Offensive linemen showing out at the 2023 Senior Bowl
For teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers, bolstering the offensive line remains a top priority this offseason. You have multiple ways of achieving this result, but through the NFL Draft is still the preferred method for the black-and-gold. With the 2023 Senior Bowl taking place in Mobile, Alabama this weekend, the week of practices leading up to the game have been noteworthy, as always.
The Steelers will be looking at several positions along the offensive line, mainly center and offensive tackle, and the offensive linemen who are practicing at the Senior Bowl have been turning heads.
Here is a rundown of some players along the offensive line who have been showing out this week, and Jordan Reid and Matt Miller of ESPN have been tracking the progress. Let’s see the offensive linemen Reid has listed as “risers” this week:
- Jackson Powers-Johnson, C, Oregon: Outside of Toledo corner Quinyon Mitchell (Matt mentioned him as a riser), Powers-Johnson was the most impressive prospect I saw at the Senior Bowl. Not only did he play at his normal center spot, but he also took reps at guard. His anchor and hand strength immediately jumped out at me. At 6-foot-2 and 334 pounds, he has a wide frame that defenders are hardly ever able to run through. Powers-Johnson entered Mobile as a potential first-round pick and in consideration to be the first center selected, and I think he could go in the top 25. The Miami Dolphins (No. 21 overall) and Dallas Cowboys (No. 24) both have needs along the interior offensive line.
- Dominick Puni, G, Kansas: Puni was getting some buzz from scouts before the Senior Bowl, but his draft projections varied. Then Puni showed the versatility to play either guard and tackle, and his balance and ability to reset his anchor showed up on multiple occasions this week. I asked a bunch of scouts about him Thursday, and I kept hearing that the second round is a possible draft range for the 6-foot-5, 320-pound lineman. In an OL class that lacks early-round options at guard, Puni could get a boost.
- Christian Haynes, G, UConn: I picked him as a potential riser leading up to the Senior Bowl, and Haynes proved me right as one of the top interior offensive linemen in Mobile. His strength, ability to anchor and finishing skills at 6-foot-2 and 313 pounds flashed each day of practice. After he played every snap of his career at right guard, scouts wanted to see if he had some positional flexibility, and Haynes looked comfortable at both guard and center this week. Being able to snap the ball helps his stock. Many thought he was a fourth- or fifth-round pick last week, but Haynes could be drafted as high as the third round now.
Those weren’t the only linemen who were getting attention from those in attendance at practices. Here are some other practice notes, and players you might want to keep on your radar as the process narrows with the 2024 NFL Draft drawing closer by the day.
The American roster of offensive linemen put on a show during the afternoon session, the final padded practice of the week. UConn guard Christian Haynes, Texas tackle Christian Jones and Houston tackle Patrick Paul were all bullying defenders.
Jones, lining up at right tackle, was an immovable force in pass protection, while Paul, a left tackle, flashed a mean streak we hadn’t seen from him all week, burying a defender into the turf. Paul is a potential top-40 pick, but Jones and Haynes are solid Round 3-4 prospects who project as potential starters at some point in their careers. These three linemen and their teammates got the best of a defensive line group led by Darius Robinson, Chris Braswell and T’Vondre Sweat during the two-hour practice. — Miller
Without much left to prove, Michigan receiver Roman Wilson, Oregon center Jackson Powers-Johnson and Florida receiver Ricky Pearsall all exited Mobile before Thursday’s practices. The specifics on why they are no longer at the Senior Bowl weren’t provided, but each pieced together two standout days and did what he needed to do at the event.
Powers-Johnson strengthened his case to be the top center in the class and is trending toward a late-Day 1 selection.
The most consistent offensive lineman of Day 2 was UConn’s Christian Haynes. After Haynes spent all of his career at right guard, scouts had major question marks about his positional flexibility. But playing both guard spots in Mobile, he showed plenty of physicality, lower-body strength and finishing ability. Haynes was a fourth-round pick coming into the week, but I now have him in the third-round conversation. — Reid
Of these names, are there any which stand out to you? Anyone you would view as a perfect fit for the Steelers? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to SCN for the latest news and notes surrounding the team as they prepare for the offseason.