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2021 NFL Mock Draft: Steelers take star-studded running back in Round 1

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the AFC Playoffs, but many are starting to also turn their attention to the 2021 NFL Draft.

College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game presented by Capital One - Alabama v Notre Dame Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

I a breaking a major rule of mine right now. I have always said I won’t cover the NFL Draft while the Pittsburgh Steelers are still playing, but for whatever reason the fan base is certainly talking about the draft with the college football season wrapping up.

Maybe it was the Steelers losing 4 of their last 5 games, maybe it is many believing the Steelers’ Super Bowl window is closing or maybe there are just a ton of draftniks here at BTSC who absolutely love everything about the draft process.

Whatever the reason, when ESPN’s Todd McShay released his first 2021 NFL Mock Draft following the conclusion of the college season, I was intrigued enough to not just see who the Steelers took, but where they had them drafting.

Considering the Top 18 picks have been set in stone with the conclusion of the NFL regular season, ESPN used their own expert analytics to decipher where they see teams finishing this 2020 season. They have the Steelers selecting 28th overall in the first round, behind only the Buffalo Bills, New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs.

In other words, they see the Steelers losing in the Divisional Round of the AFC Playoffs, with the Chiefs beating the Packers in the Super Bowl.

With that said, who does McShay have the Steelers taking with their top pick? Try the man many are considering the top running back in the upcoming class.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers

Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

James Conner is playing out the final few games of his rookie deal and might not return. If he doesn’t, running back will be a hole. Benny Snell Jr. looked adequate this season when called upon, but Harris is different. His 1,387 rushing yards are third in the FBS this season, and he has averaged two scores on the ground per game. Speed, power, pass-catching and pass-protection ability, Harris brings it all.

On the quarterback front, Pittsburgh could potentially land one of the top five guys, but a deeper option also could be in the mix if Ben Roethlisberger decides to retire and/or the team does not do something in free agency. Offensive line also is a big-time need, so perhaps Wyatt Davis (Ohio State) or Trey Smith (Tennessee) are in the mix.

The Steelers taking a running back in the first round certainly doesn’t feel right. Not with so many other areas of need, many which McShay outlines in his description of the pick. However, with the Steelers finishing the regular season dead last in rushing yards per game, and their 3.6 yards per carry also finished last in the league.

This is typically when fans will point to a lackluster run blocking offensive line which caused the poor running numbers, but could a dynamic, play making running back transform even the most mediocre run blocking line? That debate is similar to which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Either way, the Steelers have some major needs heading into 2021, and if the team were to take a player like Harris, I doubt many would complain. His highlight reel speaks for itself.

What do you think about the pick? Would you be okay with a player like Harris joining the Steelers, or do you feel there are other needs which should be addressed first? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the Cleveland Browns in the Wild Card round of the AFC Playoffs.