The Pittsburgh Steelers are expected to target a cornerback early in the 2023 NFL Draft. The organization may even draft a cornerback in the first round.
That’s what former NFL general manager and CBS sports analyst Rick Spielman predicted in a new mock draft on January 20.
The mock draft was a joint effort between several CBS draft experts. Spielman made the Steelers selection at No. 17 overall, projecting Pittsburgh to draft Georgia cornerback Kelee Ringo.
“Mike Tomlin has a history of adding guys with this much talent who maybe didn’t play as well, and he has a tendency to bring the best out of players,” Spielman wrote. “And I think if he got a hold of Ringo, that he is going to be an excellent corner in that defense, especially if Mike Tomlin gets his hands on him.”
In the CBS mock draft, the Steelers were part of a run on cornerbacks midway through the first round. Four consecutive selections went cornerback beginning with the Green Bay Packers at No. 15 and ending with the Detroit Lions at No. 18.
Alabama’s Brian Branch and Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr. went just ahead of Ringo in the mock draft.
No. 17 Too Early to Draft Jordan Addison?
With quarterback Kenny Pickett making a couple media appearances over the past week, chatter that the Steelers could draft wide receiver Jordan Addison has heated up. Addison was Pickett’s favorite target at Pitt for two seasons.
But interesting, the other argument Spielman made for the Steelers drafting Ringo was that it was too early to pick Addison.
Other draft experts, though, aren’t likely to agree. The consensus draft rankings from ESPN and Bleacher Report both have Addison rated as a Top 15 prospect in the 2023 class. On Pro Football Focus‘ latest rankings, he’s not far behind at No. 23 overall.
Meanwhile, Ringo is ranked behind Addison on all three of those draft rankings.
It’s also not as if the Steelers’ first-round options are limited to either Ringo or Addison.
The team has other needs besides cornerback and wide receiver, most notably offensive tackle and linebacker. Spielman seemingly pigeonholing the Steelers into Ringo or Addison was a curious take.
Pushback on Steelers Selecting Ringo at No. 17
As expected, based on the other draft rankings, there was pushback to Spielman’s projected pick for the Steelers.
“I’m not a proponent of taking Addison or any receiver in the first round, but I would be much more in favor of taking one than Ringo,” Steelers writer Joe Clark of SteelersDepot.com wrote. “The production absolutely did not match the preseason hype this season, and while he might eventually develop into a solid corner, it’s way too much of a risk to select him in the first round.”
Clark added that if the Steelers select a cornerback at No. 17 and Branch and Porter are gone, then South Carolina’s Cam Smith, Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez or Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon would all be better selections than Ringo.
In three seasons at Georgia, Ringo posted 4 interceptions, including 1 he returned for a touchdown. He also had 15 pass defenses, 76 total tackles, 1.0 sack and 1 forced fumble. At Georgia, he also helped the Bulldogs win back-to-back championships.
The draft process should be an interesting one for Ringo. He has the traits to raise his draft stock through the offseason workouts.
But based on game tape alone, draft evaluators other than Spielman are far from convinced Ringo is worthy of a first-round pick.