If you followed my Twitter feed during the 2021 NFL Draft, you would have thought the Pittsburgh Steelers draft was awful. At the time of some of the picks I was not happy, specifically in round one and two. However, after having a couple of days to sit on the Steelers nine draft picks, I believe Pittsburgh’s draft went well.
To start out in round one, running back Najee Harris is not a bad pick. I personally would have preferred the Steelers went with Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome II, but I understand and am content with Harris. The Alabama running back will help take the load off of Ben Roethlisberger in his final season, and will help out the Steelers future franchise quarterback in his early years. My original gripe with this pick was that Harris probably will not see a second contract in Pittsburgh, but after doing some research he will probably start in the Steel City for 6 years including the fifth year option and one franchise tag. That is not bad for a running back. The Steelers filled a need with a great player so round one was a success for Pittsburgh.
Round two was interesting as the Steelers went with Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth. This pick was questionable to me, as I see him as more of a Jesse James type player than Heath Miller. While a tight end was needed, offensive line and cornerback was a more pressing need for Pittsburgh in my opinion. On the plus side, Freiermuth has very good hands and can block, so there is potential there. If he can come close to what Miller was for Pittsburgh this pick will go down as a good one. Overall, while I have some doubts about Freiermuth, he fits into Canada’s scheme well and has good tools. This was a good pick.
The Steelers third round pick was my favorite of the whole draft. Pittsburgh selected Illinois interior offensive lineman Kendrick Green. Green will be the starting center for the Steelers this season barring some unexpected circumstances, and I am going to trust that the team with two, and possibly three soon, centers in the Hall of Fame made the right decision. Not only does Pittsburgh know how to draft and develop centers, but also Green fits the new zone run scheme that new Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada will be running. Great pick here from Pittsburgh.
In the Steelers first pick of the fourth round, they selected Dan Moore Jr. from Texas A&M. Moore Jr. is a pick I like, as although I do not think he will make an immediate impact he is quality depth this year and has potential to be a starter in the future. Tackle was a huge need for Pittsburgh, and they got someone who can help in the near future and is quality depth. Not a bad pick.
The second pick the Steelers had in the fourth pick is someone I think is a sleeper: Buddy Johnson, an inside linebacker from Texas A&M. Not many have acknowledged it, but the Steelers inside linebacker room is scarce. Devin Bush and Vince Williams will return as starters and Robert Spillane will back up. However, Williams is likely in the last year of his career. Johnson is similar to Williams in that he is good in the run game and poor in coverage. Johnson is also a great leader by all reports. He fills a need and has a good chance of becoming the next Vince Williams. A good pick in my eyes.
The Steelers worst pick of the draft came in the fifth round when they traded draft capital for defensive lineman Isaiahh Loudermilk from Wisconsin. This was a reach, as Loudermilk was not projected to be drafted until the seventh round, if at all. There is not much to say on this pick. I guess the Steelers got depth. Very bad pick from a value perspective and a need perspective.
Pittsburgh rebounded in the sixth round as they got great value and fulfilled a need with their selection of University of Miami linebacker Quincy Roche. Roche plays on the outside as an edge rusher, so he will provide much needed backup for TJ Watt and Alex Highsmith. Roche is not looked at to be a starter, Watt and Highsmith will likely have that locked down for long term, but Roche provided quality depth. Great pick by the Steelers in the sixth round.
In the Steelers first pick of the seventh round they selected cornerback Tre Norwood from Oklahoma. Pittsburgh has said they see Norwood as a safety, not a corner, so that means this did not fulfil a need. I am completely against taking defensive backs from the Big 12, and there were better prospects out at the time. I am not a fan of this pick at all. In my opinion this was the second bad pick of the draft for Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh ended the draft by picking a punter. Pressley Harvin III won the Ray Guy Award for best punter in the nation and is actually a great pick for the Steelers. Oftentimes it is a joke when a team drafts a punter, but the Steelers have had punting problems in what seems like forever. Harvin III will fix those and will likely help flip field position often for a Steelers team with a mediocre offense and good defense. That is huge for a team that is projected as a playoff bubble team. Good pick for Pittsburgh.
Overall, I give this draft a B+ grade. Two misses, one which is egregious and a failure to address the cornerback situation prevents this from being an A- or higher. It is earlier and time will tell but seven out of the nine picks were either good or fulfil a need. I will revisit this after training camp when the roster and depth chart are all filled out.