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2021 NFL Draft: Pittsburgh Steelers 1st Round Big Board/Rankings

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing to make their selections in the 2021 NFL Draft, and we deliver a first round big board for the black and gold.

NFL: NFL Draft Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Every position on the BTSC Big Board has been covered, but today, we are going to take a look at how they should be ranked based on what the Steelers need.

There are excerpts from the BTSC Big Board to give analysis on each player. Team needs are balanced with a “best player available” philosophy, which will help determine who the Steelers should take if a highly-ranked prospect falls to 24 but does not fill a huge need. If you have thoughts on how these prospects should be ranked, be sure to mention them in the comment section below.

The analysis is a collaboration of Ryland B., myself, Itz JustNoah, and Necksnation, while the consensus ranking and statistics were compiled by SNW and Pittsblitz56. One thing worth noting is that the consensus ranking for some of the positions may not be affected by recent pro day results and recent risers and fallers, as the consensus ranking began several months ago. Much has changed since then, so keep that in mind.

If you’d like to have a printable big board ranking the top 300 players in this year’s draft, you can click HERE.

Players that have a less than 1% chance of falling and are not ranked: Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Penei Sewell, Rashawn Slater, Kyle Pitts, Justin Fields, Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, Trey Lance, DeVonta Smith, and Patrick Surtain II.

1. Micah Parsons — ILB — Penn State
Chances of falling to Steelers: less than 5%
Consensus ranking: 10 (6, 14, 4, 12, 12)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 52, TFL 14, Sacks 5, FF 4, FR 1, PD 5, Int 0, (13 games)

Necksnation: Parsons would likely be the consensus top defensive player in the draft if not for character issues. Like many top prospects, he opted out of the 2020 college season, but his stock actually rose when Penn State’s defense suffered in his absence. His pro day numbers solidified his status as one of the most athletic defenders in the draft. As a blitzer, Parsons demonstrates great instincts and the ability to shed blocks and make tackles. His coverage skills could use some refining, but it’s nothing he can’t handle, and it’s certainly not a weakness of his. Parsons’ ceiling and his athleticism make him the top linebacker in this class, and he has a good chance of going inside the top 15.

2. Christian Darrisaw — OT — Virginia Tech
Chances of falling to Steelers: 20%
Consensus ranking: 20 (14, 18, 24, 16, 16)
2020 season stats: (9 games)

Itz JustNoah: Darrisaw is, in my eyes, the next best tackle behind Sewell. Slater’s tape is great but Darrisaw is just so strong and his physicality is unmatched. He’s extremely powerful as a runblocker and he holds his block well in pass protection. He uses raw strength to move defenders out of the way with ease to create holes for runners and a clean pocket for whoever’s throwing the ball. He has the potential to be a franchise left tackle for whoever drafts him. I would be elated if he falls to the Steelers at 24 and Colbert would be foolish to not take him.

3. Jaycee Horn — #7, Jr, 6’1”, 205 lbs, — South Carolina
Chances of falling to Steelers: 15%
Consensus ranking: 17 (30, 12, 15, 16, 14)
2020 season stats: Tackles 16, TFL 1, Int 2, (7 games)

Itz JustNoah: As far as coverage goes, Horn is as good as it gets. He reacts well in man, he recovers quickly, he ran a 4.39 so he’s not gonna get burned over top and his ball skills are right up there with the other top guys. One of the things you notice when watching him is that he won’t get beat right off the line. He watches the opponent’s hips, not their eyes, so he won’t get beat by any “fancy footwork”. Horn does have a tackling problem and he tends to hold more than you would like. If he can clean up his holding problem I think he can be a very, very successful outside corner with the speed and athletic ability to also cover the slot. I like Horn a good bit but he’s not as technical or just plain talented as Surtain. So while I think it’s a great pick if he does fall, I would not want any sort of trade up for him.

4. Caleb Farley — #3, Jr, 6’2”, 207 lbs, — Virginia Tech
Chances of Falling to Steelers: 50%
Consensus ranking: 17 (11, 31, 12, 13, 18)
2020 season stats: (0 games)
2019 season stats: Tackles 20, PD 12, Int 4, (11 games)

Necksnation: Farley opted out of the 2020 college season and recently underwent a back procedure, causing his stock to fall, but he has all the tools to be a lockdown corner in the NFL. His combination of size, length, speed, and instincts make him one of the most naturally gifted players in the class. Farley’s 2019 film is fantastic, and if he hadn’t opted out I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the consensus top corner in the class. He excels in press coverage, and is able to stay on a receiver step by step for an extended period of time. His back issues are a legitimate reason for concern, but if he can stay healthy, he should be able to succeed at the next level.

5. Samuel Cosmi — OT — Texas
Chances of falling to Steelers: 95%
Consensus ranking: 43 (32, 24, 84, 25, 28)
2020 season stats: (8 games)

steelerfan11: Cosmi is not a sure thing at tackle, but I liked what I saw from him in both 2019 and 2020 when he was at left tackle. Generally, raw tackles will start out at right tackle if they play at all their rookie season, but I think Cosmi’s natural fit is on the left side. He depends on his superb athleticism too often, but all of Cosmi’s technical issues are fixable. When he leaves his chest exposed and a defender can land a punch, he loses balance but can usually save himself with his length. His kick-slide needs to become smoother, but that will come with improved footwork and hip angles. His pad level also needs to be lower on a more consistent basis, but that got much better in 2020. Cosmi does a good job of getting to the second level of the defense as a run-blocker, and he has the length and mobility to be a dominant pass blocker. If he can add a good 15 pounds to his frame, he could develop into one of the top blindside protectors in the game.

6. Creed Humphrey — Jr, #56, 6’5”, 320 lbs, — Oklahoma
Chances of falling to Steelers: 99%
Consensus ranking: 58 (96, 40, 51, 44, 61)
2020 season stats: (11 games)

Ryland B.: There were questions about Creed Humphrey’s athleticism entering the 2021 draft cycle, but he silenced the doubters with a 10/10 RAS score in 2021, making him one of the most athletic centers ever tested. But his technique is just as impressive. A former wrestler, he plays with good functional strength and excellent leverage. He’s a proven leader with a great football IQ as well. Being left-handed might cause some issues, but that shouldn’t drop him on many boards (could it raise him on Miami’s?). Humphrey has really cemented himself as the top center in this class, and could here his name called as early as the first round.

7. Mac Jones — Alabama
Chances of falling to Steelers: 5%
2020 season stats: 4,500 passing yards, 41 passing touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 14 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown
Average Draft Ranking - 40.85

Ryland B: Mac Jones is a bit of a departure from his successors at Alabama, Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa. While Hurts and Tagovailoa were athletic, high-upside prospects with some concerns regarding their overall accuracy and ability to go through progressions, Jones is more of the opposite. He’s a pocket passer with decent athleticism, while his greatest strength is his accuracy and ability to distribute the football. Jones has a fairly strong arm and throws a pretty deep ball, while also going through his progressions well and delivering the ball on time. He’s not a good runner, or even very mobile for that matter, but he can recognize when to run and can gain a first down with his legs every now and then. Surrounded by superior talent and excellent play-calling, Jones put up some great numbers at Alabama this season. He has a fairly high floor, but doesn’t have the highest ceiling, and could be picked anywhere from the top 5 to the end of the first.

8. Najee Harris — RB — Alabama
Chances of falling to Steelers: 60%
2020 season stats: 1,466 rushing yards, 26 rushing touchdowns, 5.8 yards per carry (YPC), 43 receptions, 425 receiving yards, 4 receiving touchdowns

Ryland B.: Considered a top recruit coming out of high school, Najee Harris underwhelmed in his first few years at Alabama, but slowly improved each season to become the best running back in his draft class by his senior year. Harris has the size of a NFL running back, but he also has the power and athleticism to succeed at the next level. He is a patient runner with good vision, and can consistently make something out of nothing if the play breaks down. He ends runs with power, and is hard to bring down once he gets going, even unleashing an impressive hurdling ability at times. He isn’t the fastest, but has enough speed and burst to succeed at the NFL level — although he won’t be a home-run hitter. As a receiver, Harris showed some good hands and yards after catch ability in 2020. If there’s one concern, it’s mileage, as Harris had over 800 touches during his 4 years at Alabama. He hasn’t shown any durability concerns, but it’s certainly something to be aware of due to the short shelf life on NFL running backs. Overall, Harris is the most complete and NFL-ready back in the draft class, having shown athleticism, talent, and production over his successful college career.

