Members of sports media all around the country have sung the praises of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2023 NFL Draft class. It’s almost unanimously regarded as one of the best any team had, some arguing that it was the very best. But even while the Steelers are pleased with their own work, there are no victory laps being had.
“I think if you took a poll of all 32 GMs around the league, they’re probably all feeling really good right now”, general manager Omar Khan said shortly after the draft during an interview with Randy Baumann on the WDVE Morning Show.
“We’re all undefeated and we’re all coming off a weekend where we all think we improved our team”, he continued. “But the reality is time will tell. But I do feel good. I think we’re better today than we were before the draft, and I’m excited for the season. I’m ready to get to Latrobe”.
Part of the reason that many are very high on the Steelers’ draft class is, simply, because they did what many people thought they should do. Offensive tackle and cornerback were identified as their biggest needs. They did what they had to do to get one of the top tackles in the class and were fortunate enough to get one of the top cornerbacks at the top of the second round.
The Steelers also added beef to the defensive line and then had a high-pedigreed tight end fall into their lap in the third round with Darnell Washington’s drop being attributed to teams’ concerns about his knees. Nick Herbig is a position-flexible linebacker who should find a place to fit in somewhere to be useful. And they further bolstered depth at cornerback and the offensive line in the seventh round.
Of course, they couldn’t address every need or want, not with only seven picks, none in the fifth and sixth rounds. It might have been nice to have the opportunity to grab a true inside linebacker, or a natural center, and certainly I wouldn’t have complained about a starting-quality safety, though they would have likely meant losing out on Joey Porter Jr. or Keeanu Benton.
But almost all agree that this is a nice-looking draft on paper. In fact, I can’t even recall off the top of my head a Steelers draft class more held in such high regard. Yet we don’t know, and won’t know for some time, whether it will be justified in the manner in which the careers of these men play out.
It is quite possible that we see several early if not immediate contributors from this class. Broderick Jones could win the starting left tackle job, and Porter could at least be the third cornerback, with Benton seeing a healthy number of snaps in the middle. Herbig will be a special-teams demon, and could provide relief off the edge, which is much needed.
But it will be interesting to see what we’re saying about this class five years from now. We once had high regards, even after the players’ rookie season, for the class of 2016, which produced three starters in the first three rounds, presumed future cornerstones. All are gone, although one—Javon Hargrave—has gone on to prove to be an exceptional player, just too expensive to retain.