Without a doubt, the Pittsburgh Steelers enjoyed a hugely successful 2020 NFL Draft class, especially when you factor in the fact they were without a first round selection. That first round selection was utilized to acquire Free Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick from the Miami Dolphins in the early stages of the 2019 NFL season. When you consider that Fitzpatrick then becomes the Steelers first round acquisition that makes last season's draft haul one of the best in franchise history.
Multiple starters from a single draft class is always impressive; with every selection not only making the roster but seeing meaningful minutes at some point through the season. That accomplishment is rare for a cellar dweller franchise with plenty of holes throughout their roster, unheard of for a 12-4 division winner. It was the type of draft class that solidifies the foundation of a franchise for years to come, especially if they are fortunate enough to follow that exceptional draft class up with another.
Unfortunately, based on the Steelers current situation and depth chart at critical positions, that is exactly what the Steelers need to do once again in the 2021 NFL Draft. They need another home run of a draft to replenish the roster. If the Steelers are able to accomplish a repeat performance in that regard, they should be able to contend for a playoff spot, even with the toughest schedule in the league.
One of last season's biggest surprises was OG Kevin Dotson from Louisiana with their 2nd pick in the fourth round. Dotson graded out no better than a career backup by many draft pundits, only capable of developing into a starter in a favorable scenario under ideal conditions. He was so lightly regarded that he wasn't even invited to the Scouting Combine, and the NFL actually had one last season. Not only did Dotson prove to be a underestimated diamond in the rough, he was easily and instantly the Steelers most powerful run blocker.
This year the Steelers desperately need a talented young lineman to continue their unmatched legacy of superior performances at the center position after the retirement of Steelers great Maurkice Pouncey. There is yet another unheralded small school prospect climbing up draft boards around the league that is captivating scouts and GMs alike with his talent, bravado, and backstory. His name is Quinn Meinerz, a center prospect from Division III Wisconsin Whitewater.
Meinerz is one of about five or six center prospects in this year's draft that I feel have starter caliber potential somewhere down the line in their professional careers, making for a solid center class. However, he is considered a bit of a unknown by some NFL personnel due to the level of his collegiate competition, and how he is relatively new to the center position after playing predominantly at guard for the Warhawks.
Maybe it's just me, but I see alot of similarities between Kevin Dotson and Quinn Meinerz. So much in fact that it wouldn't shock me in the slightest to learn that the Steelers are secretly enamored with Meinerz, enough to select him in the third or fourth round if the situation arises. It also won't surprise me if he ends up having a similar impact to the one enjoyed by the aforementioned Dotson last season.
Dotson and Meinerz both have the rather unique ability to make other large individuals move in a particular direction against their will. They accomplish this task through extraordinary strength and an impressive understanding of how to utilize leverage efficiently. They both are incredibly physical and strive to punish the opposition each play.
Both young men have the prototypical physique of a interior offensive lineman. They even utilize what can only be described as unconventional workout regimens and routines. Dotson likes to push and pull trucks around to work up a sweat, which probably makes blocking a mere mortal seem rather mundane. Meinerz; who has a wrestling background, has the long locks and look of a professional wrestler. His persona is a larger than life outdoorsman, who enjoys finding creative ways to turn his surroundings into a personal workout.
Just like with Dotson, the draft evaluations on Meinerz are all over the place. Most love his competitiveness and physicality, but question his overall athleticism. One publication claimed he is top heavy with a tendency to over reach on block attempts, leading to an excessive amount of time on the ground. Funny thing is I heard the exact same thing about Dotson prior to last year's draft. Looking back over their individual evaluations the similarities were staggering and prompted the desire to write this article.
Most pundits believe that Meinerz will be a starting center in the NFL eventually, maybe even as soon as the end of his rookie season. There are sure to be growing pains due to the step up in competition, but the talent is there. I wrote in my Grading the Pick article after Dotson's selection that he would need a redshirt type of season in the NFL, but he would have the opportunity to contribute at some point down the road after some fine tuning. Boy, was I ever wrong on that one. He was the Steelers best lineman last season, by a large margin.
If the Steelers also see the similarities between the two young men that I do, then Meinerz would bring excellent value in the third round in my opinion. Meinerz meets the criteria for a Steelers standout center, considering his warrior mentality and leadership qualities on and off the field. He is reportedly a high character young man by all accounts.
The Steelers have made their desires known that they are determined to rebuild their running game by improving their talent and power along the offensive line. Kevin Dotson was an impressive first step in the right direction. Could Meinerz be a continuation of the trend?