The 2023 NFL Draft isn’t even a week old, and way-too-early 2024 NFL mock drafts continue to come.
ESPN’s Todd McShay became the latest to roll out his version of a way-too-early mock draft Thursday morning, pairing the Steelers with a potential top pass rusher in the 2024 class in Washington defensive end Braden Trice at No. 10 overall.
“Trice has an NFL frame at 6-foot-4 and 256 pounds, and he can get to the QB,” McShay writes. “Trice piled up 48 pressures (sixth in the nation) and nine sacks last season, plus 13 tackles for loss. Alex Highsmith is a free agent after 2023, and Trice could slot in as a potential replacement opposite T.J. Watt.”
The Steelers picked 10th in the mock draft due to Super Bowl odds and were able to land one of the top projected pass rushers in the class in Trice.
Trice was named a second-team All-American in 2022 and a first-team All-Pac 12 selection last season while earning the Huskies’ Defensive Most Valuable Player award. Trice was also named the Defensive MVP of the Valero Alamo Bowl last season after recording five tackles and a sack in the Huskies’ 27-20 win over Texas.
While it’s understandable to see McShay project Trice to the Steelers at such a valuable position like EDGE, McShay’s reasoning is a bit off.
Yes, Alex Highsmith is a free agent after the 2023 season, but it’s very likely the Steelers and Highsmith reach a lucrative extension before the start of the 2023 season, locking up Highsmith long-term opposite Watt and keeping the standout pair together for the foreseeable future.
Realistically, it would have been better for McShay to project offensive tackle again, like Notre Dame’s Joe Alt to lock down right tackle in Pittsburgh moving forward, or an inside linebacker like Clemson’s Jeremiah Trotter Jr., or maybe even a safety or defensive tackle.
Of course, this is all pure speculation right now. If Highsmith and the Steelers don’t reach an extension this summer, expect the buzz about an outside linebacker in the first round next year to really gain steam. For now though, it’s way too early to project, and chances are Trice might not even be a first-round selection.