Even if we had a crystal ball that could tell us what position the Pittsburgh Steelers will draft at #24, and it came up running back, we still wouldn’t know exactly who the team is zeroing in on. A tweet from NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein might muddy the waters of those labeling Najee Harris as the class’s top back.
In a tweet he sent out Friday, Zierlein wrote that while teams have generally lumped the “big three” running backs of Najee Harris, Travis Etienne, and Javonte Williams into one tier, the majority of people he’s spoken to have Etienne as the top back of this class.
I haven't spoken with any one working for a team – personnel or coach, who doesn't have Najee, Etienne and Javonte Williams as the dead-lock tier one RBs. Spoke to one coach who has it Najee, Williams, Etienne. A majority of people have Etienne first and Harris second.
— Lance Zierlein (@LanceZierlein) April 16, 2021
However, as Zierlein’s tweet also pointed out, at least one coach had Harris first and Williams — not Etienne — second. In Daniel Jeremiah’s Top 50 prospects released late last month, he had Etienne (#20) ranked one spot over Harris (#21). Williams was only a couple of spots behind at #26, essentially reflecting everything Zierlein concluded in his tweet.
We have no idea exactly how the Steelers rank this running back group. They’ve shown substantial interest in Harris and Etienne, more than enough to consider both first-round options. Mike Tomlin, Kevin Colbert, and Matt Canada attended their Pro Days (Tomlin/Colbert/Canada were not there for Bama’s second Pro Day where Harris went through drills). We know the team has held zoom meetings with Harris. They’ve presumably done the same with Etienne.
Both are in play to be the pick at #24. Personally, I would much prefer Harris over Etienne. But either could be the pick. The Steelers may not even have a choice if one comes off the board by pick #24. The Miami Dolphins failed to make a splashy free agency signing and could be eyeing running back at #18. That may force the Steelers’ hand of who to choose, similar to how they settled on Artie Burns after Cincinnati took William Jackson III one pick ahead of them. If the front office is in a similar situation this time around, let’s hope for much better results.