Steelers Host 2 Top ACC Prospects for Pre-Draft Visits

The Steelers hosted Duke offensive lineman Graham Barton for a pre-draft visit on April 16.

Getty The Steelers hosted Duke offensive lineman Graham Barton for a pre-draft visit on April 16.

The Steelers hosted two top prospects from the ACC for pre-draft visits Tuesday, April 16, one of whom is gaining traction with analysts as the team’s potential first-round pick.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ray Fittipaldo, Duke offensive lineman Graham Barton and North Carolina State inside linebacker Payton Wilson are the latest prospects to visit the Steelers facility on the south side of Pittsburgh.

Barton climbed the draft board in recent weeks, with analysts like ESPN’s Mel Kiper projecting he’ll be a first-round pick. Though Barton played left tackle for three seasons at Duke, he is expected to be a center in the NFL.

Meanwhile, Wilson closed his career at NC State with a standout season in 2023. He is the reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year. He also won the Butkus Award for the nation’s top linebacker and the Chuck Bednarik Award for the best defensive player in the country.

Graham Barton Gaining Traction as Steelers’ Projected 1st Pick

Oregon product Jackson Powers-Johnson spent the bulk of the draft cycle as the consensus top center, but that appears to be changing.

An ESPN report on March 29 indicated scouts are somewhat souring on him as a high first-round pick.

Now, Barton has not only surpassed Powers-Johnson in the eyes of many analysts, but he’s been mentioned repeatedly as a fit in Pittsburgh.

Sportskeeda NFL Draft analyst Tony Pauline reported league sources are under the impression the Steelers will select Barton in the first round.

“The reasoning is simple: Barton was an accomplished offensive tackle at Duke and projects to center in the NFL,” Pauline wrote in an April 15 report. “The Steelers need help at both positions and Barton’s ability to line up at either makes him very attractive.”

An ESPN mock draft on April 15 from Kiper and Field Yates also predicted the Steelers will select Barton in the first round.

“The Steelers still have a center need, and Barton is the best in the entire class,” Yates wrote. “He played center as a true freshman for the Blue Devils before moving to left tackle for his final three seasons. His footwork, mobility and tenacity all stand out.”

Wilson Breaks Steelers Pre-Draft Pattern

The Steelers have been consistent in their top 30 visits during the 2024 offseason, a major indicator of the team’s draft priorities.

According to a list of pre-draft visits compiled by CBS Sports, the team has predominantly hosted offensive and defensive linemen, along with cornerbacks and wide receivers.

Fittipaldo reported that Wilson is the first inside linebacker to make a pre-draft visit to Pittsburgh this year.

Wilson finished the 2023 season at NC State with 69 tackles, 6 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss. His 11.5 tackles per game led the ACC and was 5th overall in the FBS.

Inside linebacker may not be the Steelers’ most significant area of need, but one could argue the team could use additional depth at the position.

The Steelers watched their inside linebacker group deteriorate quickly during the 2023 season after losing Cole Holcomb and Kwon Alexander for most of the year to knee and achilles injuries, respectively.

As it stands, Holcomb, Elandon Roberts and new Steeler Patrick Queen will round out the inside linebacker group.

Alexander remains a free agent.


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