With the NFL season finally upon us, here is an early look at how the draft could pan out for the Steelers next season.
While the focus of the team and fans is on the upcoming season, the team should have their eye on the draft next season. The team has a lot of potential right now, but the odds are this season has some growing pains for the team. It won’t be a horrible year by any means, but I expect a lot of ups and downs this year.
For the parameters of this mock draft, I have the Steelers picking at 15th overall. They possess six draft picks as of this writing, with one pick in every round of the first four rounds and then two more picks in round seven. I’m not going to try and predict what moves are made in the offseason, so this is based on some current projections as well as what I think the team needs.
With all of that said, here is a look at my early mock draft for the Steelers in 2023.
The Steelers could go in a wide variety of directions with their top pick in the draft. That said, I think the defense will be the better fit, especially if the team is picking in the middle of the first. I have them opting with Kelee Ringo, the cornerback out of Georgia. The team is lacking a true top cornerback, and Ringo could fill that void.
Ringo looks like a good athlete with all of the physical tools to be a top cornerback. He does need some refinement and he hasn’t seen a lot of snaps in college yet, but assuming he and the Georgia defense continue to dominate, he will likely be a safe first-round pick. I think a cornerback will once again be a big need for the team this offseason.
A name I have already highlighted as a potential fit with the Steelers, Gervon Dexter is a mound of clay right now. He has the size the team wants in their base ends and has the athleticism to become an every-down player. His pass rush lacks refinement, but assuming the team develops him there, he has the traits to be a good starter.
I think the defensive line will be a sneaky need heading into next season. Three key players will be free agents, and while the team has some good depth players, no one is a great fit to work at the end across from Cameron Heyward. Dexter has the potential to be a complete replacement for Stephon Tuitt, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see a defensive lineman get targeted early.
Another name I have already covered, Dawand Jones is a mountain of a man. Despite his size, he actually moves well in space. He is a natural run blocker who excels at using his power to open holes at Ohio State. His first game was a bit sloppy, but he has all of the traits to be a powerful right tackle in the NFL.
My main concern is how he will develop in pass protection. Despite being a senior he is still lacking in some of his refinement there. That said, the team needs to invest in the line during the next offseason. Jones can become a fixture along the right side and ideally provide a long-term replacement for Chukwuma Okorafor.
While I personally have little issue with Terrell Edmunds as this team’s strong safety, it seems like this year is likely his last. There is no clear replacement for him on the roster, so odds are the Steelers will look to the draft to find a potential starter. Akeem Dent would need a season or two to develop, but he is a hard-hitting option for strong safety.
Best when working in the box, Dent has the athleticism to become an enforcer for a secondary. He almost plays like a linebacker with his aggression and physicality. His coverage skills need some work, but assuming he makes some progress there, he could be a great solution in the box. He needs a little work, but he has the traits you want in a potential starting safety.
The Steelers have ignored their edge depth for quite some time, and while a seventh-round pick doesn’t fix all of their issues, Khris Bogle has some traits to work with. Extremely athletic off the ball, he can get around the edge quickly and apply pressure. As well, he sets the edge well in the run game, holding his own and not giving up a lot of space.
Refinement and processing are his issues. Despite some great athleticism, Bogle is slow to react after the snap. As well, he lacks a clear pass-rush plan which can get him blocked out by technical linemen. He will need some work, but he has the upside of a rotational backup if he can develop where he needs to. At the bare minimum, his athletic traits should make him a good special teams player.
While it looks like, on paper, that the Steelers have a glut of receivers, adding another body from a top program would be a wise move. While Joseph Ngata hasn’t been a dynamic player by any means, he has the size and catching ability to become a valuable backup. Add in his athleticism and you have an intriguing late-round pick.
Where he could really shine early on is as a gunner on special teams. While Miles Boykin will serve in that role this season, he is a free agent next year. Ngata, on paper, could develop into a capable replacement given his athletic traits. You are taking a shot in the dark here, but Ngata could be a solid depth pick this late.
While it is extremely early in the process, the Steelers are scouting next year’s draft class already. While this season and next year’s offseason will impact what the team ultimately does, here is my early look at what direction Pittsburgh could take in the draft.