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This NFL Team Must Trade Up In The First Round To Change Their Offense

The NFL Draft is a precarious business.

At its core, the process occupies the space between uncertainty and hope. Teams convince themselves that the player they are taking in the first round is talented enough to be the next star at their position. They think that competing teams in the draft slept on their fourth-round selection. As a result, organizations often trade down for additional value or move up to snag the prospect they like.

In this context, the Pittsburgh Steelers are in a challenging position. First, they desperately need to address their tackle position, which has been an issue for several years. Although the offense played better as a cohesive unit toward the back half of last season, they must address the most crucial position across the offensive line.

Why Trade Up And What Does It Look Like?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in draft purgatory with their positioning in the 2023 NFL Draft. Sitting at 17th overall in the first round, they will likely miss out on being able to draft the three best offensive tackle prospects.

Peter Skoronski, Broderick Jones, and Paris Johnson Jr. are likely the Steelers’ top selection candidates. As a result, they must leapfrog at least some tackle-needy teams, such as the Bears, Titans, Jets, and Patriots, ahead of them. Moreover, a secondary need for them, cornerback, may also be out of the elite options in the draft at their turn. This should be a secondary (pun intended) concern, as the position is far deeper than the thin tackle class.

While top three prospects Devon Witherspoon, Christian Gonzalez, and Joey Porter Jr. may all be off the board at 17, and they could trade up to acquire one, there is plenty more solid talent on Day Two for the Steelers to patch up their secondary.

The Steelers should be in close contact with two teams in particular, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Houston Texans. Howie Roseman, GM of the Super Bowl runner-up Eagles, has always valued savvy trading on draft night. With many losses on the defensive end, they could use an additional Day Two selection to address some emerging holes. Adding the 49th overall selection to move down from 10 to 17 would likely tempt Philadelphia.

Alternatively, the Houston Texans are in full talent acquisition mode. This would likely be a draft night trade, as the Steelers would need to see who the Chicago Bears and the Tennessee Titans take. Furthermore, it may be redundant if the Las Vegas Raiders scoop up a tackle with the seventh pick, leaving no elite tackles remaining at 12. But if not, the Steelers should be able to swap picks and add in their 80th overall selection, packaged with their 120th pick to get it done.

We explore the three options they could target to upgrade the offensive tackle position if they can shoot up.

Peter Skoronski – Northwestern – 6’4″, 313 lbs

Skoronski is the most pro-ready, high-floor tackle in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Unfortunately, much like Bryce Young, the Northwestern prospect has been scrutinized for his measurements. Skoronski has 32 1/4-inch arms, typically under the 33-inch threshold desired for tackles. In juxtaposition, he achieved an over 80 PFF grade for the Wildcats in each of three seasons. He displayed a level of polish that can allow him to contribute immediately in the NFL.

Skoronski would offer the Steelers an immediate improvement to their dire situation on the offensive line. In addition, the Northwestern lineman provides the rare bonus of true positional flexibility through all five alignments. As a result, he should be at the top of the Steelers’ big board. 

Paris Johnson Jr. – Ohio State – 6’6″, 313 lbs

Paris Johnson Jr. has a lot of nasty in his game.

With over 36-inch arms, the Ohio State prospect has a rare size at the position. While needing more development than Skoronski, there is no doubt that Johnson can excel as a tackle. He allowed just two sacks this past season after moving from right guard to left tackle, quite a significant switch.

The Steelers could rank Johnson as their top tackle in the draft, as his physical tools lend themselves more toward a prototypical long-term blind side blocker on the outside.

Broderick Jones – Georgia – 6’5″, 311 lbs

Perhaps the most athletic tackle in the draft, Broderick Jones, is potentially underrated.

The Georgia Bulldog was phenomenal in 2022, allowing just two quarterback hits, seven hurries, and not surrendering a single sack. In addition, Jones had a 4.97 40-yard-dash time and showed the necessary traits and production to be a franchise left tackle for some time.

The Steelers likely will fall in love with Broderick Jones. The tough mentality of the Pittsburgh fan base will gravitate to the Bulldog’s play style, which Danny Kelly of The Ringer touted as “a strong finisher who plays with a salty demeanor.” As well as protecting Kenny Pickett, Jones could add an element of nasty en route to clearing lanes for first-round running back Najee Harris. 

So What Must The Steelers Do?

The Steelers must get aggressive here.

Trading up in the NFL Draft is generally regarded as poor value. It can be expensive and results in sacrificing assets for the opportunity to select an essentially unknown player. Draft prospect scouting is precarious, and teams must be comfortable with the price they pay in case of a miscalculation of a particular player and their risk of busting.

The Steelers must figure out how much they are willing to spend. I would argue that the two above scenarios with the Philadelphia Eagles and Houston Texans would be a comfortable sacrifice to allow Pittsburgh to teleport out of their turnstile of mediocrity they have meandered through across the offensive line. That begins with a stalwart left tackle.

So, while the price is not ideal for a team with multiple deficiencies across the roster, the Steelers must make a profound statement here. Securing Kenny Pickett’s blind side is integral to the offense’s development and allows the team to continue to develop.

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