By: Parker Abate, @parkerabate
The Pittsburgh Steelers loss to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday night left Steelers and NFL fans stunned everywhere. The Steelers now head into an off-season where there will be many more questions rather than answers. No, the Steelers will not be going after Houston Texans quarterback, Deshaun Watson or any other big names that might be on the move. As always, they will build through the NFL Draft to find players that can contribute and fill glaring holes all over the place.
Monday night we will get our final look at possible draft picks in action when the Alabama Crimson Tide take on the Ohio State Buckeyes for the College Football Playoff National Championship. There are several players in this game who will hear their names called in April. Let’s take a look at who in this game the Steelers may target in the first few rounds and which players can help Mike Tomlin and co (in no particular order).
Alabama Crimson Tide
#22 RB Najee Harris
Harris is a versatile, NFL-ready running back who can contribute immediately at the next level. He is a physical, downhill runner who reminds me of old school Steeler ground and pound football. The Steelers did not run the ball well at all the latter half of the season and that needs to be addressed going forward. The offensive line is first to blame, but James Conner and Benny Snell Jr. did not do themselves many favors down the stretch. Harris has scored a total of 54 TDs for the Crimson Tide and provides an option in the passing game as well. He projects as a late first rounder though, and the Steelers have other needs which may lead to them passing on him unless he falls deep into the second round.
#10 QB Mac Jones
I will lead by saying I think Jones will go in the top 20 and even if he falls, I don’t think the Steelers will take him. However, the Heisman candidate has put up impressive numbers. He has thrown for 51 TDs and only been intercepted seven times in his three years. Jones will most likely not be ready to start right away as he sat behind Tua Tagovailoa for the majority of his first two seasons. He moves in the pocket very well, but there are concerns about his arm strength. He projects as a strong leader and football savvy kid who could be very successful after being developed. With Ben Roethlisberger’s future in question, we must wonder if the future franchise QB is on the roster currently or not.
#28 CB Josh Jobe
Joe Haden is not getting younger and although Cameron Sutton played decently at times this season, he is a free agent and the Steelers will probably look to re-sign others before Sutton. Jobe is only a junior and may elect to stay in Tuscaloosa, but the Steelers could certainly take him if he declares and is available in the third round. Jobe is listed at 6’1 and has the size that is coveted at the cornerback position in the NFL. He only had one interception in three years at Alabama, but he is very good at jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage and can disrupt a quarterback and wide receiver’s timing rather easily. He has been overlooked with possible top 10 selection, Patrick Surtain ahead of him.
#58 DT Christian Barmore
The 6’5, 310-pound redshirt sophomore is expected to declare for the draft after the National Championship and for good reason. Barmore up front could help the Steelers stuff the run game of divisional rivals such as the Browns and Baltimore Ravens. He may need to develop some more as he has not played all that long for Nick Saban, but with Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt due back for the Steelers, Barmore could fit right into Chris Wormley’s spot for his first season assuming the Steelers let Wormley walk in free agency.
#70 OL Alex Leatherwood
It is no secret that the Steelers need help up front, however, it would be a gift if Leatherwood dropped to the Steelers at #24. It is unlikely to happen, but he is a gifted offensive lineman who will probably line up at guard in the NFL due to his lack of mobility, but has played tackle, and extremely well, at Alabama. The Steelers have David DeCastro and promising rookie Kevin Dotson inside, but the run blocking ability for Leatherwood and his ability to send a defender straight into the ground on any given block would be great to see. Additionally, he has not had any overwhelming weaknesses in pass protection. With Alejandro Villanueva possibly walking in free agency, the Steelers could take a chance on Leatherwood at tackle.
