5 NFL Draft prospects the Steelers can pick to break first-round draft slump

The Pittsburgh Steelers' recent NFL Draft history is spotty at best. Can that change in 2024?

Michael Penix Jr., NFL Combine
Michael Penix Jr., NFL Combine / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages
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The Pittsburgh Steelers shocked the NFL world by trading Kenny Pickett to the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday, putting even greater emphasis on the upcoming 2024 NFL Draft.

The Steelers need to pick a direction. Russell Wilson is the new starter, which signals a desire to win now, but he is only under contract for one year. Do the Steelers burn their first-round pick on his inevitable replacement, or does Pittsburgh draft a player who can help Wilson succeed next season?

Located in the middle of the first round, No. 20 overall, the Steelers face a true predicament. The best QBs in the class — Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels, Drake Maye, J.J. McCarthy — are probably out of reach, barring a bold trade up. Teams tend to reach on the QB position more than any other. So, the Steelers can pick a tier-two QB, or focus on more highly-touted prospects at supportive positions.

Next season is a pivotal one for the Steelers, who are turning over a new leaf after the failed Pickett era. Arthur Smith takes over the OC role with great pedigree, but a deeply flawed roster. The defense was excellent last season, but not quite elite. Mike Tomlin teams tend to play above their means, but sustained okay-ness will not appease the fanbase.

As if that wasn't enough, the Pittsburgh front office also faces the pressure of its past failures. The Steelers' recent history in the first round is less than ideal.

The Steelers' 2023 first-round pick, Broderick Jones out of Georgia, was not a complete failure. But, he frequently played out of position and faced a steep learning curve. The Steelers need to nail this pick. Here are the best (realistic) outcomes for Pittsburgh.

5. Steelers can boost o-line with Amarius Mims

The Steelers can add another Georgia offensive lineman in Amarius Mims, sliding Broderick Jones back to his natural position of left tackle while making life easier on Russell Wilson. Mims lacks experience compared to the average first-round pick, but the natural talent is off the charts.

It all starts with his outlier physical traits. Mims towers over the competition at 6-foot-8 and 340 pounds. He has the quickness to contain pressure on the outside and the strength to hold up in the trenches. Assuming he's healthy and offered the right support from Pittsburgh's development staff, Mims would offer plenty of upside to justify a top-20 pick.

There are more thrilling or outwardly flashy moves to be made, but the Steelers' inconsistent offensive line was a huge problem last season. Arthur Smith loves to run the football and spread the wealth on offense. His system relies greatly on the o-line carrying its weight. If Wilson is under constant pressure, if Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren can't find holes at the line of scrimmage, Pittsburgh will crash and burn.

There isn't a more challenging position group to evaluate than the offensive line, but an elite tackle can elevate those around him. There is downside risk tied to Mims' limited exposure at UGA, but the opposite is true, too. He has one of the highest ceilings on the board.