NFL Mock Draft: Predicting Round 1 surprises for Pittsburgh Steelers

Steelers, Will McDonald
Steelers, Will McDonald / Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Register / USA
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Part of what makes the NFL Draft so exciting is never knowing exactly how things are going to turn out. While we have a very good idea of which positions NFL teams could target and players the Pittsburgh Steelers may go after, it's usually pretty hard to narrow it down to just one person.

This is especially the case in 2023 for Pittsburgh. Over the past several years, the Steelers have had one glaring need they've attempted to fill in the first round, whether it was their desperate need for a linebacker in 2019, their need for a running back in 2021, or their need to find Ben Roehtlisberger's replacement in 2022.

This year, there are several big needs, but in addition to these, the Steelers have expressed a good deal of interest in some players that may surprise you. Here are five potential first-round surprises Pittsburgh could go with in the 2023 NFL Draft.

5. Will McDonald IV, EDGE, Iowa State

This one might cause an uproar, but Will McDonald IV is a player we can not cross off as a first-round candidate for the Steelers. Mike Tomlin, Omar Khan, and Teryl Austin were all on hand to see the talented edge defender at his Iowa State Pro Day, as were Dan Rooney Jr. and scouting assistant Kelvin Fisher.

If the personnel on hand wasn't enough to convince you that McDonald is on the Steelers' radar, Pittsburgh's brass also had a dinner meeting with this potential first-round prospect -- something that has been a key indicator of interest in the past.

The Steelers have T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith under contract, but Watt hasn't been able to stay healthy since 2020 and Highsmith could be gone following the 2023 season. McDonald is a long, bendy pass rusher with Randy Gregory-like traits that project well at the NFL level.