Pittsburgh Steelers go tackle, center, and cornerback in latest NFL mock draft predictions

Troy Fautanu, G, Washington
Troy Fautanu, G, Washington

The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the 2024 NFL offseason following their seventh playoff appearance in the last 10 seasons. Despite fielding the 28th-ranked scoring offense in the regular season, the Steelers won their final three regular-season games to make the wild card round of the 2024 NFL playoffs. They lost 31-17 to Buffalo to end their season.

Pittsburgh's offseason outlook got better thanks to an "unprecedented" salary cap increase this year. Instead of sitting nearly $14 million over the salary cap, the Steelers now have $8.9 million in cap space per Over the Cap data.

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That's plenty of money to spend improving the offense and bolstering the NFL's sixth-ranked defense from 2023. Another route for improvement is the 2024 NFL Draft. The Steelers hold seven picks in total, starting with No. 20 overall in the first round. Here's what draft experts from USA Today, ESPN, and predict the Steelers will do in the first round:

2024 NFL mock draft: Pittsburgh Steelers predictions

Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz, USA TODAY: Jackson Powers-Johnson, C/G, Oregon

Powers-Johnson's become arguably the top interior lineman prospect in this draft. His performance at the Senior Bowl raised his stock along with his foot speed and stability in fending off rushers. He won the Rimington Trophy - given every year to the nation's top center - in 2023.

Middlehurst-Schwartz: "With a rugged disposition that helps mask his pedestrian athleticism, Powers-Johnson is the picture of a Steelers draft pick. He also seems like a reasonable target for a franchise that is trying to adjust its offense while still resisting a dramatic rethinking of its approach."

Nate Davis, USA TODAY: JC Latham, OT, Alabama

Latham was a stalwart right tackle at Alabama. At 6-foot-6 and 335 pounds, he is a standout in pass protection and can handle either speed or power from pass rushers. He compares well to last year's No. 10 overall pick, Darnell Wright, but with more athleticism and strength.

Davis: "A recently neglected line would have a nice pair of long-term bookends by coupling Latham with last year’s first-rounder, Broderick Jones."

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Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN: Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson

Wiggins is one of the best athletes at the cornerback position in the draft and starred on the outside in coverage. He allowed just one catch of 20-plus yards in 2023 while being targeted 41 times. At 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, he'll need to improve in run defense but has the speed to play well in pursuit.

Kiper Jr.: "I went corner in my Mock Draft 1.0, and I don't see a reason to change, though the Steelers just cut starting center Mason Cole and will have to replace him. Wiggins could pair a formidable pairing with Joey Porter Jr., who came on in the second half of last season. Wiggins allowed just 4.2 yards per attempt as the nearest defender in coverage last season, taking a leap forward from 2022, when he allowed 6.1. At 6-2, 185 pounds, he has a great blend of size and speed. With 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles and a sack, he showed up all over the Tigers' 2023 tape."

Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson
Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson

Daneil Jeremiah, Troy Fautanu, OL, Washington

In 2023, the Pac-12 had many standout linemen, including Powers-Johnson, Taliese Fuaga, and Jordan Morgan. The Pac-12's Morris Trophy recognizes one offensive and one defensive lineman as the best in the conference as voted on by opposing players. Fautanu was voted the best of them all on offense in 2023. His mix of athleticism, footwork, and hand strength make him a prime candidate to either stay at tackle or slide inside to guard.

Jeremiah: "Pittsburgh invests in the offensive line in Round 1 for the second year in a row. Fautanu fits the physical identity the Steelers are looking to create. He can play anywhere on the line, but it would be fun to watch him line up next to 2023 first-round pick Broderick Jones."

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2024 NFL mock drafts show Pittsburgh Steelers going offensive line