The 2023 NFL draft has concluded, and if you read the ratings and reviews of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ picks, almost everyone concludes that it was a huge blow for the Black and Gold. This could rival previous Steelers drafts for the best of all, excluding the 1974 draft which was historic for Pittsburgh.
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Heading into the draft, the Steelers had several areas they needed to improve. The most important thing was giving quarterback Kenny Pickett some protection up front. Pittsburgh filled that need with its first pick in the first round by drafting Broderick Jones from the defending national champion Georgia Bulldogs.
What the Steelers get in Jones is one of the highest-rated offensive linemen in this year’s draft. At 6’5” and 311 pounds, the 14th overall pick in the draft gives the Steelers an overall Next Gen Stats score of 85, which was the second-best among offensive tackles available in this year’s draft.
Broderick Jones is a beast plain and simple. He could end up being a throwback to the Steelers’ old offensive linemen. Big, nasty and aggressive. Jones is very athletic, as you’ll see in the video of him featured, often punching opponents. He should start his rookie season.
The Steelers Nation is going to love the second pick in the draft, especially for those who remember Joey Porter. That’s because his son Joey Porter Jr. is following in his father’s footsteps and is now a Pittsburgh Steeler and former Penn State Nittany Lion. The only difference is that Joey Senior played linebacker but Junior plays cornerback. That’s good news for Mike Tomlin as he tries to bolster a weak secondary at cornerback. Coming to the Steelers from Penn State, he stays in Pennsylvania and will look for a starting role in his rookie season.
The other five draft picks are as follows and in draft order:
Round 2, pick 49th overall: Keeanu Benton, defensive line, University of Wisconsin. There’s nothing wrong with bolstering his defensive line, and with Benton, the Steelers get a beefy lineman who weighs in at 309 pounds and took the sixth overall pick from him in this year’s draft. A former amateur wrestler, last season at the University of Wisconsin he made 35 stops, 10 of which were for loss, and also sacked opposing quarterbacks 4 ½ times with two pass breakups, all while starting 12 games. He’s counting on Benton to see a lot of playing time in 2023.
Round 3, pick 93 overall: Darnell Washington, tight end, University of Georgia. Washington joins first-round pick Broderick Jones out of Georgia, so the two will remain teammates. With Washington, the Steelers get a great tight end to complement Pat Freiermuth. Pittsburgh’s starting tight end has shown some big hands in his NFL career thus far, but Washington brings excellent blocking skills. Darnell Washington is a 6-foot-7, 264-pound mountain. Among tight ends in the draft class of 2023, Next Gen Stats ranks him No. 2. Washington is strong with 21 reps on the bench press at combine and runs a 4.64 40. Behind Freiermuth are Zach Gentry, Rodney Willims and now Washington, who will push the others as the run-blocking backup tight end this coming season.
Round 4, pick 132 overall: Nick Herbig, linebacker. Some pundits call this pick the draft steal. My first impression of Herbig was that his face reminds me a little of former Steelers linebacker Chad Brown. Like Brown and current Steelers linebacker Alex Highsmith, Nick Herbig comes to the NFL with a big engine. While he isn’t among the best linebackers in the draft, he did increase to 225 pounds on the bench press 25 times at the combine. Herbig hails from Hawaii, where he grew up and later played in college at Wisconsin. As Jones and Washington mentioned earlier, Herbig joins Keeanu Benton to remain teammates, as they were at Wisconsin. Herbig opted not to stay with the Badgers as a senior after making the Associated Press All-American team as a third member and also earning first-team All-Conference. For the 2022 season, he made 47 tackles, 15 ½ for loss, but the big number were sacks, of which he had 11. Pittsburgh has always had a strong linebacking corps and Herbig may be the next Jack Ham given his athleticism and football intelligence. .
Round 7, pick 241 overall. Cory Trice, Jr., defensive back, Purdue. The cornerback was definitely a must for the Steelers going into this draft and by signing veteran Patrick Peterson and drafting Joey Porter Jr., they’ve already strengthened that area. It never hurts to add more depth. Trice might be within reach to even make the team, but he’ll get a chance to showcase his skills this summer at St. Vincent’s College during the Steelers’ training camp in Latrobe.
Round 7, pick 251 overall. Spencer Anderson, Maryland, offensive lineman. Pittsburgh’s version of his “Mr. Irrelevant,” the last man in his draft is Anderson, who will provide depth and competition among the Steelers’ offensive line. His last two seasons with the Terrapins showed consistency and durability. In 2021, Anderson was an honorable All-Big Ten Conference selection, where he started each of the team’s 13 games. Nine of them were at right tackle. Last season he started all 13 games, all but one at right guard. In the other game, he moved to Right Tackle. He’s a long shot to make the team and if he makes the cut, he’ll most likely be on the practice squad.
As with all drafts, it sometimes takes several years to see any impact. But this year’s Pittsburgh Steelers draft class has the potential for an immediate impact. In 2022, Mike Tomlin’s 15-year streak of winning seasons was in jeopardy and after a 3-7 start to the season, it looked like the Steelers would have their first losing season since Tomlin took over in 2007. But the team he rallied behind his trainer. to win six of their last seven games, including the last four, and finish 9-8 preserving Tomlin’s streak. That record also kept them out of the cellar in the AFC North, where Cleveland finished last at 7-10.
With this draft class and the growth of quarterback Kenny Pickett, as well as one of his top targets, George Pickins, gaining experience, the Pittsburgh Steelers are expected to come back strong in the 2023 season and be playoff contenders.