While Harris and Williams could very well be strong NFL players, finishing 36th and 43rd respectively on Sportsnaut’s Top 100 Big Board, in the modern NFL, drafting a traffic jam on Day 1 is just a bad move .
Running back is the easiest to replace and most interchangeable position in all of football. That Harris and Williams are rated so highly on the large board mentioned above shows how much they are respected and how dynamic they are. Both could shine if they land with the right team in Round 1.
It’s just that the Steelers aren’t the team for either of these players in terms of the way they’re built now and how they evolve for the future.
Pittsburgh Steelers weren’t built to recur in Round 1
A big reason Pittsburgh couldn’t run the ball last year was the offensive line’s inability to block and the Steelers’ lack of commitment to the game in progress.
The lack of creative game design, over-reliance on aging quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the fast-paced game, and the lack of a real groundbreaking back all added to the lost cause.
Now Pittsburgh faces even more uncertainty in 2021. The Maurkice Pouncey all-pro center has retired. Left winger Alejandro Villanueva doesn’t seem to be returning to the team. Longtime security guard David DeCastro is entering the final year of his contract. Chukwuma Okorafor finished 70th out of 79 tackles in qualifying at Pro Football Focus last season.
Who Pittsburgh Steelers should actually be targeting in Round 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft
- Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC
- Teven Jenkins, OT, State of Oklahoma
- Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
If you go through a few quick simulations on The Draft Network’s mock machine, there are still high profile players available when the Steelers go on the clock at midnight who would be far more valuable to their short and long term plans.
USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker is a guard by trade, but when he stepped into the left hand in 2020, he thrived there too. Pittsburgh could try him out wherever it suits and he would be an instant rookie.
Teven Jenkins’ versatility suggests that due to his bad behavior and bad mentality, he can play as a run blocker on the inside. What excites him most, however, is that in the state of Oklahoma, Jenkins has played mostly on the right, but also has a lot of replays of live games on the left.
Another option, albeit less recommended, is for Pittsburgh to get a quick SEC cornerback in Georgia Stokes’ Eric Stokes on Round 1 and then address the offensive line on day two of draft. Given the Steelers’ infatuation with running backs, they should probably dig into the trenches right away so they can back down on round two.
It seems even more worthwhile to make a first choice for a second tier QB to follow Roethlisberger. Someone like Kyle Trask, Davis Mills, or Kellen Mond would make more sense than walking back.
Pittsburgh Steelers Draft: 3-Round Results Clog Holes, Bring Backfield Aid
Lo and behold, in one of the mock simulations, Javonte Williams was still 55th overall on lap 2. I’m not saying that will happen in the real draft, but there is a chance.
Here is an extremely sane three-round draft from Steelers, crowned by a third round at Memphis’ Kenneth Gainwell, who ran over 1,400 yards and caught 51 passes for 610 yards in his last action in 2019:
- First round 24th election: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC
- Second round, 55th election: Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida state
- Third round, 87th election: Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis
Williams’ Tar Heels backfield colleague Michael Carter was still on the board through round three, and he’s an extremely explosive ball carrier who can get him into the house at any game. If you like him more, let’s go.
Running back is not the problem in Pittsburgh, nor can you find a decent draft outside of the first round. The Steelers can’t believe it’s still 1995 and are aiming to start that position. They have too many other holes up front on offense and secondary to justify spending their top picks on a back.