3 loy-key options for Steelers that are flying under-the-radar in the NFL Draft

2023 CFP National Championship - TCU v Georgia
2023 CFP National Championship - TCU v Georgia / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages
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The Pittsburgh Steelers own the #17 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, and their selection seems to be a relatively foregone conclusion. Most experts expect the Steelers to use their first-round selection on a cornerback or offensive tackle.

Despite signing Patrick Peterson this offseason, the Steelers still need to look to the future at the cornerback position and upgrade from Levi Wallace/Ahkello Witherspoon. On the other side of the ball, Dan Moore Jr. is viewed by many as one of, if not the, worst starting offensive tackles in the NFL. Across from him, Chukwuma Okorafor is far from a dominant force and is somewhat overpaid relative to his performance.

The Steelers could also use help along the interior defensive line and at inside linebacker. But as many know, the NFL Draft is always full of surprises. What if all the top offensive tackles and cornerbacks are gone by the time Pittsburgh is on the clock? It's an unlikely scenario, but stranger things have happened. Therefore, here are three under-the-radar options for the Steelers' first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

3. Nolan Smith, OLB, Georgia

Despite possessing one of the best edge defender duos in the National Football League, the Pittsburgh Steelers could use their first-round pick on another outside linebacker. Alex Highsmith is coming off a career-best season, finishing sixth in the league in sacks (14.5). Plus, T.J. Watt is still one of the most-feared defensive players in the NFL. 

As exhibited last season, if one of (heaven forbid both) Watt or Highsmith goes down with an injury, the rest of the defense suffers. Watt has missed time in each of the last three seasons, so finding a reliable third option is a major need for Pittsburgh in the 2023 NFL Draft. Furthermore, Highsmith is entering a contract year. Given his progression, it seems more than likely that the Steelers would offer him a new deal. But if they don’t, they will need to find a new running mate for Watt. 

Enter Nolan Smith. Smith was the #1 overall recruit in the Class of 2019, earning numerous All-American honors before signing with Georgia. While he did not put up incredible numbers for the Bulldogs, mostly due to the elite talent on the entire defense, Smith was a vital cog in the machine that produced consecutive national championships. He has been roundly lauded as a great leader by teammates and coaches. Furthermore, Smith tested at elite levels at the NFL Scouting Combine, recording a 4.39 40-yard dash and a 9.23 Relative Athletic Score. 

Despite being relatively undersized for an on-ball outside linebacker (6’2”, 238 pounds), Smith is an excellent run defender. Plus, learning from T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith could help improve his pass rush productivity. In today’s NFL, you can never have enough pass rushers, and Nolan Smith would give the Steelers another reliable option off the edge.