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Abram Smith could offer good value for the Steelers in the 2022 NFL Draft

Abram Smith could be a late round sleeper pick for the Steelers.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 05 Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo by Chris McDill/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the 2022 NFL Draft now just a couple weeks away, the Steelers are hosting numerous potential draft prospects at their facility. Some of them are considered to be high profile visits by the media, especially the quarterbacks and safeties.

Defensive linemen, wide receivers, and cornerbacks are also considered to be in high demand in the Steel City.

Any pro day visits or social media mentions peaks the interests of every fully invested Steelers fanatic.

There happens to be one position on the roster at the moment that hasn't generated much discussion with the faithful this offseason: running back. To be more specific, backup running back.

Based on a quick glance at the current depth chart, and the lack of production behind talented starter Najee Harris, one could easily argue that it warrants far more discussion of the in-depth variety.

Najee Harris broke the Steelers rushing yards and total receptions for a rookie in 2021, even with an ineffective offense behind a subpar offensive line, and appears destined to be a star. His talent and personality would seem to suggest the inevitable.

Behind him resides a hodgepodge of uncertainties and question marks. At the moment, the depth chart consists of: Benny Snell Jr., Anthony McFarland Jr., and Trey Edmunds. Definitely not a murderer’s row of talent capable of striking fear in the hearts of the opposition.

If the offensive line play improves markedly, allowing the offense to utilize Matt Canada's full playbook, then maybe the three aforementioned running backs might just surprise us all with some increased productivity, but I sure wouldn't bet the season on that happening.

The Steelers have to improve their talent level across the roster, some areas more than others, and running back depth needs to be addressed.

One potential fit for the Steelers currently flying under a lot of people's radars at the moment is Abram Smith.

It's hard to fathom in this day and age just how that is even possible for a running back from a 12 win, Power 5 conference champion who rushed for over 1,600 yards in a breakout senior season. A season which culminated with a 172 yard rushing performance in leading his team to victory in the 2022 Sugar Bowl game.

Abram Smith accomplished all those things as the primary starting running back for the 2021 Big 12 champion Baylor Bears.

There are numerous reasons that a prospect with those accomplishments hasn't generated the expected buzz with many NFL Draft evaluators. After having reviewed their evaluations and observations, please allow me to express my own.

First, Smith is a football player. Plain and simple, a throwback to a bygone era. He competes tirelessly to the full extent of his capabilities, with little to no regard for his physical well-being. Some may call it hard-nosed. Former Steelers running back James Conner immediately comes to mind.

Smith was the definition of a one-year wonder, a seemingly out of nowhere breakout star. He arrived at Baylor as more of an athlete than polished positional prospect. He quickly proved to be a special teams demon with his athleticism and physicality. However, he was raw as a running back and buried on the depth chart. A knee injury further stunted his development.

As I already mentioned, Smith is a baller and wanted to play. The Bears needed help at linebacker midway through the 2020 season, so they turned to Smith. He did an admirable job with the position switch and played well. Although inexperienced, his superior vision and physicality allowed him to be effective.

Smith's future is at running back, and he erased all doubts with his 2021 breakout performance. His experience at linebacker appears to have given him a rather unique perspective as a runner, and he blossomed as a senior.

Smith became a more patient rusher, who utilized his aforementioned vision to identify running lanes, and his physicality to exploit them. He isn't particularly elusive or shifty, but he has enough wiggle to make a defender miss on occasion. As a result, he doesn't make many highlight reel worthy runs. He is more of a one speed grinder, who knows his own strengths and weaknesses exceptionally well.

Smith is a one cut and go runner, with enough explosiveness to accelerate through openings, and enough power to break arm tackles regularly. His perfect fit would be with any offense that adheres to zone blocking concepts.

His upright running style is reminiscent of past standouts Eric Dickerson and Le’Veon Bell. I am in no way suggesting he is on their level as a player or prospect, only trying to visually explain his running style for those who haven't had the opportunity to see him play.

Smith was seldom utilized in the passing game by the Bears, but he caught a touchdown pass from Kenny Pickett at the Senior Bowl, to culminate a solid week of practices that resulted in Smith being voted outstanding running back by his defensive peers in attendance. He is currently willing, but ineffective, in pass protection, and this should only improve with experience.

Actually, that statement might be the best way to explain Smith's long term potential. His all around game should only improve with more experience, seeing how he is relatively new to the job. I believe that is the main reason Smith's evaluations have been all over the place, with many seemingly contradicting some others.

Smith hasn't put enough on film to form a universally accepted consensus among those individuals who get paid to form and share their opinions. That simple fact could work out in the Steelers favor in a later round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Najee Harris needs some help, and the Steelers need to add talent to the depth chart. A player capable of spelling Harris for a respite or two each game, and possibly filling in without a huge drop off in production if Harris is forced to miss time due to injury.

Abram Smith, with plenty of talent and tread left on the tires, might perfectly fit the bill. He might end up being another good value for the Steelers this offseason.