9. Alijah Vera-Tucker — Jr, #75, 6’4”, 315 lbs, — USC G/T
Chances of falling to Steelers: 25%
Consensus ranking: 24 (19, 32, 21, 29, 19)
2020 season stats: (6 games)

steelerfan11: Vera-Tucker was asked to move to left tackle and fill the void that Austin Jackson left. He wasn’t too bad, but he is much better suited at guard. He has quick hands and does a good job of landing his punches, and his body control is superb. His mobility is very good for an interior lineman as well, showing the ability to consistently get to the second level of the defense. He also displays a good pad level in the run game. Overall, Vera-Tucker brings a nice balance of upside and NFL readiness, and he could be gone by the time we get to pick 15.

10. Travis Etienne — Clemson
Chances of falling to Steelers: 55%
#9, Senior, 5’ 10”, 205 lbs
2020 season stats: 914 rushing yards, 14 rushing touchdowns, 5.4 YPC, 48 receptions, 588 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns

Ryland B.: Etienne made the right choice returning to school for 2020, but ended up having a down year statistically, failing to crack a thousand rushing yards for the first time since his freshman season in 2017. He did improve as a pass-catcher, totaling a career high in receiving yards and better hands overall. As a runner, Etienne is a speedster, one of the fastest in this class. His smaller frame is a concern, but he hasn’t had any major injury issues and always plays bigger than he is, finishing runs with some power and giving his all every play. He doesn’t have the greatest vision, and will sometimes try to push runs too far outside, but his vision definitely improved in 2020. Etienne’s agility isn’t overly impressive, but his speed certainly gives him an advantage in avoiding defenders. Etienne isn’t a complete running back just yet, but he has a solid foundation of tools and his impressive speed gives him incredible upside as an NFL back.

11. Landon Dickerson — Sr, #69, 6’6’’, 325 lbs, — Alabama C
Chances of falling to Steelers: 99%
Consensus ranking: 67 (76, 59, 93, 56, 52)
2020 season stats: (12 games)

Ryland B.: If it wasn’t for Dickerson’s extensive injury history, I’d have a much higher grade on him. Dickerson is a technically sound, smart center with good size and strength who plays very aggressively. He’s a proven winner and leader as well. His strength and physicality shine in his run blocking, and he is good in pass protection thanks to his football IQ and technical ability. Besides the injuries, Dickerson’s weaknesses involve his overall athleticism, as it isn’t bad but far from elite, and he isn’t the most mobile. He’s a strong player though and shined at the SEC level, so there isn’t a whole lot to worry about there. If Dickerson can stay healthy he’ll be a very good NFL center. If you’re interested in reading more in-depth analysis on him, check out K.T. Smith’s extensive breakdown on Dickerson HERE.

12. Azeez Ojulari — #13, So, 6’3”, 240 lbs, — Georgia
Chances of falling to Steelers: 35%
Consensus ranking: 39 (58, 30, 58, 22, 25)
2020 season stats: Tackles 31, TFL 12.5, Sacks 8.5, PD 2, FF 4, FR 1 (10 games)

Itz JustNoah: Ojulari has great athleticism and technique. He uses his hands well, he’s quick and he’s got a great bend that helps him stay upright. He has average size for an edge rusher so he could use a bit more strength but his speed off the line has helped him be successful without the ideal size. His major flaw comes as a run defender. When he’s forced outside and has to set the edge, he doesn’t have his burst off the line so he isn’t able to get by blockers. He’s not polished, but he’s got a high ceiling that makes him well worthy of being taken in the first round. He excelled in Kirby Smart’s 3-4 defense at Georgia and I think that’s where he will fit best in the NFL.

13. Zaven Collins — #23, Jr, 6’4” 260 lbs — Tulsa
Chances of falling to Steelers: 65%
Consensus ranking: 35 (28, 75, 23, 25, 22)
2020 season stats: Tackles 53, TFL 11.5, Sacks 4, FF 1, FR 1, PD 2, Int 4, (8 games)

steelerfan11: Collins has old-school size, but his fluidity in coverage is better than a lot of 230 pound linebackers in this class. He has decent range in coverage, but that is not his biggest strength. He was expected to run in the 4.6 range at his pro day, and he ran a little slower than that at 4.67. It was not a shocker to many people, but it does show that he may want to consider shedding a couple pounds if he wants to improve his range in coverage. However, his other numbers were impressive for a man his size, recording a 35 inch vertical and 122 inch broad jump. He will occasionally take a bad tackling angle and fail to bring the opponent down, but he does a good job of realizing gaps and filling them quickly. He has a few minor issues to fix, but he should still be able to contribute in year one. He should be off the board by the time we get to pick 40.