#69 IOL Landon Dickerson
Dickerson is just one of the many linemen who play tonight that the Steelers might look to draft in April. Dickerson, a projected 2nd rounder, is an interior offensive lineman who could bolster the offensive line in 2021. He fires off the ball and has extreme power. He was awarded with the Rimington Trophy in 2020, which is given to the nation’s top center. Many people have been critical of Maurkice Pouncey and his play the last two seasons. His snap sailing over the head of Roethlisberger on the first play from scrimmage against the Browns will be stuck in all of our heads for some time. The downside of Dickerson is his injury history, having a torn ACL, numerous ankle injuries among others since 2016. Keep an eye on his ability to drive defenders backwards and the amount of holes he opens for Alabama running backs.
#65 IOL Deonte Brown
Steelers fans should basically just watch the entire Alabama offensive line tonight as Brown is another who could fall into the Steelers’ laps in the 2nd or third round. Brown is strictly a guard and will play on the interior for the entirety of his NFL career. A big downside of Brown is his ability to recover if a defender beats him off the ball. His size at 6-4, 338 pounds can match up with any NFL defensive lineman.
Alabama players who will most likely be taken in the top 15 that, barring a trade, the Steelers will not have a shot at are: WR Devonte Smith, WR Jaylen Waddle and Surtain. There are a number of other players to watch tonight such as TE Miller Forristall, SS Daniel Wright and OLB Christopher Allen who will be available in later rounds.
#52 IOL Wyatt Davis
Davis has been one of the best interior lineman in the country the last two seasons. At 6’4, 315, he is a specimen with incredible size and strength. He was a First Team Preseason All-American for the 2020 season and for good reason. He has the talent to play in a zone or man blocking scheme and creates huge holes for the running backs at Ohio State. He is rather aggressive and loves to get to the second level as soon as he can. This is something to watch for on Monday night as his aggressiveness sometimes comes back to bite him.
#71 C Josh Myers
Myers is a junior but is expected to declare for the draft after Monday’s game. He finished as the runner-up for the Rimington trophy in 2020. He isn’t incredibly mobile, but will be a solid NFL starting center who can control the line of scrimmage and has done a very good job at Ohio State in short yardage situations. This is, of course, been a serious struggle for the Steelers in recent years. Myers would be able to start right away and he is a player I will be locking in on Monday night during the game.
#11 Edge Tyreke Smith
Smith is projected to be drafted late in the first round and with the Steelers possibly moving on from Bud Dupree, Smith may see himself in a battle with Alex Highsmith to play opposite of TJ Watt. Smith is 6’4, 267 pounds and an absolute beast. His stats do not stand out as he only has two sacks this year and one forced fumble, but he is very versatile and can drop back into coverage as well. Having Smith and Watt working together on both sides could cause problems for opposing offenses.
#2 WR Chris Olave
The Steelers have a talented trio at wide receiver, but the question lingers if JuJu Smith-Schuster’s time in Pittsburgh has come to an end. Olave is being tossed around as a possible 1st rounder and could improve his stock even more on Monday night. Olave has great route running abilities and his release off the snap is very impressive. He does, however, lack physicality to win versus aggressive, strong cornerbacks in the NFL.
#24 DB Shaun Wade
Wade is a big, strong defensive back who is listed as 6’1 and 194 pounds. Physicality and aggressiveness are not lacking for him. He has six career interceptions and projects as a late first rounder, but his stock has swayed back and forth over the last year. The Steelers are expected to take a DB in this draft, but Wade may not be worth it if he has to be a first round pick to become a Steeler.
#8 RB Trey Sermon
If the Steelers do look to draft a running back later on, Sermon just might be the guy in the third or fourth round. He is averaging an incredible 7.3 yards per carry this season. Due to the explosiveness of QB Justin Fields and Olave, he doesn’t see much action in the red zone for the Buckeyes, but was good for five touchdowns this season. He has big play ability busting out multiple runs for over 60 yards this season.
Fields will be a top five pick and won’t find his way into a black and gold jersey.
Who are you watching tonight? Do you want to see any of them drafted by the Steelers? Let me know in the comment section below!