It’s no secret that when it comes to the draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers generally stay with the big schools. Power 5 conferences, the universities you watch on Saturday. Ohio State, Michigan, Miami, anything in the SEC, you get the idea. But it’s rare for them to exclusively draft from there. The 2021 draft proved to be one of those exceptions. All nine of the team’s draft picks came from the Power 5.
A recap of their selections:
#24: Najee Harris/RB Alabama
#55: Pat Freiermuth/TE Penn State
#87: Kendrick Green/OC Illinois
#128: Dan Moore Jr./OT Texas A&M
#140: Buddy Johnson/LB Texas A&M
#156: Isaiahh Loudermilk/DL Wisconsin
#216: Quincy Roche/EDGE Miami (FL)
#245: Tre Norwood/CB Oklahoma
#254: Pressley Harvin III/P Georgia Tech
The Steelers were one of just five teams in this year’s draft to stick exclusively to the Power 5 (for this exercise, we’re including Notre Dame as Power 5). The others were the Houston Texans, Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, and the Detroit Lions. Which is even more remarkable knowing that in general, teams stayed away from sub-FBS schools. Record low players from those pools were drafted and yet only five teams, Pittsburgh being one of them, stuck to the major conferences.
Even for the Steelers, this is a rarity. In the Mike Tomlin/Kevin Colbert era, it’s happened for just the third time. The first two of Tomlin’s draft classes (2007, 2008) and now 2021.
Pittsburgh even stayed away from one of their favorite conferences to pick from, the MAC, failing to take anyone from there. After the draft, Kevin Colbert cited their abridged season as one reason why.
“They had a shortened season,” he told Sirius’ Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan in a recent appearance. “It wasn’t as big a year for that conference. With the opt-outs, the kids that opted out of the draft and returned to their schools, usually you’re dealing with about 800 names. That was pretty much cut in half.”
Only MAC one team, Ball State, played more than seven games in 2020. Some schools, like Miami (OH) and Ohio, played just three games, with most schools having 5-6 contests. As was the team’s mantra, the Steelers stayed with the prospects who had the cleanest, clearest evaluation. That meant taking the guys against the best competition who had the longest resumes.
Regardless of the school they went to, the Steelers will aim to hit on as many of those picks as possible. All the pre-draft scouting is now irrelevant. The only thing that matters today is what these players do with their NFL opportunities.