Pittsburgh Steelers 2023 Draft Target - Deonte Banks

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It doesn’t happen often in this city but for the past week, the Pirates took the spotlight away from the Steelers in the Pittsburgh media, including here at Gold Lot Sports.  With Opening Day and the start of the baseball season, it feels good to talk about the Pirates while they still have some relevancy.  Also, it seems like the buzz surrounding the Steelers’ draft picks isn’t near the level it was last season.  
Whether that’s due to the team playing coy or just having a smaller target list, there just doesn’t appear to be as many names associated with the Steelers’ first-round draft pick as there was at this time last year. However, there are still a few guys who I have not yet mentioned in this series that have been linked to the Steelers in one form or another.  One of them is University of Maryland cornerback Deonte Banks.

You may be thinking to yourself, “Another cornerback?!”  Yes, another cornerback.  I know I’ve already discussed Penn State’s Joey Porter, Jr. but cornerback still is the top need in my eyes and there are a few high-end caliber guys projected to go in the first round this year.  

The group is headlined by Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez, followed by Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon and Porter Jr., in varying order.  Banks is the fourth of the bunch, which is why I’m discussing him today.  Gonzalez and Witherspoon are pretty likely to be off the board, with the potential of Porter Jr. also gone when the Steelers are on the clock with the 17th pick.  So it seemed pretty fitting to talk about Banks. 

There’s more to him being a good choice for the Steelers aside from just being “the best cornerback still available.”  At Maryland, Banks was known for his physical style of play.  As an aggressive corner, he wowed spectators for his ability to lock opposing receivers down in man coverage.  While Joe Haden fit this to an extent, it’s been a long time since the Steelers have had a true lockdown cornerback.  Especially one that has been reliable enough to cover the opposing team’s best receiver without any concern of lapses or breakdowns.  As a fan, it would be a breath of fresh air to have one of these guys given the talent at the receiver position in the NFL nowadays. 

Banks also turned heads at this year’s Combine, where he ran a 4.35 40-yard dash, had a 42” vertical jump and a 11’4” broad jump.  Those are some extremely impressive numbers.  Impressive enough that it earned him a perfect 10.0 Relative Athletic Score.  This metric has been used in recent years to take a player's cumulative Combine output and round it into a nice, neat number.  

Now, this isn't a definitive metric that guarantees future success.  But it certainly is nice to see that a player your team is keen on scoring perfectly on it.  It just goes to show how athletic Banks truly is.

Another thing in his favor is head coach Mike Tomlin's affinity for the University of Maryland.  His son played on the football team there from 2019-2021 and offensive coordinator Matt Canada coached there prior to being hired by the Steelers.  As a result, Tomlin and the Steelers coaching staff has a lot of familiarity with the program which led to them in recent drafts selecting former Terrapins Anthony McFarland and Antoine Brooks.  Therefore, it certainly wouldn't be out of the question to see Tomlin dip into their player pool once again.

The thing going against Banks is that only one Steelers' scout was seen in attendance for Maryland's Pro Day last week.  However, Pitt's Pro Day was held on the same day and given the sharing of athletic facilities and closeness to the program, that was the focal point for the Steelers' brass.  I've discussed previously how important it has been in the past to have one of the Tomlin or the General Manager there for your team's pro day to have any chance of being a first-round Steelers draft choice.  Now, the team is under a new regime with GM Omar Khan now at the helm, so it isn't necessarily a foregone conclusion that this will continue to be the case.  However, it is worth noting.

I've talked a lot of defense so far in this series but I can't help but think that that should be the Steelers' top priority in the draft, especially so at cornerback.  This draft is plentiful with top corners, so it seems only right that the team goes in that direction with their first choice.  

It remains to be seen how the top four cornerbacks will shake out on the draft board, but if Banks is the only one remaining of the four when the Steelers choose, I could definitely see them spending their first-round pick on him.  He has the attributes needed to be a top corner in today's NFL and it is something this team has longed for for many years.  You certainly won't hear me complaining on taking a chance on what could be the team's lockdown cornerback for years to come.