Will Steelers use first-round pick on this position for first time under Mike Tomlin?

Mike Tomlin is looking forward to the upcoming NFL Draft
Mike Tomlin is looking forward to the upcoming NFL Draft / Joe Sargent/GettyImages
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Yes, the Steelers should draft an offensive tackle with pick 17

The Steelers’ top priority is protecting their franchise quarterback, Kenny Pickett, who had two concussions as a rookie last season. To adequately ensure his safety, Pittsburgh needs to select one of the prime offensive tackles early. 

Last season’s starting left tackle, Dan Moore Jr., allowed a team-high seven sacks (tied for seventh in the NFL) and was whistled for 10 penalties (tied for eighth in the NFL). According to Pro Football Focus, Moore’s 62.4 player grade ranked 57th of 81 tackles that were evaluated. 

Starting right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor, who received a contract extension prior to last season, graded out even worse with a 61.2 PFF rating (60th of 81). Okorafor did only allow three sacks (tied for 49th in the NFL) and committed four penalties (tied for 55th in the NFL) in 1159 snaps last season.

With Seumalo likely sliding into the starting left guard role held by Kevin Dotson last season, the Steelers need to draft a stud offensive tackle in the first round to at least challenge Moore and/or Okorafor for the starting role. Whoever loses out would be a nice backup tackle, along with newly signed free agent La’Raven Clark.

The Steelers will need to get a little lucky to have former Ohio State OT Paris Johnson Jr. (6-6, 313, 6.39 NFL.com Prospect Rating) or former Northwestern OT Peter Skoronski (6-4, 313, 6.73 prospect rating) fall to them in the first round. But barring luck, or a trade-up, realistic possibilities at pick 17 include former Georgia OT Broderick Jones (6-5, 311, 6.44 prospect rating) and former Tennessee OT Darnell Wright (6-5, 333, 6.38 prospect rating). 

Johnson’s size and long arms (36 1/8 inches), as well as his performance at Ohio State, indicate that he will be a long-term starter at tackle in the NFL. He does have the ability to move inside to guard if needed and ranked sixth among offensive tackle rankings at the combine per NFL.com.

Skoronski has short arms (32 1/4 inches) but graded out as the top-ranked offensive tackle at the combine per NFL.com. He should be an immediate starter for someone, although it’s possible his best position will be inside at guard in the NFL.

Jones proved to be a steady presence for the National Champion Bulldogs as a senior. He posted great combine numbers, ranking second overall in production and athleticism combined according to NFL.com.

Wright was right behind Jones in the NFL.com combine rankings, ranking fourth in production and third in athleticism for a combined ranking of third. He was the Vols’ starting right tackle, and if the Steelers were to select him they could let Okorafor and Moore battle it out for the starting left tackle position.