One thing could prevent Steelers 2023 draft class from living up to the potential

Steelers, Darnell Washington
Steelers, Darnell Washington / Todd Kirkland/GettyImages

I haven't met a fan yet who believes the Pittsburgh Steelers did a poor job during the 2023 NFL Draft. While you may not be a fan of every player who was selected, it's hard to argue that Omar Khan didn't find incredible value all over the place.

Based on where he fell on the consensus board, nobody expected Joey Porter Jr. to be available at pick 32. Even more surprising was the fact that tight end Darnell Washington fell all the way to the 93rd overall pick despite being the 36th overall player on the consensus board, according to NFL Mock Draft Database.

Additionally, the Steelers may have had the steal of Day 3 when they somehow landed a long athletic cornerback with great film at Purdue in Cory Trice Jr. Trice was selected a whopping 135 spots later than where he ranked on the consensus board.

On paper, nobody had a better draft than Pittsburgh in 2023. This was the type of draft that could really reshape a franchise. But despite the high hopes, one thing could derail this promising draft from living up to their potential.

Steelers draft class hinges on health moving forward

Obviously, this could be said about every draft class from all 32 teams. If you're not healthy, your chances of succeeding are going to diminish. While the Pittsburgh Steelers did land some amazing talents this year, they have more reason to worry about future injuries than other teams.

Part of what makes the Steelers draft so impressive on paper is that they were able to find players late on Day 2 and early on Day 3 who should have been long gone. But there's a reason why Darnell Washington and Cory Trice Jr. were still on the board.

Reports suggested that these two players were taken off the draft boards of several teams as their medicals were just too concerning to mess with. Washington played in all 15 games this past season, but he appeared in just 12 total contests before that. The mammoth tight end admitted that he had knee surgery in the past to clean up cartilage, but team doctors think his knee issues are more severe than they appear on the surface.

Trice's injury history is even more concerning. In his first four college seasons, Trice wasn't able to finish out the year. He played in just 17 total games from 2018 to 2021 before finally playing a full season as a redshirt senior in 2022. Trice has a history of ankle and knee problems that include season-ending ankle surgery and an ACL tear in 2021 after just 2 games.

The good news is that Pittsburgh's top three draft choices don't have lengthy injury histories (knock on wood). However, that could change at a moment's notice. But even if their top picks turn out, their draft won't look quite as strong if Washington and Trice don't live up to expectations.

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I don't see this 2023 Steelers draft class flat-out failing. There's no doubt they are going to get some good building blocks from this class, and should be a solid draft at the very least. However, the upside of this class hinges on some scary medicals from talented players who Pittsburgh took chances on. Let's hope it pans out.