PITTSBURGH, PA — The Pittsburgh Steelers have reportedly spoken with the Chicago Bears about moving into the top 10, but teams don’t trade up just to trade up.
So, who would they consider? Many believe a cornerback or left tackle are at the top of their list, but are they the only positions Pittsburgh would target at pick No. 9?
Here are five players they could consider.
1. Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
If the Steelers are thinking about cornerback and want a sure thing, Gonzalez offers the best bang for your buck. A pure corner who brings minimum limitations to the NFL and should step in as a successful starter on day one.
The Steelers could sit back and wait, and have interest in names like Joey Porter Jr. and Deonte Banks who will be there at 17, but if they believe Gonzalez has superstar upside, moving up makes sense.
Pittsburgh met with Gonzalez at the NFL Combine and held a pre-draft visit with the Oregon corner.
2. Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
Witherspoon feels like a Pittsburgh cornerback. He’s a hard hitter, has ball skills and the coverage capability to run with names like Ja’Marr Chase and Odell Beckham Jr.
Witherspoon had questions about his speed, and a hamstring injury left the door open for him to slide to 17 for the Steelers. After running a 4.4 40-yard dash at his private Pro Day, though, that door closed quickly, and he could now find himself in the top 10.
The Steelers met with Witherspoon at the NFL Combine and held a pre-draft visit with him as well.
3. Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
If the Steelers are trading up to get a left tackle, Paris Johnson Jr. is their pick. Pittsburgh wanted to fall in love with Dawand Jones, but after he didn’t work out at his Pro Day, they got upset. But who else was at dinner when all eyes went to Ohio State tackles? Johnson.
There are limited sure things at tackle in this draft class, and Johnson sits at the top of that list. Pittsburgh has the advantage of teams not needing a left tackle for most of the top 10, and he could slide to pick nine with some ease.
If the Steelers are thinking about finding a franchise left tackle in this draft, Johnson is likely their top option – and who we should believe they’ll be moving up for.
4. Peter Skronoski, OT, Northwestern
Peter Skronoski is an interesting name when it comes to the Steelers. He met with Mike Tomlin at the NFL Combine and brings some of the best abilities of any offensive lineman in this draft.
But where does he play in the NFL?
Right now, he’s considered a tackle, but many believe he’ll make the transition to guard once he’s in the league. For the Steelers, that might be a plus, as they’ve put more attention into interior offensive linemen over tackles.
If Skronoski can plug into the position Pittsburgh wants him to, that has to be appealing. He has minimum risk and should be a pick right after Johnson.
5. Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
Sorry, but you can’t make this list without Jalen Carter, and if he’s really sliding down draft boards and makes it to pick nine, he’s an immediate option – and top option – for the Steelers.
Carter comes in and starts immediately. He also learns from Cam Heyward and Larry Ogunjobi and can work across the defensive line as a rookie.
At one point, Carter was considered the top player in the draft. Because of some off-the-field issues and a poor Pro Day, he’s now looked at as a player who could fall out of the top 10.
Well, if the Steelers are sitting there at nine, he won’t make it to 10. And shouldn’t make it to 10.
Carter is a fit for anyone, but for the Steelers? C’mon. That’s the best-case scenario for Pittsburgh.
6. Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa
The Steelers seem to be targeting cornerbacks or offensive linemen in the first round, but Lukas Van Ness is a name that fits perfectly in their defense – and should turn into a superstar in the NFL.
Nick Martin, co-host of Steelers Draft Talk, dared to say Van Ness could have T.J. Watt capabilities with his play. The Steelers need outside linebacker depth and defensive tackle depth, and he fits both with instant spark.
Trading up for a player who won’t start Week 1 isn’t a typical move in the NFL. For the Steelers, it’s likely not their top option either. But if they fell in love with Van Ness, and are sitting there at nine with some surprises that players like Johnson and Skoronski are gone, maybe they’ll take the best player available.
That would be Van Ness.