The 2023 NFL Draft is less than 10 days away, and the general question around the Steelers fanbase is: who will the team select with the 17th overall pick?
If you have been following the Steelers this offseason, there has been a general theme in the moves they have made this offseason. Even with this, the NFL Draft is an unpredictable event in which the team can select a player that has not been on our collective radar. Yet, the offseason process has given us an idea of the team's priorities and the amount of resources they have invested in turning their team into more than a playoff contender in 2023.
From what we have followed since the beginning of the year, here are three players who are potential first-round candidates for the Steelers.
Offensive Lineman Dawand Jones - Ohio State
At this point, Steelers fans everywhere should be familiar with Jones; besides, his tremendous stature makes his hard to forget. Since the Senior Bowl in late January, head coach Mike Tomlin has been infatuated with the idea of having this mountain-sized tackle on their offensive line.
To say the least, they have been in constant contact with Jones, which included attending this year's NFL Combine, a pre-Pro Day dinner, and a pre-Draft visit. The one thing Steelers fans should also keep in mind, is the possibility of them moving up in the draft, as it was already revealed that they were in talks with the Bears about taking their No. 9 overall pick. With the need for more beef on the offensive line, Jones easily fits that bill.
Cornerback Deonte Banks - Maryland
Sit back, Steelers fans; allow me to explain this one.
This year's class of cornerbacks is one of the deepest in the last decade. For much of the year, the Steelers have been linked to both Joey Porter Jr. of Penn State and Kelee Ringo of Georgia. This month, the team hosted Deonte Banks out of Maryland to their facilities for a pre-Draft meeting.
By all accounts, they are very interested in him, and with good reason. Firstly, he posted incredible numbers at this year's NFL Combine. Secondly, he is an excellent cover cornerback. In 2022, he logged nine passes defensed, an interception, and a QB rating when targeted of 71.4. With Cam Sutton gone, the Steelers are going to need a premier cover corner that can be mentored by All-Pro veteran Patrick Peterson. All in all, Banks has elite-level skills that the team could use in their backfield.
Defensive lineman Keeanu Benton - Wisconsin
Generally, every draft year, there is one first-round pick that surprises everyone. If there is one player who could be that surprise first-round pick this year, it is Keeanu Benton of Wisconsin.
So the question is: why the Steelers? Well, of all the prospects in this year's class, no one has arguably received the most attention from the organization. To say the least, Tomlin has been a fan of his since this year's Senior Bowl in late January, when he made it clear that he was on the team's radar. Since that time, they have held meetings at the NFL Combine, at Wisconsin's Pro Day, and a pre-Draft visit at their facilities.
The team has made it clear throughout this entire process that they want him on their roster. Considering the team's current configuration on the defensive line, they need a bona fide run stopper. During his collegiate career with the Badgers, Benton earned the reputation as a reliable run defender, a reputation he brought to this year's Senior Bowl. If the team takes Benton in the first round, fans should not be surprised.
LB Trenton Simpson - Clemson
OL Paris Johnson Jr. - Ohio State
CB Kelee Ringo - Georgia
CB Joey Porter Jr. - Penn State
OL John Michael Schmitz - Minnesota