Steelers News

PFF Highlights Steelers As One Of ‘Most Improved’ Teams Coming Out Of NFL Draft

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a lot to feel good about coming out of the 2023 NFL Draft, having added high-end talent at important positions of need, building off of a rather strong offseason overall in free agency.

Now, with the dust settling and the roster all but set for minicamp, OTAs and training camp, just how do the Steelers look on paper compared to the end of the 2022 season?

Much improved, according to Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson.

Monson highlighted the Steelers as one of five teams in the NFL that are “most improved” coming out of the 2023 NFL Draft last week in Kansas City, along with the Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks and Cincinnati Bengals.

Adding Georgia offensive tackle Broderick Jones, Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr., Wisconsin defensive tackle Keeanu Benton, Georgia tight end Darnell Washington, Wisconsin linebacker Nick Herbig, Purdue cornerback Cory Trice Jr. and Maryland offensive lineman Spencer Anderson indeed has the Steelers as one of the most improved teams in football ahead of the 2023 season.

“Pittsburgh wasn’t just adding quality players throughout their draft, but it added them at important positions, providing good value relative to the PFF big board, and players that will likely start from the get-go. Broderick Jones will start at tackle to help upgrade an offensive line that has been solid but unspectacular in recent years,” Monson writes. “Jones didn’t allow a sack last season at Georgia, surrendering just nine total pressures on almost 500 pass-blocking snaps. Joey Porter Jr., ending up in Pittsburgh is a feel-good story given the career his father had for the team, but he also fills a need and fits better within this defense than many corners in the draft. Porter is the best press-man cover corner in this class with absurd length (34-inch arms) and 12 forced incompletions last season. If he can develop a little nuance to his play in zone coverage, he could become one of the best corners in this class.”

Landing Jones in the first round following a trade up to No. 14 overall with the New England Patriots was a savvy move by GM Omar Khan in his first draft in charge of the Steelers. Pittsburgh was able to leapfrog the New York Jets, who were likely going to draft Jones themselves, securing the big, athletic tackle for the Steelers in front of quarterback Kenny Pickett and Najee Harris.

Jones projects to be the Steelers’ long-term left tackle and should solidify the position once he’s in the lineup.

As for Porter Jr., he’s exactly what the Steelers have been looking for at the position as that long, physical press-man corner who can take away one side of the field. He still has some developing to do, but he projects as a true No. 1 cornerback long term.

The second second-round pick in Benton and the third-round selection in Washington are drawing rave reviews for the Steelers, especially from Monson.

“Keeanu Benton should add some disruption to the defensive line, which is in need of some remedial work. He had an 83.4 PFF grade against true pass sets last season and an elite 10.5% run-stop rate,” Monson writes. “In the third round, Darnell Washington was exceptional value. His potential was perhaps overstated by many before the draft, but at 6-foot-6 and 264 pounds, Washington is a rare physical specimen at the tight end position who can erase defensive backs on screens and has more pass-game chops than he’s given credit for.  Two of their Day 3 picks have a chance to earn playing time sooner rather than later as part of a rotation or depth at key areas.”

Defensive line might not have been a major need for the Steelers after the franchise re-signed Larry Ogunjobi in free agency and added depth pieces in Breiden Fehoko and Armon Watts, but getting a player like Benton is a big addition for the Steelers.

He’s going to be a high-end run defender rather quickly in the NFL at the nose tackle position. If he’s able to develop his game a bit in the pass rush department, he can become a true three-down defensive lineman for Pittsburgh. As for Washington, he was a consensus top-32 player in the draft class and only fell due to medical concerns regarding his knee.

The Steelers clearly believe the issue isn’t that big of a deal as their medical department signed off on the selection, getting insane value on Washington at No. 93 overall. Washington joins a tight end room with Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry and Connor Heyward, punctuating the bully-ball mentality the Steelers seemingly want to play in 2023 and beyond.

Overall, it’s hard to picture the draft going much better for the Steelers. They added talented players at important position after an offseason in which the Steelers were aggressive and added talented veterans in free agency and via trade. Pittsburgh improved in the offseason, and that’s certainly the case coming out of the draft after putting together one of the best classes in the league.

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