The Pittsburgh Steelers had many needs going into the 2021 NFL Draft. The draftees were selected by the Steelers based on a number of factors, but all nine players can find a way to contribute in 2021.
Which players, however, are going to be critical to the Steelers success this year? Let’s rank the top five drafted rookies and analyze why they are going to be a part of the Steelers game plan this season.
1.) C Kendrick Green (Round 3, Pick #87)
Many Steelers fan may have expected running back, Najee Harris here, but Green is replacing a staple on the Steelers offensive line in Maurkice Pouncey. It is going to be a challenge for Ben Roethlisberger and Green to have chemistry immediately, but we know the Steelers need offensive line help and if Green can step in and play well, the Steelers talented offense can benefit from a young fresh leader up front. I have high expectations for Green and believe he can be consistent enough throughout his rookie year to make a difference.
2.) RB Najee Harris (Round 1, Pick #24)
The Steelers have not had a workhorse since Le’Veon Bell was in the backfield. The Steelers, who rarely drafted skill positions in the first round, made a statement with this pick. They are committed to running the football, opening up the play action and taking some pressure off of Roethlisberger. As horrible as many believe the Steelers offensive line is, Zach Banner‘s return paired with Kevin Dotson, David DeCastro and Green, holes can be opened up for Harris. It will be fun to see him get to the next level and run over opposing defenders. Harris will be a key playmaker in the Steelers offense for years to come, but need him to step up immediately this year.
3.) TE Pat Freiermuth (Round 2, Pick #55)
I am not asking for a Travis Kelce, George Kittle or Rob Gronkowski. I just want a tight end who can effectively run block and move the chains (miss you, Heath Miller). The Steelers may have found this in Freiermuth. He had some success in the red zone in college and was a great security blanket rarely dropping passes. We all know the Steelers need a tight end who can do it all. I expect Freiermuth to be the #2 tight end to start behind Eric Ebron. With that said, I think he could end up as #1 by season’s end. The Steelers need a tight end they can trust to get the job done consistently, and Freiermuth might just be that guy.
4.) ILB Buddy Johnson (Round 4, Pick #140)
Johnson comes in at #4 as the only defensive player on the list. The Steelers are light at inside linebacker. Devin Bush is coming off a torn ACL which pretty much leaves only Robert Spillane and Vince Williams on the inside. Johnson won’t be the starter, but he will get significant time early on if the Steelers work Bush back slowly. Johnson is a very instinctive player who attacks the line of scrimmage with intent. He is your typical Pittsburgh Steeler, hard hitting middle linebacker. The Steelers need to groom him properly as this may be Williams’ last season. Johnson’s season will be more of a learning curve, but he is one injury away from playing a significant percentage of snaps.
5.) Pressley Harvin III (Round 7, Pick #254)
All due respect to Jordan Berry, but it was time the Steelers made a special teams splash in the draft. The Nation’s top punter is headed to Pittsburgh and I could not be more excited about it. With the Steelers aggressive, powerful defense, pinning opponents inside their own 20, even their own 10-yard line would be such a great advantage. Unfortunately, it has not happened all that much in recent years. Controlling field position and time of possession will be important for the Steelers this season and their tough schedule. Harvin III could be the difference maker in a couple games this year.
All draftees could find their way into making an impact somehow, but these are the top five for me. What do you think, #SteelerNation? Comment below!