The 2021 NFL draft is less than one month away. While it seems like it’s right around the corner before we hear the names called who will be blessed to become a part of the greatest franchise in professional sports, who the Steelers plan to take in the upcoming draft could still change in the next few weeks.
As fans scramble to form their lists of the highest positions of need in Pittsburgh, it ultimately comes down to the Steelers organization and where they feel they need the most help. In the past, when the Steelers feel that they are too thin in a position in which they could use the draft in order to increase their numbers, they try to make a free agent acquisition just in case.
A prime example of this came in the 2020 offseason when the Steelers appeared to be in the market to take a tight end high in the draft. The Steelers did not have a first round draft pick, so they were relegated to seeing what type of tight end would be there in round two. I found myself checking in on the Senior Bowl to see what the tight ends looked like to see who could be a good fit with the Steelers. All the tight end talk went away when the Steelers signed Eric Ebron in free agency. A position of high need went to one the Steelers did not even address in the 2020 draft.
Could the Steelers still do this again in 2021, but much later in free agency? Could they add a position in the weeks leading up to the draft which takes the need much further down the list?
On Tuesday, the Steelers added yet another running back to their roster in Kalen Ballage. With Ballage being a player who has already been with three NFL franchises in three seasons, it’s not the type of signing which indicates the Steelers are set at running back. But had the Steelers picked up a more experienced running back, such as a Duke Johnson or Todd Gurley, it might have given fans pause to wonder how the Steelers’ need for a running back could change in the upcoming draft.
Chances are running back is not going to be a position the Steelers skip over in the 2021 NFL draft. Although I threw the idea out there to BTSC recently, it was only something to think about as the chances of the Steelers not addressing the running game in a significant manner is highly unlikely.
But are there other positions where many think the Steelers could draft a player high in the draft only to have the Steelers make a move in free agency before hand?
One position which jumps out at me is the same one from last season. If the Steelers were to sign another tight end who could be the compliment to Eric Ebron, it would take that position to no longer being one of need to something the Steelers would draft as a luxury.
Another position which jumps out at me would be inside linebacker. With the Steelers moving on from Vince Williams, it seems there is a need for someone else to help fill out the depth chart. Should Steelers bring in a player between now and the draft who could fill that role, they could completely skip over inside linebacker for 2021.
Other positions, such as wide receiver or cornerback, are other possibilities. Where the roster sits right now, the Steelers will likely add a player at these positions in the upcoming draft, but exactly how high they would be selected is up for debate. Should the Steelers pick up a player at either of these positions, they could skip drafting the position altogether this year.
The most likely outcome when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers would see them adding some players at these positions in order to not have to take any one position too high in the draft. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Steelers add players at linebacker, tight end, or edge rusher. With only three outside linebackers currently on the roster, the Steelers will need to add more bodies in a variety of ways before training camp.
There is a decent chance the Steelers could sign a significant player at one of these positions which would move the need at that position down the draft board. If the Steelers can set themselves up to truly draft the best player available with their selections, it gives them the chance to build the best roster possible for both 2021 and the next several years.
What do you think? Will the Steelers add a free agent between now and the draft which would significantly change their team needs? Which position is most likely? Make sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below.