After last season’s virtual draft, Cleveland is playing host to festivities this year with a handful of potential draft picks present and socially distanced because of COVID-19.
Here’s a pick-by-pick look at how each player Pittsburgh has selected will fit.
Round 1, No. 24 overall: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
My take: In a draft full of surprises, Harris and the Steelers was a predictable fit. Harris was Pittsburgh’s target all along, the team’s first first-round running back selection since Rashard Mendenhall in 2008. Many teams considered the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Harris the best tailback in the class, an every down back who absorbs contact, breaks away from defenders — or hurdles them. The Steelers have plenty of pass-catchers, and in what could be Ben Roethlisberger‘s final season, he needs a reliable option to take his handoffs.
• Best available players | Draft order
• NFL Nation: Analysis for every pick
• Kiper’s Day 2 recap: Top values
• Day 1 recaps: Kiper | McShay
• Rankings: Kiper | McShay | Legwold
• Scouting reports | More draft coverage
Much-needed running game help: A team that once punished defenses with the running game sunk to new lows in 2020. Pittsburgh rushed for the fewest yards (1,351) and yards per rush (3.6) in the NFL last season. The Steelers ran by design on 34% of their plays, which ranked 27th in the NFL, and then lost three starters (Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler and Maurkice Pouncey) this offseason. Former Pro Bowler David DeCastro is the only projected starter on the line with more than 20 career starts. But Harris will help the offensive line as an instant producer. The nation’s top recruit out of high school, Harris produced 3,843 rushing yards and 46 rushing touchdowns in four seasons at Alabama, along with 80 catches for 781 yards and 11 receiving scores.
No LB this time: Pittsburgh made a living with first-round linebackers under coach Mike Tomlin. Five of the Steelers’ last seven top picks were at the inside or outside linebacker spots, including star pass-rusher T.J. Watt and emerging star Devin Bush. And the Steelers liked several linebackers in this year’s draft, including Tulsa’s Zaven Collins (went 16th to Arizona), Washington’s Joe Tryon (32nd to Tampa Bay) or Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who’s from Tomlin’s hometown of Hampton, Va. But the Steelers were willing to pass on good defensive players for Harris, whom they felt would change the attitude of the running game.
Check out the best highlights from Penn State TE Pat Freiermuth’s college career.
Round 2, No. 55 overall: Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
My take: The Steelers got the second-best tight end in the draft with shades of Rob Gronkowski at 6-foot-5, 251 pounds and the ability to stretch the field. With Vance McDonald retired, Pittsburgh needs a do-it-all tight end opposite Eric Ebron. Pittsburgh passed on the chance to address a struggling offensive line. Many good centers and guards were available. But the first two picks, Harris and Freiermuth, seem like quintessential Steelers with toughness and production. Hard to knock that.
Round 3, No. 87 overall: Kendrick Green, G, Illinois
My take: This is a sneaky good pick for the Steelers, who had to address the offensive line on Day 2. Green (6-foot-2, 305 pounds) is a three-year collegiate starter who can play guard or center and has good “get off,” which coach Mike Tomlin loves. The Steelers spent significant time with Green in the pre-draft process, and he was one of their top interior linemen candidates. The Steelers have improved their offense the last two days with help at running back, tight end and offensive line.
Check out the highlights from Texas A&M OT Dan Moore Jr.’s college career.
Round 4, No. 128 overall: Dan Moore, OT, Texas A&M
My take: Steelers double down on offensive linemen with back-to-back picks to address its blocking issues. Moore has ideal size at 6-foot-6 and 311 pounds, with ESPN ranking him as the 12th-best tackle in the class. He comes from a zone-blocking scheme, so he should fit what the Steelers do, assuming he’s physical enough. Pittsburgh needs to address the defense, but with current starting tackles Zach Banner and Chuks Okorafor combining for 21 career starts, the Steelers need depth in the worst way.