Pittsburgh Steelers 2023 NFL Mock Draft: Post-Week 1 of free agency

Anton Harrison, Steelers
Anton Harrison, Steelers / Brian Bahr/GettyImages
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Round 3, Pick #80: Daiyan Henley, ILB, Washington State (6’, 225)

The makeover of the inside linebacker room is complete. Devin Bush and Robert Spillane left in free agency, and the Steelers jettisoned Myles Jack after only one year. In their places stand Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts. Both are in-the-box, early-down, thumper linebackers.

Mark Robinson remains, but despite his impressive performances in limited duty, he’s still very raw. However, this team still lacks speed, athleticism, and coverage ability at the inside linebacker spot. Frankly, they haven’t had it since before Devin Bush tore his ACL in 2020. Fans surely remember watching Robert Spillane try to cover slot receivers in space. 

Daiyan Henley should be able to fill that void. Henley has had quite the career. He started out at Nevada as a wide receiver in 2017. He played on both sides of the ball in 2018 and was supposed to fully transition to safety in 2019 before suffering a season-ending injury and redshirting. Henley then moved to linebacker for the 2020 season, and in 2021, he earned All-Mountain West 2nd-Team honors and led the Wolfpack in tackles. In 2022, he transferred to Washington State and continued to improve, earning All-Pac 12 1st-Team honors and being named a finalist for the Butkus Award. 

I’m not saying that Henley will be the second coming of Ryan Shazier. But could he be a serviceable linebacker who can play on passing downs? Absolutely, especially when compared to his counterparts at the position. It’s clear that Holcomb and Roberts will earn the lion’s share of snaps, especially on early downs. But Henley could sub in for Roberts on passing downs and be a solid replacement for Marcus Allen on special teams.