It is imperative that the Pittsburgh Steelers ace the 2021 NFL Draft. They have glaring holes that need fixed, they need to continue to get younger at multiple positions, and they need to maximize the year(s) they have left with Ben Roethlisberger under center. Below are some Do’s and Don’ts the Steelers should follow when it comes to this year’s draft.
DO address the running back and tight end positions early. The Steelers haven’t drafted a running back higher than the 4th round since 2016 and a tight end higher than the 5th round since 2007. The talent level shows with the revolving door of players they have had at each of the past few seasons. With the departures of James Conner and Vance McDonald, each position is left very thin. The running back starter at the moment would likely be Benny Snell, who outside of Week 1 was nearly forgotten. Eric Ebron is the lone tight end you can trust and they badly need a solidified number two. If the Steelers want to avoid their typical mistakes, they better draft these positions within the first two days.
DON’T reach in the first round to draft your biggest need. Some could consider this running back, another position that comes to mind would be center, but either way they need to resort to the “best player available” strategy. You can make a significant case that any position outside of wide receiver should be drafted in the first round, since they need to continue getting younger pretty much everywhere. If that person is a running back, linebacker, or cornerback, so be it, but do not repeat the same Artie Burns mistake where they thought they had William Jackson III and when he was drafted. They seemed to make a panic choice. Simple rule, if you need a position but that player is a 2nd-3rd round talent, wait!
DON’T draft a quarterback in the late rounds. I would personally prefer none drafted but I would understand them drafting a second tier quarterback in rounds two or three so they would have one under contract in 2022 and to compete. Drafting a quarterback any later at this point would be a waste for the team. The player likely would just end up on the practice squad and not contribute in the immediate future.
DO draft another athletic linebacker. Devin Bush going down in 2020 was a big loss and it showed as the season went on. Also Mike Tomlin and Keith Butler continue to fall into the same trap where a linebacker ends up covering a team’s best wide receiver in the slot. If they want to continue this trend, they are going to need someone waiting in the wings in case Bush does go down again. There are plenty of linebackers who fit the bill this year. They may not be as fast as Bush, but a lot of prospects were running sub 4.60 40s on their Pro Days. Be on the lookout for players like Jamin Davis out of Kentucky, Baron Browning and Pete Werner out of Ohio State, and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah out of Notre Dame who could fit that role for the Steelers.
DON’T forget about special teams. Punter should be on the their radar as a late round selection. Jordan Berry was given the boot last season for Dustin Colquitt, who was then given the boot back for Berry. There is obviously some dissatisfaction with Berry and Tomlin isn’t afraid to make a change.
DO consider trading back in the first round. The Steelers currently sit with eight draft choices, but honestly that doesn’t feel like enough to fill every hole. Moving back a handful of picks to grab additional middle round selections would be worth it. Considering this draft is very deep with offensive linemen, this would give them the capability to not only stock pile these middle round offensive linemen, but also the ability to trade up and be aggressive if there is a player they really think can make an impact.
DO consider trading up in the first round, especially if one of the top four quarterbacks drop. Now by top four quarterbacks, this is in reference to Justin Fields or Trey Lance dropping. Plain and simple they need a quarterback of the future, and if you look into the crystal ball of 2022 quarterback prospects, it is very bleak. I also want to note this isn’t just quarterbacks. If someone like a Micah Parsons or Patrick Surtain II were to fall, the Steelers should be aggressive with them too. They could get creative and put 2022 draft capital on the table since they should end up with a few compensatory picks with the departures of Bud Dupree and Matt Feiler, mirroring a similar trade package they used for Bush.
DON’T draft a raw prospect in the first round. Bud Dupree, Burns, Terrell Edmunds all were considered to be athletically gifted but needed the extra time to grow. Can’t happen anymore, not this year and not for the next few years. The Steelers can’t afford to use their first pick on someone who is or isn’t going to pan out four years down the line. Roethlisberger came back and they need to maximize the talent around him whether that be on offense or defense. Leave the raw talent for the later rounds.
DO add multiple pass rushers. With TJ Watt and Alex Highsmith commanding the edges this year, they do not need someone to come in and play a significant amount of snaps right away. What they need is to take multiple edge players to add depth behind Cassius Marsh. I believe it would be wise to draft someone who is more physical and a run defender then draft someone who specializes in getting after the quarterback. It would be a nice yin and yang to add to the stable and know we have a guy who is really good at least at one aspect of the position.
DON’T draft Mac Jones. Just don’t…please.