Steelers rumors: Pittsburgh could be eyeing Iowa DL Lukas Van Ness

Steelers, Lukas Van Ness
Steelers, Lukas Van Ness / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

Since the beginning of the pre-draft process, I wondered how much interest the Pittsburgh Steelers might have in addressing defense in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Cornerback was clearly a big need this offseason, as was an off-ball linebacker. However, the scouting trail shows evidence that we can't count out an edge defender or an interior defender as early as pick 17 this year.

Recently, a rumor has surfaced that there are members of the Steelers front office who really want them to draft Iowa's Lukas Van Ness, according to sources close to Andrew Fillipponi of 93.7 The Fan.

Fillipponi isn't the one making these claims. A source recently relayed the same message to me. While Van Ness isn't guaranteed to be available by the time the 17th overall pick rolls around, this is a name that they will consider selecting.

While some fans are baffled as to why the team might go this direction, the team may be looking further ahead rather than simply trying to plug a hole in a position of need. When we follow the breadcrumbs, it's not very hard to see why there is interest from the Steelers.

Van Ness could be a chess piece on Steelers defense

Let's start with the Pro Day scouting trail. Since the beginning of the pre-draft process, we have kept tabs on everywhere Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert have been on their pro day map. In addition to having dinner meetings with other first-round EDGE prospects like Myles Murphy and Will McDonald IV, Pittsburgh's brass was on hand at Iowa's pro day -- no doubt to get a good look at Van Ness.

But Van Ness is a player who does much more than check a box when it comes to the Tomlin/Khan Pro Day visit. He checks nearly every box they look for in a first-round pick. The talented Iowa defender is a 21-year-old underclassman with impressive athletic traits and he comes from a Big Ten conference they are very familiar with.

In addition to possessing great size, length, and speed, Van Ness has position flexibility that allows him to line up anywhere from edge defender to defensive tackle. He has experience at both positions during his time at Iowa, and the team could even view him as a transition player who could add some weight and kick inside at the next level.

Next. Steelers mock draft: Connecting the dots with Pittsburgh's interests. dark

Van Ness is your typically high-upside defensive line prospect thanks to his impressive combination of strength and athletic traits, yet the floor is still very high as he's only scratching the surface of his talent. If the board gets wiped off the offensive tackles or cornerbacks Pittsburgh may consider, the Steelers would likely have no problem taking Lukas Van Ness if he happened to fall to the 17th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.