The dreaded reach.
I believe Steelers fans fear this more than anything when preparing for the annual NFL Draft.
Think Terrell Edmunds, a player the Steelers definitely reached for when they selected the safety out of Virginia Tech in the first round (28th, overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Of course, Edmunds went on to have a solid-to-good five-year career in Pittsburgh before finally spreading his wings and becoming an Eagle in free agency. Just try telling that to the Steelers fans who could never get over the lack of Troy Polamalu-like splash and pizzazz.
- Artie Burns provides another great example of a reach.
Everybody and His Brother knew that cornerback was a prime need for the Steelers heading into the 2016 NFL Draft. The Steelers wanted William Jackson. The Bengals got him first. So the Steelers reached for Artie Burns. After a respectable rookie year, Burns started off year 2 OK but got shaky as the year progressed, opend 2018 as the starter but got benched and his career imploded shortly thereafter.
Fear not, Steelers fan, because it doesn’t look like your favorite professional football team will have to reach for a position of need when the 2023 NFL Draft kicks off on the evening of Thursday, April 27.
For one thing, the Steelers will be drafting damn-near in the middle of the first round (17th).
That’s right, unlike the 2018 draft when Pittsburgh, selecting near the end of the first round due to having an excellent 2017 regular season, missed out on three highly-thought-of inside linebackers (unfortunately, the organization was in desperation mode after the horrific spinal injury suffered by Ryan Shazier on December 4, 2017), the Steelers should have a shot at at least one high-pedigreed prospect who would address a specific position of need.
The two most important positions of need for the Steelers (in my humble opinion) are cornerback and offensive tackle (and not necessarily in that order).
If you go by the many big boards and the endless mock drafts that are produced on the regular, it’s easy to see that there are a lot of high-end prospects at both cornerback and offensive tackle.
By my count, there are no less than six corners who could go in the first round–including Christian Gonzalez (Oregon); Devon Witherspoon (Illinois); Joey Porter Jr. (Penn State); Cam Smith (South Carolina); Deonte Banks (Maryland); and Kelee Ringo (Georgia).
As for offensive tackles, there are at least five–including Paris Johnson Jr. (Ohio State); Pete Skoronski (Northwestern); Broderick Jones (Georgia); Anton Harrison (Oklahoma); and Darnell Wright (Tennessee).
That’s 11 prospects from two different positions who would very well go in the first round.
You throw in the handful of quarterback prospects who will likely be drafted before 17–including C.J. Stroud (Ohio State); Bryce Young (Alabama); Anthony Richardson (Florida); and Will Levis (Kentucky)–and there is no way Pittsburgh won’t have a shot at a promising cornerback or offensive tackle.
And we can’t forget about the likes of Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama; Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech; Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia; Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia; Calijah Kancey, DL, Pitt; Lucas Van Ness, DL, Iowa; Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson; Bijan Robinson, running back, Texas; Quintin Johnston, WR, TCU; and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State.
- Many of those prospects will also be off the board by the time Pittsburgh selects at 17.
It’s going to be damn-near impossible for Pittsburgh to reach at cornerback or offensive tackle.
Also, if the Steelers, an organization that perhaps has a better grasp of its needs than I do, decides that an edge, receiver, defensive lineman or safety (can’t forget about Alabama’s Brian Branch) is too good to pass up at 17, well, they also have the first pick of the second round (32, overall) to address either cornerback or offensive tackle with a quality prospect–likely someone from the aforementioned pool of players.
Or, since the depth at corner appears to be greater than the depth at offensive tackle in the 2023 NFL Draft, Pittsburgh could snatch up one of the top linemen, knowing that a quality defensive back will probably still be there at 32.
Obviously, the draft is a crapshoot, and for every Troy Polamalu, there is at least one Devin Bush (usually three or four, unfortunately).
But the more high-end prospects there are at positions of need, the better chance a team will have of not reaching for a player.
The Steelers should be sitting pretty in that department in 2023.