The 2022-2023 season has come to an end for the Steelers leaving them with a record of 9-8. After last year’s 1st round draft pick Kenny Pickett settled into the Canada offense and led the team almost into the playoffs, expectations are much higher for next season. However, there are still some holes on the offense and defense that can certainly be fixed through free agency and the 2023 NFL draft. This is what the Steelers could do in this upcoming draft.
There are some starters on the team that will be free agents: Cam Sutton, Larry Ogunjobi, Devin Bush, Tyson Alualu, and Terrel Edmunds. Knowing that the Steelers did not give Devin Bush the 5th year option leads me to believe that he will not return as a Steeler next season. Bush is an inside linebacker, which is one of the most important positions for the Steeler’s defense considering they play a 3-4 defense. This could imply that with the 17th pick of the draft, the Steelers could very much take an inside linebacker to replace Bush in the front-7.
I believe that there are a couple of good replacements for Bush in the draft such as Drew Sanders from Arkansas, and Trenton Simpson from Clemson. There will also be plenty of linebackers available in free agency if the Steelers decide they’re not interested in taking a linebacker in the draft. Some of the players are Lavonte David, Tremaine Edmunds, T.J. Edwards, and Germaine Pratt.
Out of the players I just listed, Tremaine Edmunds would make the most sense because his brother Terrel Edmunds is a current starter at safety for the Steelers – not to mention his other brother Trey has spent time with the Steelers. Although Terrell is also a free agent, which means there is a chance the Steelers will not get either of the brothers. In that case, the team will need a replacement at safety as well.
Another possibility for early in the draft is that the Steelers address the trenches. They could use help along the offensive line, especially at tackle. I wouldn’t be surprised if they added to the defensive line either. Cam Heyward isn’t getting any younger and they could use a big run-stopper. Picking in the middle of the first round, they won’t be able to get the top talents at those positions but there could be value to be found. Many believe this is the most likely area the team will focus on in this year’s draft.
You also can’t factor out that the number one corner on the team will also be a free agent this off-season. However, if the Steelers offer Sutton a contract and the money is right, I don’t see him leaving the team in free agency. Although if Sutton decides to part ways, this could lead to the Steelers taking a cornerback with their first-round pick. If these things happen and Sutton decides to leave, there is a big possibility of who the team could take if he is still there at #17. The 6’2, 194-pound Cornerback, and Penn State’s own Joey Porter Jr.
Now this is a bit of a long shot considering Porter is a projected top-ten pick and some believe the best corner in this draft. Players could move ahead of Porter considering there are four Quarterbacks and four Cornerbacks projected to go in the first round. Remember, you never know how things may change before the draft with the NFL combine where athletes that are entering the draft show off their talents and what they can do. Yet there is still a huge possibility that Porter will be gone by the time it is the Steeler’s pick. This leads me to my last take.
After taking George Pickens in the second round last year and having Diontae Johnson for one last year on his contract, the team might be close to adding that last piece of the puzzle to the receiving core in the first round. In franchise history, the Steelers have never taken a player in the first round that went to the same college two years in a row. Well, this year they might just break the streak. Yes, Kenny Pickett was spectacular at Pitt, but the star wide receiver Jordan Addison had a huge role in Pickett’s success at Pitt. In Addison’s sophomore year at Pitt, he led college football nationally with 17 touchdown receptions. He was First-Team All-ACC WR in 2021 and First-Team All-Pac-12 in 2022. After Pickett moved on to the NFL, Addison transferred to USC. Now, it would be amazing to get Addison, the main problem is that he is projected by some as the #1 receiver in the draft. Most mock drafts you look at will show Addison getting picked in the top fifteen. It is unlikely Addison will be there but, if he is there, the Steelers would certainly consider taking him. If Addison goes before the Steelers pick, there is still hope of finding a receiver later in the draft.
Remember, the Steelers traded wide receiver Chase Claypool to the Chicago Bears for a second-round pick this year. Another plus is that it is an early second-round pick because the Bears have the first pick of the draft – which means the Claypool compensation is the first pick of the 2nd round (#32 overall). With two second-round picks, the Steelers could very much still find an impact receiver. Some of the receivers that could drop to Pittsburgh in the second round are Jaxson Smith-Nijigba (Ohio State), Jalin Hyatt (Tennessee), Rashee Rice (SMU), and Parker Washington (Penn State).
We are still two and a half months away from the draft, so only time will tell how things will change from now until then. NFL Draft season comes with lots of rumors so it’s fun to speculate what may happen.
Let me know your thoughts on what the Steelers should do in the Comments below.