2023 NFL Draft: Pittsburgh Steelers first-round wishlist
By Tommy Jaggi
This is it! The moment we've all been waiting for is finally here! In a matter of hours, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be on the clock with their first selection in the 2023 NFL Draft, and it's remarkably hard to narrow down which player they will be targeting.
Countless hours of film study and research throughout the pre-draft process has helped me gain a very clear understanding of which prospects I love this year and which ones I would be fine with Pittsburgh passing on early.
The Steelers have plenty of needs to fill, but they should not go out of their way to ignore the best prospects either. While I would love to land a player like Christian Gonzalez, I kept this list to somewhat realistic candidates. Here is my 2023 NFL Draft wishlist for the Pittsburgh Steelers in Round 1:
Pittsburgh Steelers first-round wishlist in 2023 NFL Draft:
1. Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
Someway, somehow, I would love for Broderick Jones to end up on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Obviously, the ideal situation is that Omar Khan can stand pat and Jones is available with the 17th overall pick. However, I'm not sure how realistic that is. Packaging pick 17 with pick 49 (or a future second-rounder) has to at least be considered if it helps you land your left tackle of the future.
2. Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
Most boards will have Paris Johnson Jr. slightly ahead of Broderick Jones due to Johnson's position flexibility and college experience. Specifically for the Steelers, I have Jones ahead by a nose. Still, I would be thrilled if this team could land Johnson in the first round. It seems far less likely that he will be available at pick 17, and packaging pick 32 might be too rich. Regardless, Johnson is a player we would all love to have.
3. Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
In most years, digging down the list for a position of need might seem like a bad idea. However, the talent gap between Paris and Broderick to Darnell Wright isn't as big as you might think. Wright was an elite pass-protector in the SEC (just put on the tape against Will Anderson). Though not a left tackle, Wright projects as a long-time starting right tackle with solid upside. This is a plug-and-play starter who would really help revamp the Steelers offensive line.
4. Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
This potential wishlist player might aggravate some readers, but that's okay. Though Nolan Smith does not fill an immediate or pressing need, he's my 8th overall player in the draft, and I simply think he's going to be excellent in the NFL. Smith can rush the passer at an elite level or play some off-ball linebacker -- whatever you need him to do. It might not seem like a great pick at the moment, but I can assure you that Steelers fans will love him once they see what he can do.
5. Lukas Van Ness, DL, Iowa
I might be in the minority here as well, but just give me good football players at important positions. That's what Lukas Van Ness is. Whether you want him on the edge in base packages or rushing from the inside in nickel, he's simply a football player who the Steelers won't want leaving the field. Van Ness certainly has Pro Bowl upside with his rare traits and motor. He would keep the foundation of this defense incredibly strong.
6. Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
I'm not down on Joey Porter Jr. I still have him as my 15th overall player in the 2023 NFL Draft. However, I just think the board lays out much better for the rest of the draft if the Steelers don't take a CB in round one. The cornerback depth on Day 2 is remarkable. Still, I won't be too upset with landing a long, scrappy, boundary CB in Porter Jr. I think he has Pro Bowl upside on the Steelers.