Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: RB Najee Harris
Stock Value: Purchased
Reasoning: The Steelers used their first-round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft in order to bring in running back Najee Harris out of Alabama, who is expected to immediately step in as their featured back.
Given that the draft was almost a week ago already, I guess we had better start bringing the rookies into the fold, starting at the top with Najee Harris in the first round. After letting James Conner walk in free agency—he indicated that the team never even gave him an offer—it was clear the Steelers were looking for a new featured back, and all the dots connected to the national champion back.
Debate will continue for some time perhaps as to whether or not the Steelers will generate the appropriate ‘value’ level for their first-round selection, but what’s done is done, and everything that comes next takes place on the football field, where things actually matter.
And that is where he can certainly make a difference as a college runner who demonstrated the ability to create his own yardage, something that is currently needed as the offensive line and the blocking scheme continue into a transitional phase.
The Steelers drafted two linemen who will potentially compete for starting jobs this year, but whether they win those jobs or not, there are bound to be growing pains. But contrary to what appears to be emerging conventional wisdom, improving the ball carrier will improve the running game, especially when your only solid option is frequently unavailable.
By far the biggest obstacle toward success last year for the Steelers was the inability to run the ball well when it was opportune and when it was necessary to run the ball. If they can make strides in that area while largely retaining the status quo in other areas of strength (which admittedly is not guaranteed), there is reason to believe they can make it further this year than last.