Everybody and their mother seems to have an opinion about what the Pittsburgh Steelers should do with their first round draft choice later today. The mother of all Steelers beat writers, Ed Bouchette (take that as you will) was on 93.7 The Fan yesterday to offer his. Predictably, he favors Najee Harris over an offensive lineman.
“I do believe this team needs a running back, and I don’t believe that they’re gonna get one after the first round. Not a good one,” he said on The Cook and Joe Show. “They can still get some linemen. Look at their linemen.”
Of course, the reality is that there are plenty of high-performing running backs, such as Dalvin Cook, Derrick Henry, Jonathan Taylor, and others, who were taken after the first round. Though all three of those happen to be second-round picks.
Hosts pointed out to Bouchette there is not a lot of correlation between first round selections and running back success. His hosts cited statistics showing how well running backs chosen after the first round performed. The Athletic’s senior Steelers beat writer wasn’t having it.
“I don’t care about that. When’s the last time they had someone after the second round,” he asked, who had success at the position. “James Conner was third round. He didn’t last; he had one good year. Who else? Benny was fourth round. You want another Benny Snell? Okay. Get another Benny Snell in here. I want the bell cow, baby. I want the next Franco, which is Najee. The next Harris.”
He of course remarkably forgets completely about Willie Parker. Parker was an undrafted free agent and who between the 2005-2007 seasons rushed for 4,012 yards with 19 rushing touchdowns. Parker added another 604 receiving yards and four more scores, making the Pro Bowl twice, before injuries began to take their toll on his career.
“What I’m saying is, I think you can get your tackles, centers, elsewhere, after the first round,” Bouchette added, which, granted, is true. But it’s equally true that you can get your running back after the first round, as has been the case in virtually every draft ever. The Steelers have had a number of quality offensive linemen over the past decade, such as Ramon Foster, Alejandro Villanueva, and Matt Feiler, who were never even drafted. Kevin Dotson was a fourth-round pick last year, and looks to be a keeper, entering the starting lineup this year.
The reality is that there is no one position, even at quarterback, where you can just put in a first round pick like a quarter into a vending machine and get what you were hoping to get. You still need the other components surrounding that one piece in order to be successful. Putting together a strong offensive line will help anybody in the backfield. With that said, I’m not going to rend my garments if they draft Harris.