2021 NFL Draft: the Steelers’ three biggest needs

It’s draft night! Everyone has opinions on what the Steelers should do, so I thought I’d share some of mine.


Christopher Klein

Heinz Field on a beautiful night.

Oliver Hinson

The 2021 NFL Draft may decide the long-term fate of several franchises, as it does every year. General managers are under tons of pressure to make the right picks, and those decisions are hotly debated for weeks before they are ever made official. One team in a particularly dire situation is our own Pittsburgh Steelers, who lost an enormous amount of talent this offseason and is looking to find their way back into Super Bowl contention. As of now, we have 8 picks, including the 24th overall. We need to spend them wisely, and so far, three positions have emerged as our biggest needs to fill.


First Need: Running back

Losing James Conner was a huge blow, but we should have known it was coming. After 2017, the hometown kid immediately made an impression on the Pittsburgh fans, not only as a young man with a motivational story, but as a standout performer. Conner tallied 2,302 yards and 22 touchdowns across his first 4 years with the team, and after his contract expired, he took his talents to Arizona. It was an understandable move; the Steelers simply couldn’t afford him anymore. Now, we are left with Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell Jr., neither of whom are exactly fit to lead a team. Both currently have career averages of under 4 yards per carry and under 30 yards per game, a statistic that seems scary when considering that those will be our only options this upcoming season. That is, unless we spend a pick on a reliable running back. Most mock drafts published in recent days consider this to be not only possible, but likely. It appears to be a formality at this point that Alabama standout Najee Harris will be donning the black and gold in 2021, and not without due cause. His career with the Crimson Tide was one of staggering productivity; when all was said and done, he had rushed for nearly 4,000 yards. Of course, no one knows if that can or will translate to success in the NFL, and it’s always a risk to hand the reins to a rookie, but at the very least, Harris could provide Pittsburgh with some depth at a position where they are particularly shallow.


2nd need: Center

For 7 years, the Steelers relied on Maurkice Pouncey, and it worked. The veteran center earned 9 trips to the Pro Bowl during his illustrious career, and now that his playing days are over, he is widely regarded as a shoo-in for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Pouncey provided fantastic support for Pittsburgh’s offensive line, and filling his shoes is no small task. However, with Ben Roethlisberger’s advanced age, it’s more important than ever to do so. The Steelers’ quarterback is famous for running around in the pocket, and that will become dangerous without proper support from an offensive line. With the departures of Pouncey and others, such as offensive tackle Matt Feiler, Pittsburgh needs to make the O-line a top priority. In a draft class like this one, though, that shouldn’t be too hard. Right now, some analysts say that the Steelers will use one of their early picks on Alabama center Landon Dickerson, and it’s easy to see why. For starters, he stands 6 feet and 6 inches tall, and he weighs 330 pounds. His size allows him to push people around however he sees fit, and his run blocking skills are top-notch. Despite his mammoth size, he is quick on his feet, which allows him to react to whatever the defense throws at him. Dickerson’s skillset could be the answer for the Steelers’ emaciated offensive line, and his former teammate, Najee Harris, could certainly benefit from his addition. That is, of course, if they both find their way to Pittsburgh.


3rd need: Offensive Tackle

Don’t get me wrong, Dickerson will provide tons of help. It probably won’t be enough, though. As previously mentioned, the Steelers’ offensive line is losing a tremendous amount of talent, including Pouncey, Feiler, and offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva. Pittsburgh will likely have to use more than one of their eight draft picks in 2021 to rebuild what has been arguably the most dominant part of their team for a number of years. The good news is that this year’s draft class has an abundance of offensive tackles, and depending on which pick the Steelers use to snag one of them, nearly a dozen of them have the potential to find themselves wearing the black and gold. In the early rounds, Teven Jenkins of Oklahoma State and Rashawn Slater present themselves as enticing options, although the latter will likely be gone before Pittsburgh even has a chance at him. Later in the draft, Dillon Radunz of North Dakota State and Jaylon Moore of Western Michigan could also be drafted. Unfortunately, it’s hard to compare these players with meaningful statistics, so it all comes down to their physical attributes and what is known as the “eye test.” Luckily for us, though, general manager Kevin Colbert has some of the best eyes in the NFL.


There’s no telling who will end up where on draft night this year, as is the case every. People (including me) just like to take educated guesses, and sometimes, they pan out well. The only thing that we know  is that Pittsburgh lost a truly absurd amount of players this offseason, and tonight is the night to return our beloved team to Super Bowl contention. Let’s hope we make the right decisions.