Steelers end a two-decade streak with OT in latest NFL mock draft

Paris Johnson Jr. #77 of the Ohio State Buckeyes in action against the Northwestern Wildcats during the first half at Ryan Field on November 05, 2022 in Evanston, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Paris Johnson Jr. #77 of the Ohio State Buckeyes in action against the Northwestern Wildcats during the first half at Ryan Field on November 05, 2022 in Evanston, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Todd McShay recently posted his 2023 NFL mock draft. Here’s why he thinks the Pittsburgh Steelers will do something they haven’t done in years.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been quite the disappointment in 2022. Sitting on a 5-8 record, Mike Tomlin has never had a team that has essentially been eliminated from the playoffs this early. It’s clear that the front office has plenty of work to do when it comes to improving this roster, and there are no shortages of needs.

If the season were to end today, the Steelers would hold the 9th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. This would be good for their highest pick dating all the way back to 2000 when they took WR Plaxico Burress 8th overall.

Recently, ESPN’s draft expert, Todd McShay, comprised his first 2023 mock draft. He had Pittsburgh doing something they haven’t done in 26 years: taking an offensive tackle in the first round. After an early run consisting primarily of quarterbacks and defenders, McShay has the Steelers going with Ohio State OT Paris Johnson. Here’s what he had to say about the pick:

"Offensive line is the biggest need, and Johnson is an easy mover with quickness, power, improving technique and versatility to play multiple positions. He settled in as the Buckeyes’ left tackle this season, allowing just one sack, and he would go a long way in helping protect Kenny Pickett. The Steelers didn’t use any draft picks on the line in April and have allowed 34 sacks this season (tied for ninth most). It’s time to get a cornerstone for this unit."

Two picks before the Steelers were on the clock in this NFL mock draft, McShay had Northwestern offensive tackle, Peter Skoronski, going to the Indianapolis Colts. Still, Johnson might be the better option for Pittsburgh anyway, as he fits the mold of a true left tackle with prototype size, length, and athletic traits.

We know how much Mike Tomlin likes the Ohio State football program, so targeting a player like Johnson makes sense. However, it has been ages since Pittsburgh has valued the offensive tackle position enough to take one in the first round. That could very well change with Omar Khan and Andy Weidl calling the shots in the front office. Weidl was largely responsible for building the Eagles offensive line that they have now, while Khan is rumored to place a bigger emphasis on the trenches.

Steelers and Johnson are a perfect match

I really like Johnson as a prospect, and there could be a massive drop-off at the offensive tackle position if they wait and try to get one with one of their second-round picks. The Ohio State product is young and athletic with starting experience at left tackle in college.

Fans already know that second-year LT Dan Moore Jr. has been one of the weakest starters on the team this year. Johnson would be an improvement from day one and hopefully, prove to be a fantastic blindside protector for Kenny Pickett throughout his career.

From there, Pittsburgh could allow Moore and Chukwuma Okorafor to battle it out at right tackle. Perhaps Moore could revive his career in a different position. It’s also worth noting that Okorafor has a cap number that skyrockets up to over $13 million in 2023, per Over the Cap. This is a lot of money for an average right tackle, and it will be interesting to see if the team will try to do anything with his contract.

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I’ve still got a lot of film study to do, but Paris Johnson is a very good football player and Pittsburgh Steelers fans should be thrilled if they are able to land a top-notch offensive tackle prospect in the 2023 NFL Daft in April. This would be a great step in rebuilding the team the right way.