The Pittsburgh Steelers, at least in their own evaluative process, hit a home run in the first round by securing their featured back of the future in Najee Harris with their first round pick. Whether that ends up being for the next five years or the next 10 remains to be seen, but it’s undeniable that they just upgraded one of their weakest positions.
With that being said, we still have a long way to go before we can call this anything close to a complete roster. General manager Kevin Colbert might have said during the team’s pre-draft press conference that they could line up and play a game now if need be. The reality is that there are certain upgrades that would be a hindrance if not made.
That makes this second day of the 2021 NFL Draft crucial for the Steelers, as significant as last year’s Day 2, and they must replicate the same sort of success that they had then. Landing wide receiver Chase Claypool in the second round and then edge rusher Alex Highsmith in the third, they locked in two young players who would emerge as starters by year two.
There are still a couple more positions that could used day one contributors and long-term starters. The center position is at or near the top of the list, and the good news to that end is that all of the centers are still on the board, including the likes of Landon Dickerson and Creed Humphrey. If either slide to 55, they almost have to be the pick.
There are numerous tackles still available who could very legitimate compete to be a day one starter this year at left tackle. Teven Jenkins is the biggest name there, but of course it would be a stunner if he lasts to pick 40, let alone 55. Liam Eichenberg, Sam Cosmi, Jalen Mayfield, and Walker Little are just some of the other potential Day 2 names.
Lest we forget, the Steelers are also down two outside linebackers and two cornerbacks from last season. You still have Tyson Campbell, Ifeatu Melifonwu, Aaron Robinson, and a host of others at the latter position. Azeez Ojulari is of course the biggest pass rusher still on the board. Like Jenkins, it would be flabbergasting if he gets anywhere close to Pittsburgh’s range.
And of course, there is a need for another tight end, following the retirement of Vance McDonald. The first round would have been far too rich for Pat Freiermuth out of Penn State. Given the pre-draft affection the Steelers had for him, he could certainly be the pick at 55, and could be an immediate contributor, as well.
Whoever they add to the roster this day, they have to be players who are capable of contributing, at least as depth, right away, and very shortly thereafter profiling as a future starter. This is the foundation for the next generation of Steelers success — or failure — some of the first features of the post-Ben Roethlisberger era to come.