With three top-50 picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Steelers are doing their due diligence on a variety of positions, and that includes EDGE rusher. USC EDGE Tuli Tuipulotu has a visit coming up with Pittsburgh, according to Adam Grosbard of the Orange County Register.
Tuipulotu played defensive end at USC where he racked up 13.5 sacks for the Trojans last season. He profiles as an outside linebacker in Pittsburgh with a 6’3, 266-pound frame. Tuipulotu is a likely Day 2 selection who would slot in nicely behind Alex Highsmith and T.J. Watt as a rotational pass rusher. With his size, speed and athleticism, making the switch to more of a standup position shouldn’t be an issue for the Hawthorne, Cal., native.
It’s clear that the Steelers are looking for more depth behind Watt and Highsmith, as they also had contact with EDGE Andrew Van Ginkel before he re-signed with the Miami Dolphins. The team struggled with backups Malik Reed and Jamir Jones last season after Watt went down for seven games with a torn pectoral, and the team is likely looking to avoid a similar situation. Investing early in the position in the draft is a smart way to ensure the team has a capable replacement if Watt or Highsmith is forced to miss time.
Also, Highsmith’s contract expires after the 2024 season. If the team is unable to re-sign him long term, having a capable replacement to step in would be reminiscent of when Highsmith was able to take over for Bud Dupree after Dupree left in free agency following the 2020 season. Bringing in a player with 32 career sacks in the Pac-12 is something that has to be attractive to the Steelers.
Tuipulotu met with the New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers during USC’s Pro Day today. He’s also scheduled to meet with the Baltimore Ravens, according to Grosbard. While Omar Khan and Mike Tomlin attended Iowa State’s Pro Day today, the Steelers had Director of Player Scouting Mark Sadowski at USC’s Pro Day.
Even if Tuipulotu doesn’t end up in Pittsburgh, it’s clear the team is focused on bringing in depth behind Watt and Highsmith. That will likely happen through the draft.
And it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Steelers spend one of their top-50 picks on an EDGE.