2023 NFL Draft

The Short List Of Steelers 2023 First-Round Candidates – *If* The Blue’s Clues Hold True

For over a decade, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first-round pick wasn’t always easy to predict (though often it was!) but it was simple to narrow down. Just follow Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert on the Pro Day trail and you’d land on their first-round choice. From at least 2010 through 2022, every single one of the Steelers’ first-round picks had Tomlin and/or Colbert personally attend his Pro Day workout, even the one time they went out west to see David DeCastro way back in 2012.

This year? Tomlin’s here, Colbert stepped down. Omar Khan and Andy Weidl are now the team’s GMs with Tomlin, Khan, and owner Art Rooney II making the final call on draft night. To a degree, we’re in new territory and the ironclad lock that was this history is a little less certain. But if it holds true, the Steelers’ first-round pick will be one of the names we end with below.

Using our handy dandy Pro Day tracker, we know Mike Tomlin and Omar Khan attended seven Pro Days this cycle. Assistant GM Andy Weidl, though technically not a decision-maker but also technically holding a GM title, made two stops. Below are all the schools we spotted them at with the realistic first round/early second round prospects who could be in the conversation at 17. Don’t worry, we’ll narrow this list down a bit more at the end but starting broad is a good beginning point.

Clemson – EDGE Myles Murphy, DL Bryan Bresee, ILB Trenton Simpson
Georgia – OT Broderick Jones, EDGE/ILB Nolan Smith, CB Kelee Ringo
Michigan – DT Mazi Smith
Iowa – EDGE Lukas Van Ness, ILB Jack Campbell
Iowa State – EDGE Will McDonald IV
Ohio State – OT Paris Johnson Jr., OT Dawand Jones, WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba
Alabama – DB Brian Branch
Penn State – CB Joey Porter Jr.
Tennessee – OT Darnell Wright, WR Jalin Hyatt

That’s 17 names. A pretty long list as our starting point.

From here my own bias and subjectivity comes into play. Guys who I think fit and who make the most sense based on additional trends like the interest they’ve shown at different positions. For example, the Steelers haven’t shown interest in a lot of top-round inside linebackers or wide receivers, instead opting to look at more mid-round options. Same with EDGE rushers. So we can begin to narrow things down a bit more and I’ll take a stab at eliminating another name or two who just don’t feel like options at 32.

Clemson – DL Bryan Bresee
Georgia – OT Broderick Jones
Michigan – DT Mazi Smith
Iowa – EDGE Lukas Van Ness
Iowa State – EDGE Will McDonald IV
Ohio State – OT Paris Johnson, OT Dawand Jones
Alabama – DB Brian Branch
Penn State – CB Joey Porter Jr.
Tennessee – OT Darnell Wright

Now a list of 10 names. You can fight me in the comments about the names I’m placing here and some of them are more likely than others. Paris Johnson probably won’t be at #17 (I can’t rule out trading up, though), McDonald at Iowa State seems like a stretch but I’m still keeping an open mind, especially given how difficult this draft is to predict.

So if the old history holds, the Steelers’ first-round pick will be one of these names. You can rank them any way you’d like but the most likely names would be the likes of Broderick Jones, Porter Jr, Branch and Wright.

What if the history changes? What if, just like Steve from Blue’s Clues, this data leaves and runs off to college? There may be some subtle signs of that with Maryland CB Deonte Banks coming in for a pre-draft visit and rumored to be in the mix at #17. Same with Miami (FL) CB Tyrique Stevenson, less likely but also rumored to be in the mix with Pittsburgh’s first-round pick.

After the draft wraps up, we’ll definitely come back to this list and the other “clues” in Steelers’ draft history to see what’s the same and more importantly, what’s changed.

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