In just 49 days the 2023 NFL Draft will kick off, putting an end to all the speculation, mock drafts, debates, etc when it comes to prospects and potential fits entering the NFL.
For now though, there’s still 49 days, which leaves plenty of time for mock drafts, speculation, debates and more.
That continued Thursday as Pro Football Focus identified the best fit for each of the top 32 prospects on their big board ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft. For the Steelers, two top 32 prospects from PFF were identified as best fits for the black and gold.
Those prospects? Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr. and Clemson defensive tackle Bryan Bresee.
Porter Jr., who ranks No. 16 overall on PFF’s big board, shouldn’t be much of a surprise as a best fit for the Steelers, considering the need at cornerback in Pittsburgh, the bloodlines he shares and the history that has with the Steelers, as well as his overall skillset.
“Come on, you knew this was coming. The Steelers have a cornerback need, and a legacy player is right there for the taking,” PFF’s Trevor Sikemma writes regarding Porter Jr. being a best fit for the Steelers. “Thankfully for them, they wouldn’t have to discount the talent for the sake of a good story, as Porter is one of the best (and most uniquely built) cornerbacks in a strong cornerback class.”
Porter Jr. and the Steelers have been discussed ad nauseam since last summer as the former Penn State standout was projected to leave school and enter the 2023 NFL Draft. That’s what ended up happening, and it just so happens to line up that the Steelers have a need for a true No. 1 cornerback opposite Cameron Sutton, especially in a loaded AFC that features a number of star quarterbacks and receivers that need to be defended against.
While Porter Jr. is considered a high-end prospect due to his physical traits (6024, 193 Lbs., 34-inch arms, 4.46 40-yard dash, 35-inch vertical), the tape is a bit concerning. Porter Jr. can get a bit grab-happy, leading to penalties, and the production just isn’t quite there with just one career interception during his time in Happy Valley.
There’s certainly a feel-good story there though, and the Steelers do like feel-good stories. He’s certainly a fit on and off the field, as he’d be returning home, too.
Outside of Porter Jr., Bresee was named a best fit for the Steelers, too.
Bresee checked in at No. 20 on PFF’s big board.
“Bresee has had some bad luck with injuries that have hampered his development and experience. But he’s a plus athlete of a three-technique defensive tackle who could really thrive next to T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward on Pittsburgh’s defensive line,” Sikemma writes for PFF.
Bresee’s backstory is well-known at this point, dealing with multiple knee injuries, then dealing with a kidney infection and the tragic loss of his younger sister to brain cancer last season. That certainly affected his production overall in 2022, but he remains a high-end prospect with some impressive physical traits for the position.
At the 2023 Scouting Combine, Bresee measured in at 6054, 298 pounds with 32 1/2-inch arms and clocked a 4.86 40-yard dash, a 1.71 10-yard split, 22 reps on the bench, and a 29-inch vertical jump. He’s a freakish athlete for his size, and that certainly showed on tape during his time in Clemson.
That said, he’s still a bit raw overall for the position. But, he’s the type of prospect you take a chance on and trust your coaching staff to develop. Good news is the Steelers have a very good defensive line coach in Karl Dunbar, not to mention some strong mentors with the likes of Cameron Heyward, T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick and even guys like Sutton and Alex Highsmith on the defensive side of the football to help him reach his potential.
While both were listed as best fits for the Steelers and are inside the top 20 on PFF’s big board, grabbing one of those two guys at No. 17 overall right now feels a bit rich, at least for my taste. There’s a good chance one of them is the guy at 17 overall, but that might be a slight reach overall.