There’s a lot of directions the Steelers can go in the 2021 NFL Draft, and over the last few months we’ve been exploring as many possibilities as we can, picking which ones are our favorites and which ones are our personal nightmares.
Now it is Draft day, NFL Christmas, and all that preparation work is done. So I decided to give you all a treat. I broke out my old trusty crystal ball, looked at every single tea leaf I could find and talked to the little bird that sits outside my window. And now I know all the potential outcomes of every potential first round pick for the Steelers (The bird wanted to talk second round, but I don’t have time for that).
Disclaimer: Don’t take this seriously. If you, like me, are a fan of Twilight Zone-style stories you know what you are getting into.
Najee Harris: After sweating through the last picks before the Steelers in the first round, it is finally the Steelers turn, and Najee Harris is there for the taking. His rookie season is a Steelers fan’s dream. In-spite of the struggles of the offensive line Harris runs for 1000 yards, is a weapon in the passing game, and the Steelers offense becomes a force in the NFL again. Before the Steelers first playoff game Harris redirects JuJu Smith-Schuster away from the midfield logo to take TikToks with fans instead and Steelers Nation rejoices. The Steelers make the Super Bowl in Ben’s final year, and with only minutes remaining and the Steelers up by 2 it’s time for Najee Harris to run out the clock and bring home #7. Unfortunately on second down B.J. Finney gets blown up, Harris is hit in the backfield and fumbles. A fumble return for a touchdown costs the Steelers the game and while Harris continues to be a productive back, Steeler Nation never gets over that fumble. . .
Zaven Collins: The Steelers are on the clock with Najee Harris, Creed Humphrey, even Christian Darrisaw on the board. But as they fill out their draft card, in the back of Mike Tomlin’s mind all he can hear is the heart-beat thump that tells him it’s time for Renegade. It’s time for defensive highlights. The Steelers aren’t a team of smart choices, run games and offensive lines. The Steelers laugh in the face of the new NFL and take linebacker after linebacker after linebacker! Who needs a running back, a quarterback, who needs offense when you have bone crushing hits! He snaps out of his trance to see Kevin Colbert approaching the desk to turn in the Steelers pick and without thinking he is running, running like he’s out of time, like the hangman is coming down from the gallows right then. He feels free, flying down the walkway, with a clearer purpose than he’s ever felt. Kevin Colbert goes down, Tomlin grabs the card, crosses out the name and writes Zaven Collins all over it. . .
Zaven Collins goes on to have a great Steelers career, but not playing for Mike Tomlin. After the famous “Renegade meltdown of 2021” Mike Tomlin is dragged out in handcuffs still singing Steeler Nation’s anthem. He is replaced, obviously, and Kevin Colbert resigns. But from that day on, people claim that when the jumbotron goes dark in Pittsburgh, and those first heart-beat thumps are played, if you close your eyes you can still see Mike Tomlin tackling Kevin Colbert. . .
Justin Fields: The clock is ticking. . . Kevin Colbert feels the sweat on his neck beading up. “Come on,” he mutters, “call already.” Seconds are ticking by, the clock is showing less than two minutes, he’s running out of time. . . The phone starts to ring and Colbert grabs it, hears the words he is dying to hear. Mike Tomlin turns to him, and Kevin Colbert only nods. “We have to do this quietly Kevin, keep it low key.”
Tomlin and Colbert get up together and start walking toward the water cart, “We go on my signal Mike.” Roger Goodell steps up to the microphone “The Minnesota Vikings. . .” he begins and Colbert yells “Now!” He can see the Patriots table, he sees the moment Bill Belichick realizes what they’ve done. A finger is snapped and all around them men in black suits start to converge on their location. “Don’t take another step!” Roger Goodell yells from the stage, “Arrest those men from Pittsburgh!” The men grab Kevin Colbert, wrestle the card from his hand and then turn, stunned. “It’s a fake card.” They notice too late that Mike Tomlin had slipped away, and as Bill Belichick and Roger Goodell let loose cries of rage, Tomlin lays the real card on the table. He then approaches the stage, takes the microphone from the commissioner and states, “With the 14th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select Justin Fields, Suck it Patriots!”
The Steelers wouldn’t win a game in 2021, they somehow committed a penalty on over 50% of their plays and players were frequently suspended for the most ridiculous reasons, but no one in the front office would complain. Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert both retired after the 2021 season and both were voted into the Hall of Fame for contributions to the game of Football. Bill Belichick never won another playoff game.
Jaycee Horn: Jaycee Horn felt something was off his first day in Steelers Headquarters. He chalked it up to nerves. After all, it isn’t every day you get to meet legendary cornerbacks like Rod Woodson or Mel Blount. It isn’t every day you get to join a historic franchise like the Pittsburgh Steelers. And this team, he could tell it was special. This team felt like it had a chance to win a Super Bowl.
The second day at the facility Jaycee Horn saw Ike Taylor, and decided he should say hi. After a brief greeting he said ”Mr. Taylor, I gotta ask, do you have any tips as a Super Bowl champion?” To his surprise, Ike Taylor looked around, then pulled him close and whispered “Don’t catch the ball, he doesn’t like that.” Horn was puzzled, but when he looked up to inquire further, Ike Taylor was gone.
Later that day he approached Joe Haden and told him about his experience with Ike Taylor. Haden acted like he didn’t hear him and walked away. That evening he was setting up his locker and he picked up a small piece of paper with an address and time. Late that night he drove into a parking lot on the South Side, and saw someone standing under a street lamp. He approached and saw Joe Haden waiting for him.
“What’s up with all this,” the young man asked. “There’s something you have to learn Rook, if you plan on making a career with the Pittsburgh Steelers.”
“What’s that?” the young man replied.
Haden began “In 1994 Rod Woodson already had 32 interceptions, he added another in the playoffs and the Steelers fell one game short of the Super Bowl. You know what happened in 1995?”
“He was injured,” the young man replied.
“Yes he was, and after 6 more interceptions in 1996 he left the team, with 38 career interceptions.”
“What does that have to do with anything?” Horn asked.
Haden continued; “In 2003 Chad Scott was the Steelers corner back, he had 12 interceptions in the last three seasons and 3 interceptions in the playoffs. You know what happened to him?”
“I haven’t even heard of Chad Scott.”
“Broken thumb. Can’t catch the ball with a broken thumb.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Listen Rook, this could save your career. Troy Polamalu, 2008, 7 interceptions, next year, missed 11 games. Even me, I got careless, Those 5 interceptions in 2019 were too many. I got two more last year and wham! I’m on the couch watching the Steelers lose in the playoffs. Look at Artie Burns, three interceptions in his rookie season, he’s looking good in camp, then all of a sudden he can’t play football, out there looking scared, never was the same again. Senquez Golson, that dude could catch any ball thrown anywhere near him, he never even saw the field.”
Jaycee Horn was visibly shaken, “What are you telling me?”
“He saying don’t catch the ball rook.” Ike Taylor stepped out of the shadows. How do you think I won the Super Bowl, kid? I didn’t catch the ball. Let it bounce off my hands, off my freaking helmet, anything but catch it. In 2005 I caught 2 in the playoffs, but I was smart, got myself benched in 2006, and in 2008 I didn’t catch a thing. One in the regular season, none in the playoffs.”
“But what does intercepting passes have to do with getting hurt?” Jaycee Horn asked.
“Simple kid, He doesn’t like it.”
“Who doesn’t like it.”
When camp started, Jaycee Horn was playing great, he was learning the scheme and loving the defense. When he caught his second interception of the practice, Joe Haden gave him what looked like a celebratory pat on the helmet, but his eyes and words weren’t happy.
“Watch yourself rook, remember what we said.”
The next pass that came his way, Horn dropped, bounced right off his hands, after the play Haden came over again, “Smart move kid, now smile, here he comes.”
Walking on the field, as big as life and sporting his usual cowboy hat was Mel Blount. “Good try kid, you’ll get the next one, and I should know, I have the most of any Steeler.” Blount smiled, gave the rookie a wink and walked away.
I hope you enjoyed this bit of ridiculousness, and during the draft tonight, keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best.