clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

With Najee Harris comes increased pressure to elevate the Steelers offensive line in 2021

The Steelers aren’t the only team looking for lineman on Day 2 of the 2021 NFL draft.

NFL: AFC Wild Card Round-Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

“You can find quality lineman in the second and third round of this draft.”

“The Steelers got Kevin Dotson in the fourth round, they can do it again.”

“Offensive line is deep, grab a position that doesn’t have that depth first.”

Those statements have been heard a lot in Pittsburgh during the lead up to the draft, and even more since the Steelers selected Najee Harris with Teven Jenkins and all the centers still on the board. Those statements aren’t wrong. They also aren’t exclusive to the Steelers.

The Falcons needed a tackle, but they took Kyle Pitts. That’s fine, they can get a tackle in the second round.

The Bengals passed on Penei Sewell to draft Joe Burrows’ favorite receiver Ja’Marr Chase. That’s okay, they can address the offensive line in the second and third round.

The Dolphins need interior lineman, they drafted a wide receiver and an edge.

The Jaguars got their quarterback in Trevor Lawrence and running back in Travis Etienne, they would be wise to upgrade their line tonight.

It goes on and on.

In Round 1, linemen fell to the 20’s that weren’t expected to fall that far. That means a lot of teams that need offensive line are still looking for offensive lineman. And the majority of those teams pick before the Steelers in Round 2 and Round 3.

I wouldn’t be surprised if eight offensive lineman currently on the board are gone by the time the Steelers pick at 55. I would be surprised if less than five of them are taken. That won’t be a problem, if the players taken are tackles and guards. If teams start taking the centers, then the Steelers could be in trouble.

There’s a lot of depth on the offensive line, but there isn’t a lot of early, year-one starting depth. If the Steelers can’t get a center with early, year-one starting ability, then Najee Harris is running behind B.J. Finney. Finney was a solid reserve for the Steelers and in 2019, started four games and the Steelers run game didn’t suffer in those games. In 2020 he couldn’t couldn’t get on the field for NFL teams that desperately needed centers. If Finney can bounce back to his form he showed with the Steelers, he’s a guy that you can’t start a few games and be okay. More than that? I’m not so sure.

And that leads us to some not-so-great possibilities. What if Creed Humphrey and Quinn Meinerz are gone by pick 55? Do the Steelers have to take a chance on Landon Dickerson or overdraft a Josh Myers? If they sit out the second, then other teams get shots at the remaining centers.

The Steelers need to get a center tonight. They need a center that can take over the starting job early in the season. Because, just like the Bengals can’t afford to spend a first round pick on a stud quarterback and not give him a line to protect him, the Steelers can’t afford to draft a top running back and then fail to give him a line that will let him succeed. Joe Burrow had zero value after Week 11 of the 2020 season. He was hurt and didn’t play.

If the Steelers don’t give Najee Harris a line to run behind, even if he stays healthy, his value to the team will be drastically reduced. And while talent remains in the NFL draft, there are a lot of teams looking to improve their offensive lines. The pressure is on Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert to deliver an upgrade to the offensive line, and to do it tonight.