Pittsburgh Steelers 2023 Draft Targets - Paris Johnson Jr. & Dawand Jones

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It was another busy week for the Pittsburgh Steelers in free agency, this time with their focus coming with the offensive line.  They signed Nate Herbig and Isaac Seumalo, both of whom will be much needed additions to last year's weak link of the offense.  Seumalo started all 20 games for the Philadelphia Eagles last season on their way to a Super Bowl appearance, a positive sign for Steelers' fans after seeing the team take a patchwork-like approach to improving the offensive line in recent seasons.

While it is nice to see them finally bolster this unit with some veteran talent, I don't necessarily think that this means they are done with the offensive line.  There are a lot of offensive linemen projected to go in the first round, most of them being offensive tackles.  Both Herbig and Seumalo are listed as offensive guards, which means an offensive tackle could still be in the forecast.

Just a few days ago, Ohio State had their pro day.  The Steelers were fully in attendance, with both GM Omar Khan and coach Mike Tomlin making the trip.  As I mentioned in a prior article, it's basically a pre-requisite at this point that both of them be in attendance for a player's pro day for them to have any chance of getting drafted in the first round by the Steelers.  However, they did more than just attend their pro day.  

The night before, they were seen at dinner with three Buckeyes linemen - OT Paris Johnson Jr., OT Dawand Jones and C Luke Wypler.  Both Johnson Jr. and Jones are projected to be selected in the first round of this year's draft.  

I think this is pretty significant for a couple of reasons.  There are undoubtedly several teams interested in selecting them in the first round, yet they were willing to have dinner with the Steelers out of all of their options.  That must mean that these players feel the Steelers are serious about drafting them.  Conversely, it shows the Steelers are interested in at least one of these guys if they were willing to take this much time to "scout" these players' and their character, even ahead of their actual pro day.

Normally, I only write up one player for each of these articles but with both players projected as first round picks and playing for the same school, it seemed only natural that I talk about them together.

Johnson Jr. is projected to go earlier in the draft of the two tackles.  He's considered to be very NFL-ready and an immediate starter for whichever team selects him.  During his career at Ohio State, he only allowed three sacks on 883 pass blocks, a pretty significant feat.  Johnson Jr. played right guard his sophomore season before moving to left tackle last season, where he ultimately earned second-team AP All American and first-team All-Big Ten honors.  

He measured in at the combine at 6'6", 313 pounds, which gives him the size and length to be a very capable blindside blocker in the NFL.  Not to mention, starting at multiple positions throughout his college career provides the Steelers with the positional flexibility on the offensive line that they so often covet in players.

Jones was no slouch at Ohio State, either.  In 2022, he only allowed five quarterback hurries and didn't allow a single sack.  He also features quite the imposing stature - at the combine, he measured in at 6'8", 374 pounds, with a nearly 88" wing span, making him one of the largest players in this year's draft.  Like Johnson Jr., he too was selected to the AP All-American second team.  He was on the opposite side of the line as Johnson Jr., featuring at right tackle last season.  

Given Jones is projected to go a little lower in the first round, he may be the one more likely to be selected by the Steelers.  However, they have showed a willingness to upgrade left tackle first and prefer not to move a right tackle to the left side, which could potentially conflict with selecting Jones.

I've talked a lot about the Steelers using this pick to upgrade the defense so far, so this is the first time discussing a potential offensive selection.  There are still rumblings of them going after wide receiver Jordan Addison but I believe that if they do go offense, it will be with an offensive linemen.  

Having dinner with Khan and Tomlin ahead of their pro day is a good sign for both of these players and could also be a sign to the fans where their heads are at regarding this first round pick.  The offensive line play (especially at tackle) was subpar last season and the organization's willingness to invest in that so far this offseason is pretty telling of how they feel about it.

While I would love for them to select Johnson Jr., there's major concern of him being selected before the Steelers are on the clock.  He is in contention with Northwestern's Peter Skoronski as being the first offensive lineman off the board on Day 1.  That could force them to go with Jones instead, unless their desire to sure up left tackle first leads to a potential trade up.  

However, draft day trades are nearly impossible to predict given all of the factors.  Therefore, I'm going to keep my hopes up that somehow Johnson Jr. falls to the 17th pick and if not, I'd be more than happy selecting his counterpart, Jones, who could really add some beef up front to a line that sure could use it.