Camp 1: The offensive line must be improved before a running back should be brought in.
Camp 2: A great running back can improve the running game by himself.
Regardless of which camp you might reside, everyone wants the same result — for the Steelers to improve their running game. After a dreadful 2020 saw the Steelers finish last in the league in both yards per game and yards per attempt, the Steelers plan to utilize the draft to improve their running game.
When it comes to mock drafts, it should be noted these are just predictions. Guesses of what someone thinks will happen. With that said, there are some experts who carry more weight than your run of the mill draftnik.
Todd McShay of ESPN is one of those “experts” and he just released his third mock draft of the mock draft season. In this edition of McShay’s picks, he has the Steelers taking a running back, but maybe not the one they wanted. The New York Jets, who pick 23rd after their trade with the Seattle Seahawks, take Clemson back Travis Etienne, leaving the Steelers in a predicament.
Take another running back like Najee Harris of Alabama, Javonte Williams of North Carolina or address the offensive line. Even with several talented linemen still on the board, McShay has the Steelers taking Najee Harris.
Take a look at what he has to say about the Steelers’ first round pick at No. 24:
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Teven Jenkins is tempting here. He’s a mauler on the offensive line, and the Steelers must rebuild that unit from the ground up. Ultimately, I went in a different direction because the lineman class is deep — I have more than a dozen in this mock — and running back is just as much of a concern. Harris is a powerful back who is nearly impossible to stop between the tackles. The Steelers’ 3.6 yards per carry ranked dead last in the NFL last season, and it doesn’t appear that James Conner is returning, currently leaving the rushing to an unproven group of Benny Snell Jr., Anthony McFarland Jr., Kalen Ballage and Jaylen Samuels. Let’s get an impact running back.
Having Harris mocked to the Steelers is nothing new, and Harris, despite not having as much tread left on his tires as other backs in this draft class, would be a tremendous back for the black and gold. He is a dual threat back who can both run inside and outside, catch out of the backfield and is adapt at blitz pickup.
But would the Steelers be better suited taking a lineman, like tackle Teven Jenkins who went to the Jacksonville Jaguars with pick No. 25, instead of a dynamic running back?
In this mock draft, McShay even mocked the second round as well. Take a look at who he has projected to the Steelers in Round 2, with pick No. 55.
55. Pittsburgh Steelers
Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama
Dickerson would be the Steelers’ post-Maurkice Pouncey plan, after the longtime Pittsburgh center retired this offseason. Dickerson has some durability issues — for one, he tore his ACL in December — but he has strong awareness in pass protection and can drive back defenders on run plays, opening lanes for the Steelers’ projected first-round pick, Najee Harris.
Is Dickerson the long term answer at center? His injury history might say otherwise, but if the Steelers are high on the former Florida State and Alabama center, he could be their pick at No. 55, and will likely be available.
What do you think of these picks? Would you be happy with Harris in Round 1 and Dickerson in Round 2? 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 Steelers as they prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft.