The Pittsburgh Steelers showed a refreshing level of aggression during the 2023 NFL Draft. General manager Omar Khan was willing to move and acquire assets to ensure his roster continued on an upward trajectory. No finer example supports that perspective than the Steelers leapfrogging the New York Jets by trading up to the 14th overall selection with the New England Patriots to select Georgia offensive tackle Broderick Jones.
In a recent article, Pro Football Focus’s Brad Spielberger named his 2023 NFL Draft superlatives and handed out his choice for the best trade-up in the draft to the Pittsburgh Steelers for moving up to select Jones.
Spielberger’s math saw the Steelers trade up as “the second cheapest in the top half of the first round since 2011 out of 36 total trades where the trade-up team moved more than just one pick.”
He added that grabbing the best-remaining tackle prospect adds to the respectability of the pick as Jones was not only a “premium position” selection, but the last offensive tackle taken for another 13 picks, displaying the significant gap between Jones and the Jacksonville Jaguars selection of Anton Harrison out of Oklahoma.
Spielberger had plenty of trade-ups to choose from, though he did preface that Carolina’s trade-up to the first overall selection well before the draft was ineligible for his exercise. Still, it’s hard to overlook the Houston Texans rising up from 12 to take Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. at three immediately after selecting Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud at two. The Texans’ trade may have been significantly more expensive, but they had more resources to give and needed that kind of splash to crawl out of the NFL’s basement.
But that does link back to the Steelers value on the trade to land a great prospect at a position of significant need. The Steelers only sent the 120th overall pick to the Patriots to jump over the Jets. Supposedly, the Jets were eyeing Jones with the 15th overall pick, and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick reportedly took a cheaper deal from Pittsburgh to stick it to his divisional rivals. Ironically, the Jets ended up with the 120th pick and selected an offensive tackle: Carter Warren out of Pittsburgh.
While the wait to see if Jones can indeed be the franchise left tackle the Steelers have lacked for far too long is a few months away, the Steelers won the trade on a significant scale, at least on paper during talking season. Jones still has to earn the job from Dan Moore and put all of that potential to action in a positive manner to represent the true value of not only the selection but the trade-up itself.
At the end of the day, Khan’s aggression is what allowed the Steelers to walk away from the draft with so much praise. Trading up is not a common practice for the Steelers in the first round, nor is selecting offensive tackles on Day One. Despite having a legacy player on the board with a first-round grade, Khan held the 32nd overall pick for ransom if a team wanted Will Levis badly enough. Beyond that, the Steelers stuck to its plans to continue to build through the trenches as assistant general manager Andy Weidl is accustomed to. Five of the Steelers seven picks play on the line scrimmage, which pairs nicely with the mentality the Steelers displayed so obviously throughout the draft.
The fact that the league media minds are heaping all of this praise on the Steelers is uncommon, especially since the franchise is leaning heavily into playing more bully ball. But, hey, if the league is excited to see the Steelers return to smashmouth football, who are we to argue?