Leading up to the draft, Kevin Colbert said it was “very doubtful” the team would trade up in the first round. He made those terms even clearer after the fact, telling Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio there was basically no scenario in which the team was going to move up from their #24 spot.
Florio asked Colbert if he gave any consideration to trading up to secure RB Najee Harris.
“We knew we weren’t trading up,” he told Florio. “We needed all of our draft capital throughout the draft. We made the decision that we won’t be trading up. We also made a decision that if certain players are there, we won’t trade away from them. And Najee was one of those players.”
In a separate interview, Colbert said they targeted eight players that if there at 24, the team would take and not consider trading out. Harris, as Colbert said, was obviously among those eight, and the Steelers’ top-rated back on their board.
There have been years where Colbert has aggressively gone up for a player. It’s happened three times — 2003 with Troy Polamalu, 2006 with Santonio Holmes, and 2019 with Devin Bush. But not for 2021.
Colbert went on to explain the team’s thought process.
“Really, we lay it out and we know what order we would take the 24 players that could get to us and in the order that we would take them. So we just waited it out.”
Though this next comment is a little open to interpretation, it’s unlikely the Steelers ranked Harris as their #1 player in the draft. It’s clear, though, he was one of the top guys on their list.
“If Najee was there, he was going to be our pick. We were certain about that.”
Three teams ahead of the Steelers could’ve taken Harris — the Cardinals, Jets, and Dolphins. New York traded up to take OG Alijah Vera-Tucker, Arizona landed on LB Zaven Collins, while Miami rolled the dice on EDGE Jalean Phillips. That left Pittsburgh in the clear.
With the 25th pick, the Jaguars took RB Travis Etienne. Reportedly, the Denver Broncos may have been in play for Harris had the Steelers bypassed him. They settled on Javonte Williams in Round 2. Meaning, trading back could’ve cost the Steelers the chance to draft Harris. While trading down was possibly a more realistic option, it isn’t Colbert’s MO. He’s only done that once, way back in 2001, sliding down three spots and still coming away with Casey Hampton. Based on what Colbert said, there probably wasn’t a scenario where the Steelers were going to move up or down. Like most years, they stood pat and made their pick.