

“Versatile and smart defensive backs are a Steelers defensive staple. Smith may not have ideal traits, but he can line up anywhere in a secondary,” Renner writes. 

Getting that caliber of cornerback — Smith is considered a consensus top 5-7 player at the position — at No. 49 overall would be quite the haul for the Steelers, especially at a position of major need.

With six career interceptions, including four in the last two seasons, Smith has demonstrated near-elite ball skills. In addition to his three interceptions during his junior season in 2021, Smith also contributed 11 pass deflections.

Owen Straley gave him a mid-late first-round grade in his profile for Steelers Depot. He called Smith “as complete a cornerback prospect as you will see” and compared him to Stephon Gilmore, another South Carolina product, as a prospect.
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