Sunday, April 30, 2023

Pittsburgh Steelers 2023 NFL Draft Grades Roundup

The 2023 NFL Draft is now in the rearview mirror, and we have compiled a consensus ranking using NFL draft grades from a variety of sites.

What draft grades have the media given to the Pittsburgh Steelers? What are they saying about the Steelers' 2023 draft haul?

MORE: 2023 NFL Strength of Schedule - Grade: A

Another solid first two days for the Steelers, with the trade for Jones filling the left tackle spot that was a sore spot last season, Porter picked as a playmaker outside (not just a legacy pick), Benton adding strength and athleticism up front and Washington's massive frame giving him a chance to excel as a blocker and receiving threat. Using the early second-rounder gained in the Chase Claypool trade on Porter was a major win.

Herbig can play inside or outside for the Steelers, with his aggressive nature overcoming his slight build. Anderson has good size and decent athleticism and should land on the roster as a swing tackle.

ESPN - Grade: B+

With three picks in the top 50, the Steelers entered the draft with a real chance to come away with multiple new rookie starters. They need help on both sides of the ball. And I'm a fan of what they did on the first two days of the draft. They traded a fourth-round pick to move up three spots in Round 1 to grab Broderick Jones (14), who will start at one of the tackle spots. He had an elite 2022 season.

On Day 2, they added cornerback Joey Porter Jr. (32), defensive tackle Keeanu Benton (49) and tight end Darnell Washington (93), all of whom could play significant roles this season. Porter is 6-foot-2 with long arms, and he can flip his hips in coverage. This is a great spot for him, being able to be mentored by Patrick Peterson. Benton's traits didn't match his college production, but if he keeps developing some pass-rush moves, he could be a three-down player. He was a slight reach on my board. Washington dropped because of some medical concerns, but he'll step into the NFL as one of the league's best blocking tight ends; and if he can up his game as a pass-catcher, he could be a steal.

Pittsburgh had just three picks in the last four rounds, with Nick Herbig (132) the most notable. He is my No. 7 inside linebacker. The light Day 3 keeps this class under an A -- teams that have more picks obviously have greater chances to find those diamonds in the rough -- but there are some instant-impact players here.

SI - Grade: A

The Steelers might have had the best draft of any team. Pittsburgh found a left tackle in Jones, who could prove to be the best of his loaded class. In the second round, general manager Omar Khan took Porter Jr., a legacy in the Steel City with a ton of ability. He should start as a rookie opposite Patrick Peterson. Later on, the Steelers took Washington, a hulking tight end at 6'7'' who should provide second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett with a large red-zone target. Finally, Herbig was a productive linebacker at Wisconsin. Look for him to be good depth and a solid special teams contributor.

PFF - Grade: A+

Day 1: The Steelers jump up three spots, giving up a fourth-round pick to make sure they land the offensive tackle they wanted. Jones impressed as a pass-blocker in 2022, earning a 84.1 PFF pass-blocking grade and allowing just nine total pressures from 470 pass-blocking snaps.

Day 2: Pittsburgh takes PFF's CB4 and 21st-ranked prospect to open up Day 2 of the 2023 NFL Draft. Porter wins with his length. The former Nittany Lion's 34-inch arms make it easy to disrupt his opponent at the catch point and line of scrimmage. Porter's 40% forced incompletion rate in 2022 led all Power Five cornerbacks.

The Steelers take a top interior defender that can line up in the A and B gaps, with the Steelers able to move Cameron Heyward, Larry Ogunjobi and Benton across the interior. Benton will help a Steelers run defense that struggled in 2022 up the middle, with a strong 10.5% run-stop win rate in 2022.

The freaky Georgia tight end's slide is over. Pittsburgh grabs the 6-foot-8, 272-pound Darnell Washington to continue their strong 2023 NFL Draft. He has a strong resume in the ground game, as his top-five finish among Power Five tight ends in run-blocking grade in 2022 proves, and is a mismatch weapon as a receiver.

Day 3: The Steelers' incredible draft continues. Herbig played on the edge at Wisconsin but figures to be more of a tweener in the NFL, and that's likely why he wasn't a higher pick. He knows how to rush the passer, though, as he won 23.9% of his pass-rushing snaps in 2022 and earned a 91.1 pass-rush grade.

