Steelers Projected To Draft WR, Potentially Cooling Off Jordan Addison Buzz

Omar Khan

Getty General manager Omar Khan and the Pittsburgh Steelers have been projected to draft a wide receiver not named Jordan Addison.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been rumored as a possible destination for wide receiver Jordan Addison in the NFL Draft.

The Athletic’s Nick Baumgardner did indeed project the Steelers to add a wideout in the first 32 picks of the 2023 NFL Draft, but not Addison.

In his newest mock draft released on January 30, Baumgardner predicted the Steelers to choose North Carolina wide receiver Josh Downs with the No. 32 selection. That was after he slotted Georgia cornerback Kelee Ringo to the Steelers in the first round at No. 17.

With their second second-round choice, the Steelers also selected Notre Dame edge rusher Isaiah Foskey in Baumgardner’s mock draft.

Steelers Predicted to Follow History in Baumgardner’s Mock Draft

The Steelers have picked a wideout in 25 of the last 29 draft classes, so it’s a safe bet to project the Steelers to select a wide receiver in the NFL Draft.

The safest bet is it will be in the second round.

Since 1991, the Steelers have drafted a wide receiver in the second round eight times. In the last six draft classes alone, the Steelers have selected wide receivers George Pickens, Chase Claypool, James Washington and JuJu Smith-Schuster all in the second round.

Baumgardner is projecting history to repeat itself with the Steelers targeting Downs early in the second round.

Downs posted 202 receptions, 2,483 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns in three seasons at North Carolina. He recorded 94 receptions for 1,029 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2022.

The draft rankings from ESPN and Pro Football Focus have Downs ranked as a Top 5 receiver in the 2023 draft class.

“Downs is a dynamic and productive slot receiver,” says his NFL Draft Network Profile. “Downs has showcased the ability to win at all three levels of the defense.

“He is a crafty and sudden route-runner.”

Addison Lands With Panthers in NFL Mock Draft

While Downs could be a great addition, filling a need in the slot for the Steelers, Addison is still widely considered the better prospect. His previous experience working with quarterback Kenny Pickett while at Pitt makes him a particularly intriguing option for the Steelers in the first round.

To draft Addison, though, the Steelers would probably have to use their first pick on wide receiver. They may also have to trade up.

In Baumgardner’s mock draft, Addison landed with the Panthers at No. 12 overall.

“Addison certainly helped make Caleb Williams’ debut season at USC a special one, although Williams propped up Addison last season more than the other way around,” Baumgardner wrote. “There are question marks with all the receivers toward the top of the list, including Addison, who has to continue developing general play strength.”

Baumgardner debated whether No. 12 was still too high to draft a receiver in this year’s draft. But he argued the Panthers acquiring more draft capital, which they did in the mock by trading back from No. 9 to 12, made targeting a receiver at No. 12 possible.

If Addison drops down the draft board, the Steelers could be faced with a difficult decision — target a bigger need such as cornerback, offensive tackle, linebacker, defensive line or reunite Pickett with Addison. But in all likelihood, Addison will be gone before the Steelers make their first selection.

Steelers Target Ringo in NFL Mock Draft

With Addison off the board, Baumgardner didn’t have to make that hypothetical choice. Instead, he simply projected Ringo to the Steelers at No. 17.

Baumgardner described the Georgia cornerback as a bit of a project, but he would fill a major need for the Steelers.

“The Georgia product’s talent is clear, but there are questions to be answered. Ringo is so young, though — he’ll be just 20 on draft day,” Baumgardner wrote. “While we saw some of his struggles in big spots for Georgia last season, he also made a ton of really impressive man-coverage plays that nobody else in this class matched against similar competition.

“Ringo could be CB1; he could be CB6. It’s all going to depend on the team and its faith in its DBs coach.”

The Steelers finished 20th in pass defense and second-to-last in passing touchdowns allowed. Since 1998, the Steelers have drafted one cornerback in the first round — Artie Burns in 2016.

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