Labriola on Day 2 of the NFL Draft

The NFL doesn’t win any games in the first quarter. And the same can be said for the NFL Draft, because if the idea is to build a roster capable of winning enough games to make the playoffs and then compete for a championship, the work has to go on beyond day one. Winning one game in a row doesn’t get the job done, and neither does a team with one good draft pick in a seven-round exercise.

The Steelers got off to a good start this 2023 NFL Draft by aggressively pursuing a target player and eventually landing him a first-round pick for a reasonable fourth-round pick. But they followed that up with Day 2, which allowed them to address the areas of need with three more people who love soccer and play the sport with a nasty, physical force. Their names are Joey Porter Jr., Keanu Benton and Darnell Washington, and their occupations are outside cornerback, interior defensive lineman and blocking tight end, as the Steelers continued to create a competitive environment that serves as a tide that lifts everyone up. the other boats.

The Steelers came into Day 2 with three picks in the second and third rounds:

• The 32nd pick, the first of the day and forever known as the compensation they received for trading Chase Claypool;
• their original second-round pick, 49th overall;
• and their original third-round pick, 80th overall.

It was widely assumed that the Steelers would open up the 32nd pick and decide among the various packages which one would provide the best assortment of late picks to achieve success due to quantity. But maybe because the Steelers were asking too much, or because bidders didn’t see No. 32 as a must, or maybe some combination that convinced the Steelers to go with the bird.

Make no mistake, Joey Porter Jr. is no consolation prize, as he navigated his college career and then the pre-draft job interview process to secure a spot among the elite cornerback prospects in his draft class. His size, length, speed, competitiveness, toughness are raw materials, complemented by a businesslike approach and on-field demeanor that belies his youth and inexperience.

“I think the main thing about him was that he always knew what he had to do,” defensive coordinator Terrill Austin said. “People came to see him because he was a good player, not because of who his dad was. I think he understood that from the beginning and acted like a true professional, like what you want to see these guys do. when they go through that process. And that’s part of the process, seeing how guys handle things. How do they react when the coaches come in? One of the things we do when we go into the buildings (during college visits) and go to practices, we always talking to other people in the building. How is he doing with other people? There was not one bad word to say about the young man. And so we feel very, very comfortable about that.”

Adding Broderick Jones in the first round solidified the offensive line, and it’s fair to say that adding Keanu Benton on defense did the same thing when the Steelers made him 49th overall.

While Porter worked on the visibility of the open spaces, Benton did the work among the mass of flesh in the middle of the line of scrimmage. Porter’s toughness and competitiveness showed in 20 passes defensed, while Benton’s 10 tackles in 2022 showed his strength as a runner, and his 4.5 sacks that same season showed he can be more than a double-double player in the NFL. .

Benton (6-4, 309) also offered the Steelers a rare combination of 21 years with 36 starts in 4 years with a Wisconsin program that consistently holds its place in the Big Ten that made the overall package irresistible. the second round.

“When you watch a guy that goes all four years, you can see that his game is a little more polished than maybe a young guy,” Austin said. “You’re going to see his techniques a little more refined. What he sees, how he sees, the blocking schemes are going to be a little better than maybe a younger guy, and those things are going to show up on tape with him.

Austin added: “You see a guy that’s explosive, he’s tough, he gets guys, and when you see those things and that he can roll his hips, I think (defensive line coach) Carl Dunbar and those guys. do a great job, teaching players rush schemes and how to use their strengths to become a better runner. I think (Benton) has some raw ability. That’s what we’re seeing and we’re counting on him to carry the run. and get some bonus from her as a passerby.

When the draft went into the third round, the Steelers owned the 80th pick, but then nothing until two picks in the seventh round, and because their research on that class convinced them there were quality players to take even in the later rounds. General manager Omar Kahn remained aggressive. Although nothing had materialized package-wise for that 32nd pick, he continued to work the phones. When Carolina offered its 93rd overall pick plus late no. 4 (132 overall) Steelers no. 80, the change was approved. The Steelers gained stability in the fourth round and used the No. 93 to add a tight end that could be described as “mobile, nimble and hostile”.

At 6-4, 264, Darnell Washington is taller than Tuncha Ilkin when he was the Steelers’ starting tight end in the 1980s. And while Washington is certainly athletic enough to fill a spot at the NFL level, he brings a physical presence to the end of the line of scrimmage that will make him a best friend for quarterbacks and running backs and nightmares for defenses and running backs. .

“It’s all over the tape. He’s a huge guy who takes pride in blocking,” offensive coordinator Matt Canada said. “He likes to be a blocker. He’s been quoted as saying he sees himself as a sixth offensive lineman. He understands what his body can do and I think he can catch the ball. They had so many weapons at Georgia and I I’m not sure his stats are what you’d think. He’s definitely a blocker and as a person we met him in India at the Combine and we brought him back (to Pittsburgh for a pre-draft visit).. Just a very, very good person. Love soccer, likes to be physical. Really excited for him.”

In the recent past, the Pittsburgh Steelers have had back-to-back regular seasons where they ranked last in the NFL in rushing and last in the NFL in stopping the run. And aside from the negative impact on the team’s record from not being able to run it or stop it, the idea of ​​spending enough games at the line of scrimmage to finish last in those categories was particularly distasteful.

So far, this draft class indicates that the Steelers are adamant that it doesn’t happen again.

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Pittsburgh Steelers 2023 NFL Draft Options: Day Three - Steelers Depot

Pittsburgh Steelers 2023 NFL Draft Options: Day Three – Steelers Depot