The Pittsburgh Steelers still have seven games left in the 2022 regular season, but after their 37-30 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals plunged their record to 3-7, many have turned their attention away from the remaining games and looking at the 2023 NFL Draft.
Some scoff at the idea, but it doesn’t hurt to start and take a look at not just which players are considered to be Top 10 talents, but also players who might be on the Steelers’ radar when the draft process begins shortly after the college football regular season wraps up.
The folks at ESPN recently put together their first mock draft for the Top 10 picks in the draft, and of course the Steelers are among those who will be picking in that area. To be specific, the experts have the Steelers picking 5th overall.
For clarity, here are the teams and players selected before the Steelers made their pick.
1. Houston Texans —Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
2. Carolina Panthers — C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
3. Seattle Seahawks — Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
4. Chicago Bears — Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama
It should be noted the experts at ESPN all gave their thoughts and opinions on who the Steelers should, or shouldn’t, take with their pick. Here is what they think, and the consensus of who they have the Steelers taking.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
Miller: We’ve made it through four picks, and no offensive tackles are off the board. I like the Steelers to grab one here. Their offensive line has been pieced together with castoffs and late-round picks, so it’s time to build with a premium prospect. An anchor is needed, and Johnson feels like that kind of player.
Reid: I’m with you. After starting at right guard for the entirety of the 2021 season, Johnson has seamlessly transitioned to left tackle and has been very impressive. The Steelers desperately need help up front to protect Kenny Pickett, and Johnson’s ability as a pass-protector, demeanor as a run blocker and overall upside fit the billing of what Pittsburgh likes in its offensive tackles. He hasn’t allowed a single sack this season and has taken just one penalty.
Miller: The Steelers are never drafting in the top 10 picks, so this is a rare opportunity to grab a very pro-ready prospect at a premium position. Left tackle is arguably the second-most important position in football behind the quarterback — another position that might be in play here. Pickett hasn’t exactly set the NFL on fire in his first season, and the Steelers must at least have the conversation about where they grade Levis compared to Pickett. I’m still drafting Johnson, though. Levis isn’t a surefire upgrade over Pickett.
Reid: I wouldn’t put Pittsburgh entertaining a defensive player here out of the realm of possibilities. Cornerback is a huge need, and this draft class is very deep at the position. Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr. has been excellent this year, and Georgia’s Kelee Ringo has great size (6-foot-2) and toughness. And even still, the Steelers likely will be praying that Anderson or Carter fall to them.
Miller: Oh yeah, if Carter falls to the Steelers, that’s an immediate “yes” from me. He could be the next Cameron Heyward on that defensive line. My next best defender available is Clemson defensive end Myles Murphy. But does he fit?
Reid: He seems to be flying under the radar. A three-man rotation of T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith and Murphy would be intriguing, but after investing a first-rounder on Pickett, Pittsburgh has to go all-in on protecting him.
Our pick for Pittsburgh: Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
I know it’s early, but what do you think of the Steelers taking an offensive tackle in Round 1, but also them taking Johnson out of Ohio State? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the team as they prepare for the Indianapolis Colts in Week 12 of the 2022 regular season.
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