The Pittsburgh Steelers have draft trends that could change with a new general manager, but here’s why they don’t in this recent 2023 mock draft.
During his two-decade tenure as general manager of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Kevin Colbert had certainly drafted trends that we became accustomed to. Since 2000, you would be hard-pressed to find a team that would spend more top draft capital on the defense than the Steelers, and it paid dividends for them.
In each of his two Super Bowl victories, Colbert’s team possessed the top defense in the NFL. However, now that there’s a new general manager in the house, some of these draft trends are subject to change.
The Steelers Long-time financial wizard, Omar Khan, recently took over for Colbert as a not-so-surprising in-house hire. Though he has been working under Colbert’s wing for the past 21 years, Khan could place an emphasis on different positions early in the NFL Draft.
Not in this case. In the most recent two-round mock draft by Pro Football Network, the Pittsburgh Steelers ignore the offensive line once again and double up on defense. PFN’s Oliver Hodgkinson has Pittsburgh going with Georgia edge defender Nolan Smith with their first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Pro Football Network predicts the Steelers finishing poorly enough to earn the 11th overall selection next year –which means their 2022 season was not very successful. Still, it’s interesting to see that the football media is still projecting them to target defense early in the draft.
Will Steelers choose defense early in the 2023 draft?
Obviously, it’s way too early to say for sure that the Steelers will take a player on the defensive side with their first-round pick, but Pro Football Network is hardly the first media outlet to predict them to do so in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Despite their struggles on offense, many believe that Pittsburgh will hold true to their roots – even amidst the general manager change – and make an effort to keep their defense elite.
Nolan Smith is an impressive candidate, and this selection would make a lot of sense. With Alex Highsmith entering a contract year and not guaranteed to sign with the Steelers following the 2022 season, Smith could immediately step into a starting role on Pittsburgh’s defense opposite TJ Watt and could prove to be a valuable asset from the gate.
Even if Highsmith does return, there’s no guarantee that he takes that next step up this year or that he will be viewed as a starting edge defender moving forward. Pittsburgh seems to invest big at edge defender every few years and they are due to take another pass rusher early.
Meanwhile, Pro Football Network has the Steelers going with an interior defender with their second-round pick in this 2023 NFL mock draft. LSU’s Jaquelin Roy is a long, versatile defensive lineman who can line up at multiple positions to help stop the run and provide some pressure. The reasoning for this selection no doubt has to do with the recent retirement of Stephon Tuitt.
Sadly, these mock drafts all seem to have something in common: they believe the Steelers will ignore the offensive line early in the draft once again. It’s been a decade since Pittsburgh has taken an offensive lineman of any kind with more than a third-round pick. What’s most remarkable is that this team hasn’t selected an offensive tackle in the first round of the draft since taking Jamain Stephens in 1996.
Eventually, this is going to change and this infamous steak will be broken. However, based on historic draft trends, it’s not unreasonable for writers to be mocking defense to the Steelers early in the 2023 draft. If Omah Khan values that side of the ball like Colbert did, it’s a real possibility with their first two selections next year.