Home Steelers DraftDraft Analysis SCB Steelers Draft Position Profiles 2023: Defensive Line

SCB Steelers Draft Position Profiles 2023: Defensive Line

by Steeldad

Welcome to our Steelers Draft Profiles. What we’ve done is create lists of top prospects with our take on their abilities based on what we’ve seen of them. Once published, we will continue to update these very articles on a regular basis as new information comes in about the players. In today’s article, we feature the Defensive Line.

Jalen Carter — JR — Georgia — 6’3″ 300

Carter is arguably the best player in the entire draft class, but his pending legal issues may drop him down the draft board. He was recently arraigned on charges of reckless driving and racing in an accident that resulted in the death of a Georgia teammate and athletic department staffer. On the field, Carter is an explosive, disruptive player on the interior. He has excellent hands and can battle through the clutter of line play to make an impact behind the line of scrimmage.

Notes: Pro Day was a disaster. Came in 9 pounds heavier than at Combine and was gassed in nearly every drill. Still expected to be a Top 10 pick.

Calijah Kancey — JR — Pitt — 6’0″ 280

Pitt fans saw how disruptive Kancey could be on the interior this season. Kancey was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and posted 7.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss.¬† His best position is probably at the 5-tech spot with an explosive burst off the line and good feet to propel him through traffic. When he can pin his ears back and rush the passer from the interior, Kancey is an absolute monster. He is highly athletic though slightly undersized, but can make up for it with his continuous motor to track to the ball. Kancey’s shortcomings are in run defense where he can get overpowered and swallowed up by opposing linemen.

Key Combine Numbers:
4.67 40-yard dash

Bryan Bresee — rSO — Clemson — 6’5″ 305

Bresee has missed some time in his career due to injuries (a torn ACL in 2021) but when he has been on the field he has been a force. In 2022 he posted 3.5 sacks and 5.5 TFLs. Bresee is a huge man on the inside and projects as a 3-tech who can match up with centers and guards. He has the hand fighting to battle through double teams and is a solid anchor against the run. He doesn’t have the initial explosiveness or athleticism of some of the 5-tech prospects in this draft and is better suited to being an interior anchor. He has the lower body strength to push the pocket back into the quarterback’s lap. Bresee was not highly productive, but he is capable of eating up blocks to allow the linebackers behind him to shine. Mike Tomlin attended Clemson’s Pro Day where Bresee performed well.

Key Combine Numbers:
4.86 40-yard dash

Byron Young — SR — Alabama –6’3″ 292

Young is an interior defender who can play as a 3-tech or a 5-tech. His best approach seems to be in two-gapping to be able to read and react rather than attacking a gap. He does not have elite explosiveness off the line but is a smart and powerful player who is capable of making the right reads against the run. Young’s upper body is well ahead of his lower body from a technique standpoint. He is a good handfighter and is strong and broad. However, his footwork needs improvement and he can lose leverage without anchoring his base. As a senior leader on the defense, Young is a heady, smart player who can be a solid run defender at the next level.

Zacch Pickens — SR –South Carolina — 6’4″ 305

Pickens is a highly athletic 3-tech who has the size and frame to be a consistent NFL contributor. He is tall with long arms which gives him the ability to control blocks and keep them away from his torso. Pickens is explosive off the ball and can attack gaps and rush upfield. He seems like a player who tends to “play the run on the way to the QB.” With his height, he can struggle to get low with his pad level and anchor and is better at 1-gapping to attack holes rather than playing as a two-gap anchor. Overall, Pickens has good hands and feet and is quick off the ball, which makes him a valuable 3-down player in the NFL.

Key Combine Numbers
4.89 40-yard dash

Adetomiwa Adebawore — SR — Northwestern — 6’2″ 280

Adebawore is reminiscent of DeMarvin Leal in that he has the ability to play both as a 5-tech lineman or as a heavier edge. He is strong at the point of attack and wins with leverage and strength. One of his struggles is to shed blocks on the interior and with his shorter frame can get swallowed up by longer-armed tackles. Athletically, he tested off the charts with explosion and speed at the combine.

Key Combine Numbers:
4.49 40-yard dash

Keeanu Benton — SR — Wisconsin — 6’4″ 315

Benton was one of the dominant performers at the Senior Bowl. He was nigh unblockable by any lineman during practices. He uses his strength at the point of attack to bully his way past linemen with strong hands to throw them out of the way. Benton is a brawler who won’t give up on the play and will continue fighting through contact. He is stout with a wide base and solid anchor, making him difficult to move out of the interior. Benton doesn’t explode off the ball and is more of a brute force in the middle than a penetrator, making him better against the run than the pass.

Key Combine Numbers:
5.08 40-yard dash

Siaki Ika — rJR– Baylor — 6’3″ 335

Ika is one of the top pure nose tackles in the draft class. He has the size and strength to be an anchor on the interior. He is strong at the point of attack and can eat up multiple blockers and drive them back into the pocket. Ika is likely a two-down player in the NFL and is mostly a straight-line player. He relies heavily on his strength and needs to improve his footwork to be able to mirror cutback runs and not get off-balance with his weight leading his feet.

Key Combine Numbers:
5.39 40-yard dash

Mazi Smith — SR– Michigan — 6’3″ 323

Another pure nose tackle whose best position is on the inside. Smith has the size and athleticism to be a force against the run. He has a strong anchor and can play horizontally along the line but doesn’t have the explosive first step to get penetration into the backfield. He has strong hands and good feet to move and redirect blockers. Smith is a gap controller on the inside but will be somewhat limited as a 2-down player in the NFL.

Notes: Met with Steelers at his Pro Day.

Keondre Coburn –rSR –Texas– 6’2″ 332

Coburn is a massive human who is a space-eater in the middle. He is a pure nose tackle who was extremely durable during his career at Texas, starting 45 games. He wins with his size and strength, overpowering interior linemen. He does not have the explosiveness off the line to contribute much in pass rushing, other than being able to push the pocket. As a 1-tech nose, Coburn will likely be a 2-down player in the NFL but has the ability to be impactful in run defense. Coburn is a solid two-gapping plug in the middle of the defense.

Key Combine Numbers
5.22 40-yard dash

Gervon Dexter – JR. – Florida – 6’6″ 310lbs

Two-gap ability from the start… Size and frame are difficult for teams to ignore… Seems destined for a role in a 3-4 defense… Length allows him to make plays even when blocked… Pass rushing needs work… Decent power rusher but will need to work on his overall ability… Hand usage is likely a huge point of emphasis for any team that drafts him… Needs to get quicker off the ball… Needs to get better against double-teams… He will need to be coached up in order to become a primary player in my opinion.

Key Combine Stats:
Bench: 22 reps
40-yard Dash: 4.88

Notes: Is scheduled to visit with the Steelers as one of their personal visits.

Others we’re watching:¬†Karl Brooks (Bowling Green), Jaquelin Roy (LSU), Cameron Young (Mississippi St), Cory Durden (NC State), Jalen Redmond (Oklahoma)

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