NFL Draft

Steelers Focus On Bloodlines In Way-Too-Early 2024 NFL Mock Draft

The 2023 NFL Draft is in the books. So who’s ready for 2024?

I promise we won’t make a habit of it but to take a quick peak towards next year, PFF came out with a way-too-early edition of a 2024 mock draft. Of course, so much will change from now until then, including hopefully where the Pittsburgh Steelers are picking in this mock.

PFF’s Max Chadwick mocked the Steelers Clemson LB Jeremiah Trotter Jr. with the 10th overall pick. Full disclosure, he used Super Bowl 58 odds to generate the draft order. Explaining the pick, he writes:

“The son of former All-Pro linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Sr., the sophomore linebacker has lived up to his father’s name and then some.

The younger Trotter excels on passing plays, as he was the only Power Five linebacker with 80-plus grades as a pass-rusher and in coverage. Trotter was second in that same group in both passer rating allowed (42.9) and open target rate allowed (47.6%).”

Trotter plays like his dad, a good athlete who can stop the run, cover, and get after the quarterback. Here’s one of his 6.5 sacks last season.

Trotter cracked the Tigers’ starting lineup a year ago, finishing 2022 with 89 tackles (13.5 TFL), 6.5 sacks, five pass deflections, and two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. That came against South Carolina, dropping into his hook zone and undercutting this pass to return it all the way.

The issue with Trotter could be, like it is for many linebackers in this modern age, is weight. Sports reference lists him at 210 pounds though his Clemson bio pegs him at 230. He’s a leaner body that’s become common in college football in a world of RPOs, mobile quarterbacks, and horizontal passing games. Still, he burst onto the scene in impressive fashion after barely playing as a freshman and with a similar 2023 to his 2022 campaign, will play his way into being a top pick.

Trotter’s father played 11 years in the league, eight of them in Philadelphia, making four Pro Bowls and one All-Pro team. He was one of the best linebackers in his day and somebody Mike Tomlin was aware of in the NFC while with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Trotter’s Eagles blew out Tomlin’s Bucs in the 2002 Wild Card game, the Eagles’ defense holding the Buccaneers to just nine points while forcing four turnovers.

Though the Steelers signed Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts this offseason, they might not be long-term options. Holcomb figures to be on the roster through at least 2024 but isn’t a fixture of any defense and will eventually be replaced. Roberts is limited to run downs while Mark Robinson will try to become more than that but is generally the same type of player. Pittsburgh hasn’t drafted and developed an inside linebacker with a high pick in far too long and has struck out through veterans in free agency time and time again. Eventually, this team will have to draft the position with a premium pick. Given his dad’s connections, Trotter Jr. is a logical pick (and a reminder of how old we are). No team loves bloodlines as much as Pittsburgh, proven again this weekend with the team’s selection of Nick Herbig, younger brother of Steelers guard Nate Herbig.

Naturally, much of what’s mocked here will change. Players will fall off the map, others will come out of nowhere, and other players here will return to school. But don’t dismiss these names so quickly. Check out PFF’s 2023 mock draft and the top names are Bryce Young, Will Anderson, C.J. Stroud, and Jalen Carter, all top-10 picks Thursday night. Despite barely starting, OT Broderick Jones even appeared in the first round, going 26th overall. Of course, it also had Stanford QB Tanner McKee going top 10 and Army EDGE Andre Carter going in the top 20. McKee became a Day-Three pick and Carter went undrafted.

The top names next year are USC QB Caleb Williams and UNC QB Drake Maye. Other top names in Chadwick’s mock include Ohio State WR Marvin Harrison Jr. (again, we = old), Penn State LT Olu Fashanu, and Georgia TE Brock Bowers, potentially the greatest tight end prospect in decades, even better than Kyle Pitts. And don’t forget about the best name in college football, Alabama CB Kool-Aid McKinstry, legitimately one of the best defensive backs in college football, too.

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