By Ray Porter Jr.
PITTSBURGH PA-In the final month of the season, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line made incredible improvements to the point that their running game improved significantly. But one of their concerns was protecting QB Kenny Pickett, who suffered 2 concussions in the 2022 season. Such desires meant improving at the Left Tackle position, which had its challenges under 2nd-year man Dan Moore Jr.
In this year’s NFL Draft, the Steelers seem to have found their man as they traded up 3 spots with the New England Patriots and drafted Broderick Jones from Georgia. In addition to swapping their 17th overall pick for the Patriots’ 14th overall pick, the Steelers also gave them their 4th round pick.
Jones is the first Steelers offensive lineman taken in Round 1 since the selected G David DeCastro in 2012.
“As you guys are aware, we traded up and acquired Broderick Jones. As late as this afternoon, we’ve been going through detailed strategy meetings, and Broderick was a player we identified would be a great addition to our team,” said Steelers GM Omar Khan. “When we saw how the Draft was going, and he was still sitting there, we started making some phone calls to see if there was an opportunity to trade up and get him, and fortunately, we were able to make that trade with New England.”
There was much speculation that the Steelers would consider moving up to get an Offensive Tackle, but when the Houston Texans traded for Arizona’s #3 overall pick and the Philadelphia Eagles traded with the Bears for their #9th pick, it appeared that the Steelers would end up staying pat at #17 after all. Until they didn’t
“It’s just part of the process.” Said Khan. “You just make phone calls, and you get a feel for what people are willing to do. Some people, some clubs are a no; other clubs are a maybe. You just stay close to the phone and stay in contact with the clubs that might be interested. And it just so happened that with New England, it worked out.”
The Steelers clearly like what they saw in Jones. “He’s a really talented guy. We were excited about him, really, at every step of the process,” said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. “We had dinner with him the night before the Pro Day. Had a chance to spend time with him in his environment. It was interesting, I was in Athens a year ago and took a group of his former teammates out 12 months ago, and I said, give me a name that we’re going to be back for in 12 months. And universally, Broderick’s name was the guy’s name that we got 12 months ago. That was the first time I really heard his name.”
Jones played 3 years in Georgia, earning 2 national championship rings. In 2021, he was named Coaches’ Freshman All-SEC Team, played in every game, started the last four games of the regular season at left tackle, and in 2022, Jones started at left tackle in all 15 games, and was named Associated Press All-SEC First Team.
“The scenarios are countless. We had a high level of preparedness,” said Tomlin. “Obviously, we were not willing to mortgage anything above a third-day pick. He got within range. There had been a run at his position. There were some teams potentially in front of us that may have had an interest in the position. It was a player that we coveted, and so we did what we needed to do to secure the player that we identified.”
“The value was right for us for the trade,” said Khan.
When asked about his intangibles and leadership qualities, Tomlin replied, “We are not necessarily looking for leadership qualities in a third-year junior. We believe that’s potentially in his future. But those guys, man, we like them for their physical pedigree, the things that they can do, and the overall trajectory of their game and their lives. So, he’s an exciting guy. The leadership component of it will develop, I’m sure, with time.”
Now that they have their Offense Tackle, the expectation is that the Steelers will select Penn State CB Joey Porter Jr. with their first 2nd round pick, but time will tell as Tomlin and the Steelers are keeping an open mind to everything.
“We’re still open for business. I think it’s just prudent to be. Man, this is a quality draft. We have to get back in the back.”-Said Tomlin.
Notes: With the first overall pick of the 2023 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers selected Alabama QB Bryce Young. The Texans selected Ohio State’s CJ Stroud with their Second Overall pick.
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