We have finally reached the end. After months of poking, prodding, testing both physically and mentally we have finally reached the NFL Draft for 2023. I’m not a huge fan of mock drafts in general but I find there is some usefulness to them. Each year I do four of them and this is my final one.
Understand that when I do mine, I’m selecting players as if I were Omar Khan, Mike Tomlin, Andy Weidl and company. Guys that I would select are often different than who the team would select for various reasons. That said, I truly believe the purpose of a mock draft is to step into the shoes of the team and draft that way, rather than what I’d do. Below you’ll find my selections, picks from the previous three mocks and some alternative considerations. Here we go.
Round 1 Pick 17: Joey Porter, Jr, CB, Penn State
Call me a sucker but this has had the Steelers all over it since the season ended. The Steelers love nepotism and “good” stories more than most teams and while I personally don’t care for the pick, I just don’t see a way out of it. Porter has a lot to like. He’s tall, has great length, is aggressive both in pass coverage and in run stopping but he’s not the ball hawk that I prefer. He can be a bit too “grabby” which won’t fly at the NFL level and of all of the top corners I think he’s closest to his ceiling. I think he’s better in man-to-man than he is zone where he needs to read things a bit better. Overall, this is probably the safest pick the Steelers can make at 17 but I’d rather they went in a different direction.
NOTES: Porter is the son of former Steelers’ OLB and OLB Coach Joey Porter… Went to high school at North Allegheny and North Catholic in Pittsburgh…
Also considered: Brain Branch, Deonte Banks
REASONING: The Steelers desperately need help at cornerback. Porter, Jr checks several boxes and he can learn from Patrick Peterson. Personally I would prefer Banks and his overall game here but as I stated above, the Steelers are suckers for good stories.
Mock 1.0 Round One Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
Mock 2.0 Round One Kylee Ringo, CB, Georgia (Following Trade down)
Mock 3.0 Round One Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
Round 2 Pick 32: Will McDonald IV, OLB, Iowa State
Extending the contract of Alex Highsmith is not as easy as many think it will be and should the Steelers and Highsmith struggle to find common ground, they’ll need to have a legitimate reserve. McDonald has one major concern in my book but it’s something that can be addressed. He struggles to consistently set the edge which is an absolute must in Pittsburgh. The willingness and aggressiveness are there so I believe with practice and proper coaching he’ll be fine. Pass rushing and pursuit is where McDonald really shines. He would be an excellent, pass rushing specialist in his rookie campaign while at the same time giving him the experience necessary to be a starter should Highsmith depart.
NOTES: Mike Tomlin and Omar Khan were at the Iowa State Pro Day… Had 27 sacks in his final three seasons for the Cyclones but just five were recorded last season.
Also Considered: Dawand Jones, Anton Harrison
REASONING: I alluded to it above with Highsmith and his contract situation but in the NFL today, you can never have enough pass rushers. It’s that simple.
Mock 1.0 Round Two Siaki Ika, DT, Baylor
Mock 2.0 Round Two O’Cyrus Torrence, G, Florida
Mock 3.0 Round Two Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State
Round 2 Pick 49: Ji’Ayir Brown, S, Penn State
Let’s start with a comparison that I’ve seen a few places… Brown reminds people of former Steeler Ryan Clark. While Clark had a few limitations, there were few players who could better compliment the guy next them, in this case, Troy Polamalu. Brown is a smart player and he has the flexibility to cover in the slot, play in the box or even play center field when necessary. His NFL Combine numbers weren’t all that spectacular which has led some to believe that he might not be anything more than an ‘in the box’ safety. To me, the proof is in the film. Watch him on the blitz – he’s sneaky good at it. Watch him in coverage where he’s collected double-digit interceptions in two seasons. The Steelers signed Keanu Neal in free agency but if Brown picks things up quickly, he would be a massive addition to the defense.
NOTES: Would like to be a sports analyst… Led the state of New Jersey in steals in senior season of basketball.
Also Considered: Tyrique Stevenson, Mazi Smith
REASONING: If you look at great Steelers’ defenses of the past, they all had excellent safety play from not just one guy, but two. We already know what we have in Minkah Fitzpatrick and if Brown can be the Robin to his Batman then this defense takes a step up.
