Why the Steelers 2023 draft class is anything but overrated
By Tommy Jaggi
Draft grades are pretty arbitrary, for the most part. Oftentimes, we can look back on a draft class that we thought was good years later and it turns out to be mediocre at best. Somehow, for as much praise as the Pittsburgh Steelers have received in the aftermath of the 2023 NFL Draft, it might not be enough.
From top to bottom, the haul that Omar Khan was able to land really is quite unbelievable. This stretches well beyond just adding a few players that draft analysts really liked. The Steelers really knocked it out of the ballpark with almost every selection. Numerous draft boards would concur.
Take Pro Football Focus, for example. According to PFF's final 2023 big board, the Steelers landed a whopping 6 players that were inside their top 80 overall this year.
Darnell Washington was taken with the 93rd overall pick, yet he was PFF's 37th overall player. The best value picks, however, according to PFF, were Nick Herbig and Cory Trice. Herbig was selected with pick 132 but was 64th on PFF's board, while Trice was selected with pick 241 but was 77th on their big board.
They weren't the only one who were high on these Steelers draftees prior to the 2023 NFL Draft. Marcus Mosher comprised a consensus board based on the average rankings of experts like Mel Kiper Jr., Todd McShay, Daniel Jeremiah, Dane Brugler, Danny Kelly, and PFF. From these consensus rankings, the Steelers drafted 6 players in the top 105 this year:
The average rankings on NFL Mock Draft Database tells a very similar story. Using the average rankings comprised from 175 big boards,1,529 mock drafts, and 1,189 team-based mock drafts, the Steelers landed 4 of the top 60 players this year:
Steelers had the best value draft of 2023
According to the consensus boards, there's just no way to fake it: the Pittsburgh Steelers had the best average value per selection. Broderick Jones and Keeanu Benton were seen as on-value picks with seventh-rounder Spencer Anderson looked at as a reach, but Joey Porter Jr., Darnell Washington, Nick Herbig, and Cory Trice were four of the best value picks in the draft.
Obviously, this doesn't mean that this Steelers draft class is guaranteed to succeed. On the NFL stage, players could prove to be disappointing, and injuries can obviously derail careers. It's worth noting that part of the reason they were able to find such tremendous value in players like Washington and Trice was due to medical scares.
Still, I don't think we are overrating the Steelers draft right now. On paper, this is the most impressive draft haul I've witnessed since I started following the draft intently back in 2013. The value of this class even tops the initial consensus value they received in 2017 when they landed T.J. Watt, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Cameron Sutton, James Conner, and Josh Dobbs.
Again, we will have to wait several years before we will know if the collection of talent they earned this year could rival that class, and it's extremely unreasonable to think that Pittsburgh will find a T.J. Watt-level player anytime soon (but at the time, nobody realized how good he was going to be).
The 2023 Steelers draft class may very well prove to be a complete letdown. However, because they were able to find gifted athletes at great value at each phase of the draft, something tells me that -- as much as we have praised this class -- we still aren't overrating Pittsburgh's 2023 draft.