Games are won in the trenches. For the Pittsburgh Steelers to be competitive as they continue the rebuilding phase, they need to address lines on both sides of the ball.
Mike Tomlin and the Steelers player evaluators are meeting with several top prospects at annual college showcases, the East-West Shrine Bowl and Senior Bowl as the draft process ramp up heading into the final stretch before the 2023 NFL draft.
Pittsburgh has ignored adding elite-caliber players along the offensive line since taking guard David DeCastro with its first pick of the 2012 NFL draft. This year that could change with weak spots at guard and tackle.
According to FanNation’s All Steelers, one player the Steelers and Tomlin met with this week at Senior Bowl practices is Tennessee tackle Darnell Wright.
Projected as a first-rounder, Wright is a massive 6-foot-6, 335 pounds. Steelers Depot calls him a “mountain of a man” and views him in a mold similar to former Steeler Max Starks.
In his January 30 mock draft for Pro Football Focus, Trevor Sikkema wrote:
The Steelers do have their current offensive tackles, Dan Moore Jr. and Chukwuma Okorafor, under contract for 2023, but that’s not to say they shouldn’t look for a potential upgrade. Though Wright played right tackle for the Vols — the bigger need for the Steelers is left tackle — he is talented enough to where I’d take a chance on him and feel comfortable with the growing pains of Wright or Moore on the left side. On 507 pass-blocking snaps in 2022, he allowed no sacks and just eight pressures with an 80.2 pass-blocking grade.
Though he only has one year of experience on the left side, Wright said he’d be willing to flip to left tackle and doesn’t see moving over as a challenge. Dan Moore Jr. is the current left tackle but has been inconsistent and undisciplined, and the Steelers need to better protect their investment in Kenny Pickett.
“It was the best fit for the team this year to play right, and that’s what I ended up doing,” Wright told FanNation. “Either or is fine. It’s just right tackle has been the most experience I’ve had.”
“I think coaches just want to see versatility in any player. There’s only 53 men on the roster. So I mean, having versatility at o-line is a must.”
We all know how much Mike Tomlin values versatility in his troops.
Art Rooney II Discusses Steelers First NFL Draft without Kevin Colbert
Following the departure of longtime general manager Kevin Colbert, Art Rooney II and Mike Tomlin had the daunting task of finding his replacement. After an extensive search, they chose an in-house candidate.
Omar Khan, a 21-year veteran of the Steelers, was promoted from vice president of football & business administration where he collaborated with Colbert. They also brought in Pittsburgh native Andy Weidl, who was a finalist for the Steelers’ general manager post. He started his career with the Steelers where he was part of the scouting department responsible for Faneca and Ward, among others. Weidl helped craft two Super Bowl Champion teams, the Baltimore Ravens (2012) and the Philadelphia Eagles (2017). He was in charge of the Eagles’ drafts from 2020 to 2022, consisting of rosters that put Philadelphia in contention for their second Super Bowl.
Rooney and Tomlin managed to strike a perfect balance to help lead the Steelers’ front office. Khan is a business guy, a financial wizard in charge of the salary cap and contracts. Under Khan’s leadership, Pittsburgh has been one of the best teams in the league in finding ways to fit players and contracts under the cap. Weidl is a wizard in his own right as a player evaluator.
The two have worked closely together to continue the rebuilding process that Colbert started with the 2022 draft before stepping down.
Rooney wouldn’t go into detail (he never does) but shared that he’s noticed some differences in draft preparation with the new duo.
“I think we’re seeing changes already in the way Omar and Andy (Weidl) are preparing for the draft,” Rooney said in his January 26 State of the Steelers address. “I think those guys have their ways of doing things that are a little different from Kevin (Colbert). Everybody’s a little different. Certainly, we’ll see some changes in the approach to the draft. Just some of the things we’re doing already this time of year are different.”
“We have work to do in terms of putting the roster back together, nothing unusual there. Have some high draft choices that we have Omar and Andy working on putting together the draft plan. And so a lot of new faces in our draft room this year, so it’ll be interesting to see how they all come together and work on our draft. So it’ll be a bit different without Kevin in the room… it’ll be interesting to see how all that unfolds.”
It’s critical that Khan and Weidl’s selections in the 2023 NFL draft are on point. These players are critical to the process of rebuilding the roster that will pave the Pittsburgh Steelers’ way to the postseason.