14. Asante Samuel, Jr. — #26, Jr, 5’10”, 184 lbs, — Florida State
Chances of falling to Steelers: 99%
Consensus ranking: 36 (26, 24, 45, 44, 42)
2020 season stats: Tackles 31, TFL 1, FF 1, FR 2, PD 6, Int 3, (8 games)

Necksnation: The son of a four-time Pro Bowler, Asante Samuel Jr. has been rising on draft boards and has the potential to be a high quality starter in the NFL. Samuel is best in man, and he defends the run well. Although he’s somewhat undersized, Samuel projects as an outside corner in the NFL who can also play in the slot. Samuel doesn’t have great ball skills, but he did register three interceptions in 2020, so he seems to be improving in that regard. The Steelers have reportedly met with Samuel, but I wouldn’t want him selected in the first two rounds.

15. Javonte Williams — North Carolina
Chances of falling to Steelers: 95%
2020 season stats: 1,140 rushing yards, 19 rushing touchdowns, 7.3 YPC, 25 receptions, 305 receiving yards, 3 receiving touchdowns

Ryland B.: I’ve seen some debates online over the past month or so arguing that Williams is the second-best running back in this class over Travis Etienne — and while I’m not ready to go that far yet, Williams’ incredible 2020 season certainly puts him in the discussion. He’s a running back that screams “Pittsburgh Steeler”, as he’s an underclassmen, runs with power and an attitude, and produced well in college. If he gets a good SPARQ score you might as well pencil him in as the Steelers’ second round pick. In a way, I see Javonte Williams as Benny Snell 2.0, someone with the powerful rushing style and contact balance the Steelers liked in Snell, but paired with good speed and burst to make him a complete back, something that Snell certainly lacks. Williams isn’t the fastest in this class, but he’s an excellent power back with enough speed to be a starter in the NFL. He’s definitely someone to keep an eye on as the draft gets nearer.

16. Teven Jenkins — Sr, #73, 6’6’’, 320 lbs — Oklahoma State
Chances of falling to Steelers: 35%
Consensus ranking: 61 (109, 96, 33, 37, 32)
2020 season stats: (12 games)

Ryland B.: Another name that comes up a lot at #24 in mock drafts, Jenkins is a powerful run-blocker at the tackle position who is still improving at the pass-blocking aspect of his position. I wasn’t all that impressed at first but he grew on me the more I watched. Jenkins really has that mauler mentality and plays with great power and drive. Put a guy in front of him and Jenkins will move him out of the way. This overaggressive style of play can get Jenkins in trouble at times, especially when paired with his lack of athleticism and technique. Overall I like Jenkins, as tough, aggressive linemen are something the Steelers really need more of on their roster. Still, there are a lot of issues that are hard to ignore, and Jenkins certainly needs to develop.

Ideally, that is how I believe they should be rated based on overall value, the Steelers’ needs, and positional value. I feel as if the Steelers’ actual rankings are more in the order of the following:

1. Micah Parsons — LB — Penn State
2. Christian Darrisaw — OT — Virginia Tech
3. Najee Harris — RB — Alabama
4. Teven Jenkins — OT — Oklahoma
5. Alijah Vera-Tucker — OL — USC
6. Jaycee Horn — CB — South Carolina
7. Asante Samuel, Jr. — CB — Florida State
8. Mac Jones — QB — Alabama
9. Landon Dickerson — C — Alabama
10. Creed Humphrey — C — Oklahoma
11. Travis Etienne — RB — Clemson
12. Zaven Collins — LB — Tulsa
13. Caleb Farley — CB — Virginia Tech
14. Azeez Ojulari — EDGE — Georgia
15. Javonte Williams — RB — North Carolina
16. Samuel Cosmi — OT — Texas

How do you think the Steelers have the top prospects ranked? How would you rate them? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comment section below, and stay tuned to BTSC for everything you need to know leading up to this week’s NFL Draft.