Does anyone like going to the dentist? No offense to our fine dental professionals out there, but most people probably aren’t fans of this routine. I’m not a huge fan of Mock Drafts either. But, like going to the dentist, they are a necessity. In order to start visualizing what the Pittsburgh Steelers may do, it’s important to run through scenarios.
As is always the case when I do these, I am selecting based strictly on what I believe Omar Khan, Mike Tomlin and company will do rather than what I myself would do. These early mock drafts also cannot anticipate what free agent moves the Steelers do either which greatly impacts their draft strategy. Here we go with version 1.0 for 2023.
Round One Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
The Steelers haven’t had a lot of success drafting cornerbacks in the first round so I think they have reason to be hesitant. That said, Gonzalez seems like a guy who will immediately start and be an impact player. Any Mike Tomlin CB must be good against the run and Gonzalez most definitely is. He also has the ability to play man-to-man well and play zone with great success. He’ll probably need to add some strength but his overall skill set is outstanding.
Round Two Siaki Ika, DT, Baylor
Did the Steelers improve against the run as the season wore on? Yes, they did to an extent but they are lacking the space-eater up front that allows other players to make plays. Ika is exactly what this defense needs. He has the ability to play directly over the center or slide out a bit and play 3-tech as well. He is the literal definition of the guy who takes up guys so others can roam free.
Round Two Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
Mike Tomlin was very interested in this young man at the Reese’s Senior Bowl as he spent a lot of time with the offensive linemen in general. Wright came to college as a 5-star recruit. He faced top of the line competition in the SEC and showed himself quite well. At 6’6″ 330lbs, I wonder if he couldn’t stand to drop a few pounds to make up for some shortcomings in overall quickness. He has shown he can play both right and left tackle where he’s excelled. I think his overall run blocking needs some work.
Round Three Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa
Let’s see… He’s a linebacker and his first name is Jack. I like his chances in Black and Gold! In all seriousness, Campbell is a tackling machine who also has the ability to cover receivers well in zone but will need work in man-to-man situations. Campbell is super physical and can stack and shed with the best of them. He has very good size and a high IQ for the game. The Steelers are desperate for ILB help too.
Round Four Joe Tippmann, C, Wisconsin
Tippmann offers the rare combination of size (6’6″) and athleticism at the position. He can get to the next level with ease and is really good at pulling from his center position. There are some balance issues due to his size especially when dealing with smaller, stronger DTs but he’s a tremendous pick here this late in the draft.
Round Seven Josh Whyle, TE, Cincinnati
This is a luxury pick in many ways. If Zach Gentry leaves via free agency then they’ll need a tight end more suited to blocking. Right now, Whyle is an athletic receiving tight end who can make some plays for you in the passing game. The willingness to block is there so that’s a start. He’ll need to add strength and appears to have the frame that could stand for that added muscle.
Round Seven Viliami Fehoko, EDGE, San Jose State
At 6’4″ and 260lbs, this kid is a load on the edge. He’s a former rugby player who has turned himself into a respectable pass rusher. As with man EDGE guys, he has a motor that doesn’t appear to stop. He doesn’t have the ‘bend’ or explosiveness you’d like to see, but the Steelers need depth at this position in a big way. If he can set the edge and create even ‘some’ pressure, that would be a good start.