Predicting Steelers' Early 2024 NFL Draft Big Board

Joe TanseyMay 17, 2023

Predicting Steelers' Early 2024 NFL Draft Big Board

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 11: Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin looks on during the national football league game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 11, 2022 at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Pittsburgh Steelers could overhaul their secondary depth chart next year.

    Ahkello Witherspoon and Levi Wallace are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the 2023 NFL season, per Spotrac, and Patrick Peterson could be deemed too expensive to keep around for the second half of the two-year deal he signed this offseason.

    Pittsburgh drafted Joey Porter Jr. in the second round of the 2023 NFL draft to begin the transformation at cornerback.

    One of Porter's former Penn State teammates could receive a look from the Steelers in the 2024 NFL draft if they do not retain Witherspoon and Wallace in free agency.

    Pittsburgh will have other needs come to the forefront of the draft discussion before next April, but it is already clear it might have to get younger in the secondary.

Kalen King, CB, Penn State

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    PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 02: Kalen King #4 of the Penn State Nittany Lions intercepts a pass intended for Devaughn Vele #17 of the Utah Utes during the first quarter in the 2023 Rose Bowl Game at Rose Bowl Stadium on January 02, 2023 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Kalen King and Porter could form one of the best young cornerback duos in the NFL if they are reunited through the 2024 NFL draft.

    King was the second CB listed in the early mock draft produced by Todd McShay of He was the 16th overall selection in that projection.

    McShay broke down how the 20-year-old differs from Porter in his coverage style.

    "Whereas Joey Porter Jr. is long and physical, King is more fluid and an easy mover," he wrote. "His movements appear effortless. And King is a pure cover man, breaking up 15 passes (tied for fifth in the FBS) and picking off three more last season."

    The Steelers could use someone who is strong in coverage to refurbish their cornerback depth chart to deal with all of the talented wide receivers in the AFC North.

    The Cincinnati Bengals still have the Ja'Marr Chase-Tee Higgins duo in place, the Baltimore Ravens improved with the draft pick of Zay Flowers and the addition of Odell Beckham Jr., while the Cleveland Browns have Amari Cooper.

    A strong secondary is one of the keys for Pittsburgh to reclaim the divisional crown, and if Witherspoon and Wallace move on in free agency, it will need to look at someone like King in the first round.

Cooper DeJean, CB, Iowa

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    NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - DECEMBER 31:  Cooper DeJean #3 of the Iowa Hawkeyes runs the ball against the Kentucky Wildcats during the TransPerfect Music City Bowl at Nissan Stadium on December 31, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.(Photo by Carly Mackler/Getty Images)
    Carly Mackler/Getty Images

    Pittsburgh's cornerback scouting should span the entire Big Ten.

    Iowa's Cooper DeJean is also a projected first-round pick by McShay in the 2024 draft.

    The 20-year-old can play both on the outside and in the slot, and he displayed a nose for the ball last season. He picked off five passes and returned three for touchdowns for an Iowa team whose defense was its best offense at times.

    A potential DeJean selection would give the Steelers more versatility in the secondary, and the move would likely come with another year of Peterson.

    The Steelers could put Peterson and Porter on the outside and use DeJean in the slot before he takes over for Peterson in 2025.

Javon Bullard, CB, Georgia

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    INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 09: Javon Bullard #22 of the Georgia Bulldogs intercepts a pass late in the second quarter against the TCU Horned Frogs in the College Football Playoff National Championship game at SoFi Stadium on January 09, 2023 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
    Steph Chambers/Getty Images

    It won't hurt to take a deep look at the defense that produced a ton of early-round selections over the last two seasons.

    Javon Bullard is one of the next wave of potential NFL stars on the Georgia defense. He produced 3.5 sacks, three passes defended and two interceptions in his sophomore campaign with the Bulldogs.

    More is expected from his junior season, and he has the opportunity to solidify himself as a first-round pick next year.

    The Steelers will not have to worry about Bullard's level of competition, as the SEC is one of the best leagues to prepare NFL prospects for the next level.

    Georgia's defense has produced some fantastic players in recent years, and Bullard could add his name to the long line of recent first-round selections if the Steelers and other teams are impressed with what he does this coming season.