If you were to ask me what I think the Steelers’ biggest need is heading into the 2021 NFL Draft, I may tell you offensive tackle. Why? Because it’s safe. Sure, it’s not exactly exciting, but you can probably wrap your head around it if you are an intense Steelers fan who takes every single mock draft and draft opinion as gospel.
If you asked me for a different answer, I might say running back, cornerback or even inside linebacker.
However, if you were to hook me up to a lie-detector and ask me what I think the Steelers' biggest need is heading into the 2021 NFL Draft, I would tell you center—especially if I need to pass the test to stay out of jail.
I realize this isn’t a popular opinion, but if you really look at things and consider all of the Steelers needs, how deep other positions are heading into the draft and who likely will be there when Pittsburgh selects at 24, it just has to be center, doesn’t it?
“But you can get a quality one in the second round!” you might be screaming, right now. Maybe, but can you get the best one in the second round?
That’s a rhetorical question because I think the answer is no, no you cannot. After doing some research, I’ve concluded that Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey is the best center and safest choice at that position heading into the 2021 NFL Draft; I’ve also come to the conclusion that he will be gone by the time Pittsburgh is set to pick in the second round. A big part of my research has been conducted with the help of the Pro Football Network Mock Draft Simulator, a website that Bryan Anthony Davis turned me on to (so, if you want to blame him for this first-round center bs, be my guest).
Anyway, I’ve done 21 simulated mock drafts since Friday afternoon, and Humphrey has been taken in the first round 15 times. Sure, most of the time it’s either been by the Packers at 29 or the Chiefs at 31, but that makes a ton of sense considering they both need centers. If the Packers can theoretically select a center in the first round to replace Corey Linsley, for example, why can’t Pittsburgh take a center five spots higher to replace the recently-retired Maurkice Pouncey?
What is so bad about that?
True, Alabama’s Landon Dickerson is a possibility in a later round, but how is his injured knee? Quinn Meinerz is intriguing, but the competition is much different at Wisconsin-Whitewater than it is at Oklahoma.
As for the other positions, I really do think offensive tackle is a need, but it’s a rather deep class with like seven or eight prospects slated to go in the first or second round. What about cornerback following the release of Steven Nelson? You want the Steelers to select a cornerback in the first round? Have you gone loco?
OK, what about running back? Go take a look at the current crop of free-agent running backs still available; they look worn out for their ages—kind of like Keith Richards by 1981 (no offense to him). You know the nature of the running back position and what it does to a person. By the time most running backs hit their late 20s, they are no longer in their primes. When you see one, don’t you just want to quote comedian John Mulaney and scream: “Whoa, that tall child looks terrible! Get some rest, tall child; you can’t keep burning the candle at both ends!”
OK, maybe you never want to quote comedian John Mulaney, but surely you know that a team can usually get a pretty sweet running back in the second or third round, someone who will be productive for four years before a general manager decides not to give him a fat second contract.
Really good centers tend to last much longer (you may cite the careers of Mike Webster, Dermontti Dawson and Pouncey if you wish). Centers aren't sexy, but a bad one can really mess up a romantic picnic in the grass, though, right?
Still not sold on Humphrey? Need more convincing? Fine. Below is a paragraph full of positives courtesy of Pro Football Network:
“Dynamic zone-blocking center who started the three years he played at Oklahoma. Fundamentally-sound lineman, sets with a wide base, and bends his knees. Explosive at the point, fires into blocks and stays square. Keeps his feet moving, can slide in space and displays good blocking range. Possesses outstanding vision, keeps his head on a swivel, and displays a good feel for what’s happening on the field. Terrific with the shotgun snap.”
Maybe nothing will ever convince you that the Steelers should take Humphrey in the first round—not even the presence of B.J. Finney and/or J.C. Hassenauer—but I think it makes a lot of sense. Again, I believe the Steelers can find really great value with other positions of need later in the draft. Center might be a different story.
It has to be Humphrey.
In conclusion, before you throw your remote and/or accuse me of smoking something, remember, I’m just a man with an opinion. But you should also realize that I’ve been known to predict Pittsburgh’s first pick in the past. I wrote a popular article about Chase Claypool about a month before last year’s draft. I believe I also predicted the drafting of T.J. Watt back in 2017.
And if you really want to get a grasp of my draft-predicting power—a power that I seem to have almost on instinct (picture Michael Scott doing something right on an episode of The Office)—I even casually predicted the selection of Artie Burns.
When Creed Humphrey becomes the Steelers first-round pick, remember this article.
You’ll likely thank me many years down the road.