The Pittsburgh Steelers’ top priority this offseason, as they themselves have said, has been to improve the running game. That is a task that features a number of components, and starting with addressing those who carry the ball is not a bad way to start.
That’s what they did in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft with the selection of Alabama running back Najee Harris, but next on the agenda is adding some more talent to the offensive line room. They had some strong first-round options available to them at 24, but none as tempting to them as the big back.
While general manager Kevin Colbert said during the team’s day one press conference that Harris was one of eight players they identified that they wouldn’t consider trading away from if available, no doubt the remaining depth after the first 32 picks along the offensive line was a factor as well, and he was asked about that.
“Coach and I were talking on the way down [to the press conference], to be able to get a player like that at that pick without having to trade up was exciting”, he said, “because now we still have seven picks left, and there’s a lot of good players left at a lot of positions. We’ll redo some things and take a look at what we’re looking at tomorrow, but we’re excited about the depth that’s left”.
While he doesn’t specifically mention the offensive line here, that is the direction that the question was going, and nobody can deny that they have at least one major hole at center. And they don’t have anybody on their current roster that has previously played left tackle for them.
The first round saw four tackles go off the board, starting with Oregon’s Penei Sewell at six. The Chargers added Rashawn Slater at 13 before their division rivals matched them with Alex Leatherwood at 17. Christian Darrisaw went one pick ahead of the Steelers at 23.
Only one interior offensive lineman was selected within the first 32 picks, that being Alijah Vera-Tucker, whom the New York Jets traded up for. But center is Pittsburgh’s target, and all of the top players at still available, namely Landon Dickerson, Creed Humphrey, and Quinn Meinerz. It feels like a safe bet that if one of them is available at 55, they’ll be joining Harris in Pittsburgh. Dickerson, of course, was his college teammate at Alabama.
Of course, there are many directions the Steelers could go in the second round that would make sense, from tight end to cornerback to outside linebackers, where they would still be addressing a significant need. But if you’re looking for a day-one starting center and you have a plug-and-play starter staring at you in the second round, that’s tough to overlook.