Steelers dig their heels in for an offensive tackle in latest NFL mock draft

Steelers, Darnell Wright
Steelers, Darnell Wright / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

Offensive tackle has been a need for the Pittsburgh Steelers ever since the departure of Alejandro Villanueva. Even when AV was on the team and playing well, you could have argued that the front office needed to find an upgrade opposite of him.

Over the past two years, the Steelers have attempted to get by with mid-round picks in Chukwuma Okorafor and Dan Moore Jr. Though they haven't been flat-out terrible, they pale in comparison to most starting offensive tackles around the league. In 2022, Moore graded out as the 57th-ranked OT among 87 qualifying players at his position, per Pro Football Focus, while Okorafor earned just the 60th-highest grade at the position.

Now, after a 26-year drought without selecting an offensive tackle in the first round, many analysts are predicting that Pittsburgh will go this route with the 17th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

That's exactly what the guys at the NFL Stock Exchange podcast predict. Pro Football Focus analysts Trevor Sikkema and Connor Rogers were joined by their PFF colleagues Mike Renner and Austin Gayle for a collaborative 2023 first-round NFL mock draft. With the 17th pick, they agreed that the Steelers would dig their heels in for offensive tackle, Darnell Wright.

This pick is a bit unusual for several reasons. After the board gets wiped of the top OT prospects, including left tackles Broderick Jones and Paris Johnson Jr., PFF has Pittsburgh fixating on this position of need. What's interesting is that Penn State CB Joey Porter Jr. is still on the board in this particular mock.

Steelers unlikely to draft Darnell Wright

Not only that, but Pittsburgh's brass has not had a single meeting with Wright during the pre-draft process at the NFL Combine, his Tennessee Pro Day, or a pre-draft visit.

I don't expect Pro Football Focus to do a deep dive into the Pittsburgh Steelers like we do, as they cover all 32 teams, but the signs seem to be pointing to somebody other than Darnell Wright with the 17th overall pick this year.

Personally, I am a fan of Wright. I think his tape got a lot better this year, and he had one of the most impressive games against Alabama's Will Anderson that you will see on film. However, whether it's because of his below-average arm length or right tackle status, the Steelers just haven't shown much interest in him.

This doesn't disqualify him from being a potential selection at pick 32, but even that is unlikely, as it would require a significant slide in the draft. Also, the fact that they didn't use one of their 30-visits on him is a pretty good indication that he's not on the radar.

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In this particular scenario, I would expect that it would be hard for Pittsburgh to pass on a player like Joey Porter Jr., as he fills a position of need and they have expressed a ton of interest in him since the beginning. However, I would be stunned at this point if OT Darnell Wright was the selection at pick 17 in the 2023 NFL Draft.