Top 4 players Steelers should completely avoid in the 2023 NFL Draft

Georgia Bulldogs defensive lineman Jalen Carter (88)
Georgia Bulldogs defensive lineman Jalen Carter (88) / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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2. Nolan Smith is too much of a projection for the Steelers

A name that I have seen a lot of Steelers fans gravitate towards recently is Nolan Smith out of Georgia. A great showing at the combine launched him into the top half of the first-round conversation. Unfortunately for the Steelers, his lack of a defined position makes him a hard pass at pick 17.

Smith is conventionally an edge rusher, but unlike Carter, he lacks the desired size to succeed there. 6’2 and 238 pounds is small for most edge rushers. Pittsburgh has historically struggled when they used smaller edge rushers (like Malik Reed), and I struggle to see Smith succeeding as an edge rusher long-term. He wasn’t an overly productive player in school either, albeit that may have been because of the talent in front of him along the defensive line.

If Smith were to succeed with the Steelers, he would have to shift to off-ball linebacker instead. On paper, that’s fine, as he is athletic enough to succeed there, but using a first-round pick on a linebacker is proving to not be a great value. Worse yet, Smith is a complete projection there, and he would need to develop as a coverage player still.

That is too much projection for a top pick, and the Steelers shouldn’t risk it for Smith. There are other, better off ball linebackers, and I just can’t see Smith being a great edge rusher in this system. Because of this, the team would be wise to invest their top pick in the draft elsewhere.