Mock 1.0 Round Two Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
Mock 2.0 Round Two Gervon Dexter, DL, Florida
Mock 3.o Round Two Mazi Smith, DT, Michigan
Round 3 Pick 80: Jonathan Mingo, WR, Ole Miss
Mingo has been on the Steelers’ radar since the Draft process started. While he lacks top speed, he’s an excellent route runner who at 6’2″ and over 200lbs uses his strength and toughness to create space. He steps into the slot role that JuJu Smith-Schuster had where the team relied on his above-average blocking skills in the run game and his ability to make tough catches in the passing game. With very little to go on with Calvin Austin III, the Steelers had to address the position. With the addition of Allen Robinson, the Steelers can be patient with Mingo too.
NOTES: Mingo was in for a Personal Visit with the Steelers… He spent time with the Steelers during the Senior Bowl.
Also Considered: Jayden Reed
REASONING: The addition of Allen Robinson for essentially an order of fries at Primanti’s was excellent work by Omar Khan. But the Steelers still need some help here especially if Robinson isn’t healthy. Mingo gives the Steelers options without having to push him into service immediately.
Mock 1.0 Round Three Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa
Mock 2.0 Round Three Rashee Rice, WR, SMU
Mock 3.0 Round Three Ji’Ayir Brown, S, Penn State
Round 4 Pick 120: Tyler Steen, OT, Alabama
The former Vanderbilt defensive end transferred to Alabama as a grad student prior to the start of the 2022 season. He became the starting left tackle for the Crimson Tide (after 33 consecutive starts for the Commodores) and more than held his own at the position. An All-SEC selection, Steen is a smart player who reads things in front of him well. He doesn’t get fooled by stunts and twists. While not as athletic as some of his contemporaries, I think he moves well and he uses his hands and long arms really well. Whether he challenges either Dan Moore, Jr or Chuks Okorafor for a starting spot in his rookie season I cannot say but I think he would become an excellent swing tackle while putting himself into position to start in year two.
NOTES: Attended the prestigious St. Thomas Aquinas High School in South Florida… His grandfather was awarded the Medal of Honor for his duty during Vietnam.
REASONING: The Steelers need competition for both Okorafor and Moore, Jr and perhaps even more than that they have to get better. My gut tells me the Steelers will add a tackle earlier than this but at the same time, they haven’t shown nearly as much interest in them as I anticipated in the Draft process. Steen is a guy they’ve looked at and he fits perfectly here.
Mock 1.0 Round Four Joe Tippmann, C, Wisconsin
Mock 2.0 Round Four Mohamoud Diabate, LB, Utah
Mock 3.0 Round Four Jayden Reed, WR, Michigan State
Round 7 Pick 241 (From Vikings via Broncos): Eli Ricks, CB, Alabama
I’ve been saying for several months that I believe the Steelers will “double-up” on cornerbacks so I’m sticking to my guns. Ricks is an interesting player. He has great size at 6’2″ 200lbs and has impressive length for a DB. He’s very solid in press man and does well to play the short and intermediate routes. Where he needs work is both in run stopping and in covering deep. His overall lack of speed is what it is. He also lacks experience but should be a Special Teams contributor immediately while honing his skills as a corner.
NOTES: Attended IMG Academy in Florida for his senior season after leading Mater Dei HS to back-to-back titles in California… Was the #1 CB in the state of Florida… Played his first two seasons at LSU before transferring.
Also Considered: Bumper Pool
REASONING: The team has to build depth here. Ahkello Witherspoon, James Pierre et al are just not reliable long-term solutions.
Mock 1.0 Round Seven Josh Whyle, TE, Cincinnati
Mock 2.0 Round Seven Karl Brooks, DL, Bowling Green
Mock 3.0 Round Seven Davis Allen, TE, Clemson
Round 7 Pick 251 (From LA Rams): Robert Beal, Jr., OLB, Georgia
Beal is a classic case of a guy who was heavily recruited (5-star player) but just never made his way into the starting lineup. He certainly looks the part at 6’4″ 250lbs but with just 10 starts in five seasons for the Bulldogs it’s clear that something just didn’t click. He’s plays aggressively and has a massive wing-span that creates issues for blockers. He has a nice little variety of pass rush moves but will need to improve mostly against the run. With the Steelers losing several players who were important on Special Teams, Beal will help with rebuilding that phase of the game.
NOTES: Started eight games for the Bulldogs and played in all 15 in 2022… Had a strip-sack in the SEC Title Game against LSU.
REASONING: My guess is that the Steelers will look at hard at QBs here but will ultimately remember last season when they drafted Chris Oladokun. He was eventually cut, was picked up by the Chiefs and got a Super Bowl ring. The point? They can add plenty of QBs in free agency immediately after the Draft. Beal has too much upside both as a defensive player and Special Teamer not to consider here.