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2021 NFL Mock Draft: ESPN GM mock has the Steelers going with a center in Round 1

The latest ESPN NFL Mock Draft has the Steelers looking for, and hopefully finding, their next long term center in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

NCAA Football: South Dakota at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2021 NFL Draft on the horizon, NFL outlets are pumping out content as fast as they can. That would include the annual Mike Tannenbaum General Manager (GM) Mock Draft on ESPN.

This is where the former NFL executive takes a stab at who he projects will go to all NFL teams who have a first round selection in the upcoming draft. In this year’s mock draft, he has the Pittsburgh Steelers taking, what they hope would be, the next long term center for the future.

Tannenbaum’s pick for the Steelers is none other than Oklahoma C/G Creed Humphrey. See what he had to say about the pick, and why he made the selection:

24. Pittsburgh Steelers

Creed Humphrey, C/G, Oklahoma

It’s still too early for a running back, and there isn’t a first-round quarterback left on the board. So my initial leaning becomes even stronger: Get Pittsburgh a lineman. Finding a center you can form an offensive line around is Team Building 101. A former high school wrestler, Humphrey is tough, physical and smart.

One thing to know: According to Pro Football Focus, Humphrey did not allow a single sack on 401 pass plays in 2020 or 799 plays in 2019.

For those who might not know much about Humphrey as a player, here is a simple breakdown of his game, via The Draft Network:

Humphrey is a wide-bodied interior blocker that has a wealth of experience along the interior. With 37 career starts (36 straight), he’s been a three-year starter that’s been a key cog of one of the most explosive offenses in the country. As a left-handed center, he’s one of the few in the country. While being a limited athlete, he has the smarts of knowing how to use his frame, strength, and football IQ to his advantage. Hardly ever asked to exit outside of his parameters in the A-gaps, he’s quick to mark his territory and isn’t one to waste time jostling back and forth with interior defenders. In the right scheme, he has the chance to go on to eventually become a long-term starter in a power-centric offense that keeps his demands in short areas. He graduated with a degree in Finance (Dec. 2020).

Ideal Role: Starting Center

Scheme Fit: Man/Gap/Power scheme

At this stage of the offseason, I always find it intriguing to go back and look at who else was available for the Steelers when this particular “expert” made their pick.

In this scenario, all of the top tier quarterbacks were off the board, but a big run on offensive tackles left the Steelers without any option at that position in the first round. Zaven Collins of Tulsa was the New York Jets selection at pick No. 23, right before the Steelers head to the podium. Other notables in this scenario, and Tannenbaum mentions this in his paragraph of the Steelers’ pick, is how no running backs had been taken before pick No. 24. In fact, Tannenbaum only has one running back being selected in the first round, and that is Clemson’s Travis Etienne who went to the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at pick No. 32.

This would leave both Najee Harris and Javonte Williams available to be had in the second round on Day 2 of the draft process.

What do you think of the pick? Do you see Humphrey as a reach for the Steelers in Round 1, or is he the answer the team needs at the center position for the long haul? 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 black and gold as they prepare for the NFL Draft.