As the 2023 NFL Draft began, many had no idea what direction the Pittsburgh Steelers were going to go. The team was linked with cornerbacks and offensive tackles heavily, and as the draft was approaching pick No. 17 it seemed the Steelers would have plenty of cornerbacks to choose from. But the team had its eye of Georgia tackle Broderick Jones and traded with the New England Patriots to jump to pick No. 14, leapfrogging the New York Jets.
Today, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin joined The Rich Eisen Show and spoke about why the team decided to trade up.
“We were speculating there and plus there was the run on the position starting I think with Darnell Wright at about 10 where they were coming off pretty clean and we just had that as a position of priority and we had Broderick as an individual of priority,” said Tomlin. “And so we knew with the (Jets’) acquisition of Aaron Rodgers and so forth they might be fishing in those waters. And so we did what we thought we needed to do to get the player in the position that we coveted.”
The Jets notably finalized the trade for former Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers just days before the NFL Draft, and in that trade the Jets moved from pick 13 to pick 15. With Rodgers in the fold it would have been important for the Jets to solidify their offensive line as much as possible for the aging quarterback so Jones would have been very appealing for them.
Speculation over New England making the trade solely to spite New York is overblown but Tomlin joked that they didn’t have to twist Bill Belichick’s arm to make a deal.
“I’ll put it this way, there wasn’t a lot of hesitation on New England’s end,” he said.
Pittsburgh clearly coveted Jones and Tomlin mentioned how Jones’ pedigree and talent really attracted the Steelers to him.
“First of all, he is really talented at the things that you can’t coach, the pedigree-related things,” Tomlin said. “He’s big, he’s powerful, he’s athletic, he’s got really good body control, he’s experienced a lot of success…He just turned 22 I think two days ago, and that’s exciting for me. I love young guys. I like to be a part of their growth and development not only as players but as people. He’s a nice piece of clay as we like to say. He’s got a lot of tools to work with, he’s got a nice demeanor, he loves the game, he’s an outgoing personality, he’s an alpha personality type. All of those things were attractive to us.”
Because of how young he is, Jones has many years to develop into a great player. Jones is a bit raw coming out of college, but he has so much potential and Tomlin believes he and his coaching staff have the ability to coach him to become a great player.
Last year, Tomlin. while on The Pivot with Ryan Clark, said that he loves coaching players with pedigree and talent because if there is any issue with mechanics he believes as a coach he and his staff can fix it. Yes Jones is one of the rawer prospects, but he also has won two national championships and proved he could hang in the SEC. Adjusting to the NFL, Jones will have to refine his technique more but that is not something that Tomlin will run away from.
Clearly the Steelers really wanted Broderick Jones and they traded up to make sure they got their guy. If Tomlin and offensive line coach Pat Meyer can mold Jones into a superstar, the team may have to thank Rodgers and his darkness retreat for landing its franchise left tackle.