Steelers seriously considering a trade-up for an OT in the 2023 NFL Draft

Steelers, Paris Johnson Jr.
Steelers, Paris Johnson Jr. / Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA

We will soon be counting down the hours until the 2023 NFL Draft officially kicks off on Thursday. In the meantime, fans and analysts are scrambling to put their notes together in an effort to figure out what the Pittsburgh Steelers plan to do in the first round this year.

Unlike in years past, it's been harder to narrow Pittsburgh's future selection down to just one position as cornerback, offensive tackle, and even interior defender are all at least on the radar as possible options. However, the closer we get, the more it looks like the Steelers are destined to go with an offensive tackle.

According to ESPN's Todd McShay, Omar Khan and the front office are extremely interested in moving up to land a premier OT in this draft -- so much so that the team has made calls to the Bears and Titans to discuss a possible trade. Here's what McShay had to say:

""I've heard Pittsburgh has contacted multiple teams, including the Bears (No. 9) and Titans (No. 11), about trading up for an offensive tackle. The Steelers need a long-term answer as protection for Kenny Pickett, and there are three potential cornerstone left tackles in this class who will be available in that range.""

Todd McShay, ESPN

McShay went on to say that it wasn't that long ago that this team traded up to the 10th overall pick to land Devin Bush, and now they could be primed to do so for a more premium position.

The three tackles McShay was referring to were Peter Skoronski, Paris Johnson Jr., and Broderick Jones. The team didn't express much interest in Skoronski during the pre-draft process, so a move up in the first round would likely be for either Johnson or Jones.

Should Steelers trade up for an OT?

Since the beginning of the pre-draft process, landing Paris Johnson Jr. or Broderick Jones has always been the ultimate prize for me. Both have outstanding left tackle traits and could be a long-time centerpiece to a Steelers offense that desperately lacks a foundation since their last generation of Pro Bowl offensive linemen retired.

While I would love them to snag either of these tackles in the 2023 NFL Draft, I'm not convinced that trading up is the best idea. The Steelers acquired the 32nd overall pick in the draft by dealing Chase Claypool to the Chicago Bears just before the 2022 trade deadline.

This is essentially the equivalent of a first-round pick (minus the fifth-year option) and it would be a shame to have to package this in a trade up for a non-quarterback (which is what teams typically trade up for in the first round). Even surrendering the 49th pick is challenging, because that could be a starting player for Pittsburgh.

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Ideally, I'd love for them to be able to snag one of these offensive tackles where they are currently sitting, but the likelihood of that happening is looking slim. If the Steelers want a premier OT, they are going to have to trade up, and Pittsburgh is already talking to teams about doing so.