The Pittsburgh Steelers have made some solid moves this offseason. They not only retained Larry Ogunjobi, but also brought in key players like Isaac Seumalo, Cole Holcomb and Patrick Peterson. They did lose Cam Sutton to the Detroit Lions, but overall, this team took a step forward in free agency.
However, is it enough of a step forward to compete in the loaded AFC? With the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals at the top of the conference, the Steelers need more firepower to compete with those top teams. Fortunately for them, there’s still plenty of time in the offseason to ramp up the roster even more, particularly with the NFL Draft on the horizon.
Pittsburgh has enjoyed a pretty good drafting record over the years, developing many homegrown players into NFL stars. The most recent example of this is T.J. Watt, but franchise legends like Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu also fall under this camp. The Steelers hold the 17th overall pick in the 2023 draft, and they’re hoping they can find another future face of the franchise.
With that said, here are three players the Steelers should take a look at selecting with their first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
3. Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
In fairness, Pittsburgh’s pass rush is actually pretty good. Watt is arguably the best edge rusher in the league, Cameron Heyward is still great at 33 and Alex Highsmith is coming off a breakout season with 14.5 sacks. So, it seems like edge rusher wouldn’t be of much need for the Steelers.
However, remember that Watt missed nearly half the season with injury in 2022. With him out, Pittsburgh’s defense was nowhere near as effective. For context, in 10 games with Watt, the Steelers went 8-2 and allowed just 16.2 points per game. In seven games without him, they went 1-6 and allowed 25.3 points per game.
Yes, Watt is a tremendous player and there are obviously other factors at play here, but the absence of one defender shouldn’t cause that much of a decline. With that in mind, picking another edge rusher to both complement Watt and take some pressure off him makes some sense. If the Steelers do go that route, then Clemson’s Myles Murphy would be a dream selection.
Analysts have placed Murphy all over the board in mock drafts, with some having him in the top-10 and others having him at the end of the first round. Due to this, it’s hard to say whether or not he will be available when Pittsburgh is on the clock. If he is, though, then the Steelers must heavily consider taking him.
2. Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
Pittsburgh’s offensive line has been a point of contention for a while now. Right now, it’s not one of the worst in the league, but certainly needs some work. The middle of the line is solid, especially with the addition of Seumalo, but the tackles are a clear weak point.
The Steelers’ two starting tackles are Dan Moore Jr. on the left and Chukuwuma Okorafor on the right. They both earned PFF grades in the low 60s, finishing in the bottom third of tackles in the league. With young players still developing at both quarterback and running back, the Steelers must protect them better than they have, and that starts with improving the tackles.
Fortunately for them, this is a pretty strong class of tackles, and there should be some good ones still available at No. 17. Of those players, one very compelling option is Tennessee’s Darnell Wright. Wright has shined in the pre-draft process, turning in strong performances at the Senior Bowl and NFL combine. He could instantly slot in on the Steelers’ line and provide quality blocking in both the run and pass games.
1. Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
Cornerback might be the Steelers’ biggest need right now, even more than offensive tackle. Their cornerback room already wasn’t great, and then they lost their top corner in Sutton. Signing Peterson helps, but he’ll be 32 when the season starts, so he’s not a long-term answer.
Again, though, this is a very strong cornerback class. There are several corners who could go in the first round, and a couple may go in the top-10. Considering the Steelers’ draft position, Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr. should be their top target at corner.
Porter has good size and athleticism for his size, plays very physically and excels in press coverage. Plus, he’s the son of longtime Steeler Joey Porter, so playing for his dad’s team could be a dream come true. Porter Jr. was practically born to be a Steeler, and the team should do whatever it can to get him.
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