Ranked 77th on PFF's big board. Price is a physically imposing corner at 6-foot-3 who is extremely aggressive at the line of scrimmage and tackles well.

Anderson is the only pick by the Steelers where the player has been outside the top 80 of the PFF big board. Anderson produced a 79.8 PFF pass-blocking grade in 2022 but struggled as a run blocker.

Fox Sports - Grade: B+

Pittsburgh head coach Mike Nolan made just seven picks, but they add protection up front for quarterback Kenny Pickett with the addition of offensive tackle Broderick Jones. And defensively, the addition of Joey Porter Jr., the son of Pittsburgh's legendary pass rusher Joey Porter, should improve the team's secondary. Pittsburgh likes to use tight ends, and Georgia's Darnell Washington is physical playmaker who will be a tough matchup on game days in the red zone. Wisconsin defensive tackle Keeanu Benton has the athletic traits to develop into a productive interior pass rusher.

USA Today - Grade: A

Rookie GM Omar Khan looked every bit the seasoned exec in his maiden draft as shot-caller. He vaulted in front of the Jets on Thursday night — in a deal with New England no less — in order to take highly touted Broderick Jones, who should solve Pittsburgh's left tackle issue for years. Khan then ended the tumble of CB Joey Porter Jr., whose dad was a star linebacker in the Steel City, atop Round 2 — with a pick obtained last fall by trading WR Chase Claypool. Day 2 also brought DL Keeanu Benton and TE Darnell Washington, who's a glorified tackle — though one with great hands and speed. And getting OLB Nick Herbig in the fourth? Larceny. Much rides on the development of QB Kenny Pickett, but this team appears much improved.

The Ringer - Grade: A+

The Steelers tried a crazy strategy this year: Picking really good players every time they were on the clock. I loved this team's haul in Omar Khan's first draft as general manager, starting off with first-round tackle Broderick Jones and continuing through day three. Former Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr. was a steal (and a heartwarming story) with the first pick of day two, and I really like the pick of Wisconsin defensive tackle Keeanu Benton later that round. Each of those first three picks could be starters in Week 1. Georgia tight end Darnell Washington reportedly dropped in the draft because of concerns around the health of his knee, but if healthy, he projects as a perfect complement to Pat Freiermuth—and gives Pittsburgh more blocking power in the run game and on screen passes. Wisconsin linebacker Nick Herbig is an undersized but explosive pass rusher and Cory Trice is an excellent depth addition at corner.

Sporting News - Grade: A+

The Steelers crushed the first draft with GM Omar Khan. They filled their two biggest needs, a pass protector for Kenny Pickett and a big cover man to help Patrick Peterson. Jones and Porter were both first-round talents. Washington is a great No. 2 as a blocker and the Wisconsin 1-2 punch of Benton and Herbig will provide Badger T.J. Watt with upfield support.

Touchdown Wire - Grade: A

While one Pennsylvania team was taking every Georgia defender in sight, the other Pennsylvania team was doing the same with the Bulldogs' best offensive prospects. Broderick Jones fits right away as a power tackle, but I am of the belief that he'd be an even better guard at the NFL level Either way, it's a massive upgrade. And Darnell Washington should add some color to Matt Canada's "all-stop" passing game with his blocking ability and Godzilla-like frame.

The marquee pick was Joey Porter Jr., the son of the linebacker the Steelers selected in the third round of the 1999 draft. Porter is a pure aggressive press cornerback with a wingspan longer than some offensive tackles in this class, which leads me to believe that Pittsburgh wants to play more in that style. Mike Tomlin isn't stupid, and he's a former defensive backs coach, so take that for what it's worth. I also love the addition of Wisconsin's Keeanu Benton, who should solve this team's recent interior defensive line issues that have forced Cameron Heyward to be Superman all the time. And Wisconsin's Nick Herbig is an interesting edgebacker hybrid guy who can add pass rush in a situational sense.

The Steelers were not messing around in this draft — they went all out for physically dominant players who bring production and attitude right off the bus.

More: 2023 NFL Draft Grade Roundups

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