Steelers 2023 draft preview

Pittsburgh gears up to add to an already talented young roster.


Joe Fitzgerald, Sports Writer

At last one of the best times of the year for NFL fans is quickly approaching. It’s draft day so the Steelers will have a lot of interesting decisions to make.

Omar Khan has made some impressive moves in his first season as GM but the draft will be another test to see if he’s the real deal. Before we look at some prospects that the Steelers should take this year, let’s recap how all the rookies from last year turned out. Starting in the first round the Steelers took a shot on the fan favorite Kenny Pickett to be the teams new franchise QB. Pickett’s season was a bit shaky at first, however after leading the Steelers on a late season surge that nearly took them to the playoffs, Kenny is likely the signal caller for the future. In the second round the Steelers probably got the biggest steal at the receiver position with George Pickens. The Georgia product flew under the radar because of an injury in his junior season, but in his rookie year he proved that he is every bit as talented as any other receiver in the draft. Pickens was a literal human highlight reel making some show stopping catches that have Steelers fans optimistic for the future.  Pittsburgh cooled down in the third round when they selected DeMarvin Leal a Defensive End from Texas A&M. Leal didn’t necessarily play bad, he just struggled to find a consistent role in the Steelers defense. He was thrown right into the line of fire when TJ Watt went down with an injury, having to play as a stand up outside linebacker when he had never done that before. When Watt returned though,  Leal moved back as a defensive end but it was his first time doing it in a base 3-4 defense. I think with Leal it will just be a matter of getting him more reps so he can feel comfortable with what he’s doing.

In the 4th round, the Steelers took the electric Calvin Austin III from Memphis who but we unfortunately weren’t able to see him at all this season because of a foot injury.  The Steelers didn’t have a 5th round selection, so with their next pick in the 6th round they chose Cam’s younger brother Connor Heyward from Michigan State. Despite being undersized for a Tight End at only 6 feet tall, Connor showed that he can make plays as a pass catcher. Heyward also showed great versatility and was used in many different situations as a blocker and ball carrier. Moving to the seventh round the Steelers had two selections and with their first one they chose Mark Robinson a Linebacker from Ole Miss. For most of the season Robinson wasn’t getting reps but when Devin Bush struggled he got his opportunity towards the end of the season. The 7th round backer showed some real potential in the limited action he saw, and now with Devin Bush and Myles Jack leaving he will have a true opportunity this season. Their final pick was a head scratcher in QB Chris Oladokun.  The Steelers already had a crowded Quarterback room with Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolf, and Kenny Pickett, so it definitely wasn’t a position of need. Plus Oladokun not only didn’t make the 53 man roster, he never even saw any pre season action meaning they probably didn’t think he deserved much of a chance, so why waste a draft pick on him?

Overall though, despite a few mistakes it was a pretty good draft class. Considering we might’ve found a franchise receiver and QB1 in the same class is a pretty big win. Now that we looked at how our draft picks from last season panned out, let’s evaluate some of our needs and best options for this seasons draft.

Best Prospects based on Team needs:  

Darnell Right, OT ,Tennessee

-Like previously mentioned Kenny Pickett is most likely the new QB1 for the future, however in his first season he suffered two concussions which is a bit worrisome. That being said, what better way to protect him than getting a talented linemen to help keep him clean.  Right would be a great pick and probably be an immediate starter at Right Tackle. This year is a tackle heavy draft so even if Right is selected the Steelers should have other options with guys like Paris Johnson Jr and Peter Sorinsky.

Joey Porter Jr, CB, Penn State 

-The cornerback position was already one of need for the Steelers entering the offseason and that need increased when Cam Sutton left in free agency. We did go out and sign veteran Patrick Peterson but he just isn’t the same player that he once was and we should probably still look for other help. Joey Porter Jr., not only was one of the best corners in the country this season, but he also happens to be the son of former Steelers coach and player Joey Porter Sr. We know how much Mike Tomlin values guys that know the standard so I could see this pick.

Mazi Smith, DT, Michigan

-Although Cam Heyward is still playing at a high level, it’s only a matter of time before he fizzles out. Plus over the past few years, the
Interior Defensive line has struggled after losing guys like Javon Hargrave and Stefon Tuitt. We did resign Larry Ogunjobi who played solid this season, however I still think it couldn’t hurt to take Michigan’s Mazi Smith. Smith possess a rare blend of size and strength that would be a huge asset to the defensive line rotation.