In the days since the Steelers selected the nine players that now comprise their 2021 draft class, I’ve been asked by a lot of people what I think.
“So, what do you think?” they’ve been asking.
I’ll tell you: I like what the Steelers did. But, then again, I usually do. I think the last time I didn’t like what the Steelers did on Draft Weekend was 1988. I was 16, the draft was a 12-round event, and it lasted one single day. Can you believe they used to draft 12 rounds worth of players in one day? Amazing.
That was the year of Aaron Jones, a defensive end who will always be my least favorite Steelers draft choice (no offense to him). However, even that draft netted a Hall of Fame center and a starting left tackle who played in Pittsburgh for a decade.
As they say, that wasn’t a horrible haul.
I’m almost always satisfied with what the Steelers do, because what they do almost always makes sense. The Steelers say they don’t draft for need, but of course, they do. Every team does, otherwise what would be the point? Take this year, for instance. The Steelers needed to find players at multiple positions who could possibly start right away; once the draft unfolded, they decided to focus on running back, tight end and center over the first three rounds. Why’d they do that? In addition to those three positions being painful needs, I’m assuming it had to do with their board and who they thought was the best player on it when it became their turn in each of those rounds. Was that wrong? We just won’t know until we know. Sure, we can debate it, but that's not going to change the fact that we won’t know until we know.
I’ve heard some people say the Steelers got the first-round pick absolutely wrong. Really? Absolutely? I’ve also heard some say that Pittsburgh got its next two picks right.
None of those things can be true right now. They may not be proven to be true or false for several years. As cliched as it is to say, the NFL Draft is a crapshoot. In other words, no matter how many times you rhetorically ask, “Crap, why’d they draft that guy? Shoot!” it doesn’t make it a bad pick. Only time can make a draft pick horrible. Same goes for the other direction, that direction that includes statements such as, “The Browns improved their depth at cornerback with the selection of Northwestern’s Greg Newsome at pick 26.” That simply isn’t so, at least not yet.
Don’t get me wrong, you have to hand it to Cleveland for picking Newsome. You also have to applaud the Ravens for taking receiver Rashad Bateman and EDGE Odafe Oweh with their two selections near the end of the first round.
But that doesn’t mean all three players won’t wind up on some pathetic list in the next few years.
You should want to applaud the Steelers for taking running back Najee Harris in the first round. He addresses a glaring need. He was arguably the best at his position. He has a chance to be a star.
Many do applaud the Steelers for the Harris selection, but a lot do not. That’s okay, just as long as the ones who hate the Harris pick don’t speak in absolutes, as if they already know how it will turn out.
Oh, wait, they already are talking that way. It’s one thing to debate a pick, it’s quite another to break out the crystal ball and and act like you just know it was a BIG MISTAKE. Don't they know by now that those crystal balls almost never work when it comes to the NFL Draft?
“But what about that draft value?” they all ask rhetorically. “You should never draft a running back in the first round,” they say with complete confidence. Value at any position and in any round isn't worth much if a player winds up being a bum. As for never, the land of Never is a dangerous place to live when it comes to constructing an NFL roster. If you never leave that place, you could skip over a future All-Pro running back and select an offensive tackle that flames out after a few years.
But, hey, at least that offensive tackle offered great draft value.
If I haven’t given off that vibe by this point, you should know that I’m pretty easy to please when it comes to what the Steelers do in the draft. As long as they address needs and pick players that aren’t horrible reaches, I’m happy.
Could the Steelers have taken a tackle in the first round? Sure, but that doesn’t mean he would have been good. Will the Steelers regret passing on center Creed Humphrey to select tight end Pat Freiermuth? Not if the latter goes from Baby Gronk to Monster Muth.
Can you really find a running back in any round? Absolutely, but that doesn’t make them all the same; just like any other position, the higher a running back is rated, the better the chance that he’ll be good.
So, finally, what do I think about the Steelers 2021 draft class? I like it. But even if I hated it, I’d probably come around to liking it, eventually.
I’m pretty easy. Drafting is not.