From the second the 2020 draft came to a close, speculation had already started up for the 2021 class.
Admittedly, “way too early” draft predictions are exactly what they’re titled: Way too early - and as a result, are very rarely, or perhaps never, accurate at all.
In this draft primer series, we won’t be mocking players to any teams, but rather looking at the top players at each position who could get drafted by the Steelers with their first few picks in 2021. Prospects such as Trevor Lawrence, Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Fields, and Penei Sewell, who are all expected to be gone long before the Steelers are projected to pick in the first round, will not be included.
The goal? Not to make any “hot take” predictions, but rather to look at some players that Steeler fans might want to watch a little closer than usual this college season.
Fifth in this series will be part of a positional group that remains criminally underrated: interior offensive lineman. Rankings are in no particular order.
Creed Humphrey, IOL #56, Oklahoma
Height/Weight: 6’5”, 315 lbs.
Humphrey surprisingly went back to school for his senior year, even though he would have been a first-round lock in 2020. Entering this season, he’s considered to be the best interior lineman in this year’s class.
Humphrey is extremely strong, and a true mauler up front. He is technically sound with great football IQ and leadership skills. Humphrey was an amateur wrestler, and it really shows in his excellent use of leverage.
Humphrey still has room to grow in pass protection, but remains a solid all-around player. There’s little doubt he’ll be among the first lineman off the board in the 2021 draft.
Some notable articles about Creed Humphrey:
Creed Humphrey Draft Profile - The Draft Network
2021 NFL Draft: Creed Humphrey is the top interior offensive lineman - Pro Football Network
Wyatt Davis, IOL #52, Ohio State
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 313 lbs.
Davis is up there with Humphrey when it comes to the top interior lineman in college football. Some analysts, even have Davis rated higher than the Oklahoma standout.
Davis didn’t allow a single sack last year and was incredibly consistent. He’s powerful at the line of scrimmage and a star in pass protection— the prototype for a modern NFL lineman. Davis is good lineman, but he isn’t the most athletic in his class. Pro Football Network described him as a “high floor” prospect with a “limited ceiling”.
Similarly to Creed Humphrey, Davis sat out the 2020 NFL Draft for another year at Ohio State to pursue a college football championship. He looks to be sure-fire first round pick unless he severely disappoints in 2020. As a part of one of the best offensive lines in the nation, regression seems unlikely for the Buckeye’s standout.
Some notable article about Wyatt Davis:
How Wyatt Davis can top knockdowns total for Buckeyes - Lettermen Row
Deonte Brown, IOL #65, Alabama
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 338 lbs.
Deonte Brown is a big, strong, and powerful lineman who was a massive presence in Alabama’s offensive line last year. Despite being listed at 338 pounds, Brown is quite the athlete and an excellent pulling guard.
Brown struggles in pass protection every now and then, especially against faster players with good pass-rush moves.
Brown has elite size and athleticism, with first round potential. Off-the-field issues could plague his draft stock and NFL career, however, he’s dealt with suspensions in his NCAA career. He’s had some weight issues early in his time at Alabama, as well.
Some notable articles about Deonte Brown:
Trey Smith, IOL #73, Tennessee
Height/Weight: 6’6”, 325 lbs.
Smith has had blood clot issues before in his football career, which cast major doubts about his NFL future. But if you ignore those issues, he’s an excellent lineman who has a chance at being a high pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Smith has experience at both tackle and guard, even though he’s much more suited for the latter. He has the frame of an NFL lineman and a well-rounded game overall. He’s one of the best pass-protectors in the nation, even though he’s sometimes a little slow or not aggressive enough up front. He’s athletic and powerfully built, and if he can clean up his inconsistent technique he’s a top 5 lineman in this year’s class.
Medical red flags will definitely be a talking point as the NFL draft gets closer for Smith, but the potential is there regardless as a future starter in the league.
Some notable articles about Trey Smith:
Trey Smith Draft Profile - The Draft Network
Some other names to look out for this season of the interior offensive linemen include Tennessee’s Cade Mays, Texas Tech’s Jack Anderson, Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum, USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker, Oklahoma State’s Josh Sills, and Ohio State’s Josh Meyers.
Which interior offensive lineman would you most like to see as a Pittsburgh Steeler next year?
This poll is closed
Will a rookie interior offensive lineman be joining the Steelers next year?
It’s definitely probable, especially as the Steelers are getting older along the offensive, and some of their younger talents are nearing the end of their contracts.
A good offensive line requires a cohesive unit built with quality lineman, as well as above-average depth in case of injuries or formation. It looks certain that there will be some spots available on the line come the 2021 offseason. The Steelers will be interested in members of the upcoming O-line class. Both interior line and tackle could be positions of need in 2021.
However, the Steelers have shown the ability time and time again to develop late round and practice squad lineman into starters. If Derwin Gray, or even higher-pedigree lineman like Kevin Dotson and Chuks Okorafor can become starters, Pittsburgh may not actually have a need at the position.
Quarterback may be the single-most important position on the field, but the five athletes who make up the offensive line are what really dictate their offense’s success. Where the 2021 season leaves the Steelers is still a mystery, but the team will definitely view adding to its offensive line in high regard a year from now.