We’re one week out from Day One of the 2021 NFL Draft. With one last look at how analysts ranked each team’s haul, the Pittsburgh Steelers nearly cracked the top 10 in CBS’ ranking of 1-32. Pittsburgh finished just one spot shy, designated the 11th best class.
For each team, CBS labeled their favorite pick, best value, and biggest surprise.
When it came to his favorite pick, author Ryan Wilson said it was third-round selection Kendrick Green. According to Wilson, not only did the Steelers nab a good talent, they also got strong value.
“Illinois’ Kendrick Green can play guard or center and he does both with a nasty streak. He’s also one of the most athletic interior linemen in this class. We had him as a late second-rounder so the Steelers got him a full round after we thought he’d be off the board.”
The Steelers clearly wanted and targeted Green. They could’ve grabbed all but one of the top centers in the second round but chose TE Pat Freiermuth. Colbert cited a deep offensive line class as one reason why the team held off on addressing the O-line until the third and fourth round. In the third round, the Steelers had plenty of options but jumped on the chance to take Green. He’s a bit of a project, a junior who primarily played guard, but Pittsburgh has raved about his athleticism. Wilson clearly agrees.
Pittsburgh’s best value is a bit of a consensus choice, sixth round EDGE Quincy Roche. Here’s part of what Wilson wrote.
“Miami’s Quincy Roche transferred from Temple where he was just about unstoppable. The production didn’t follow him to South Florida but we were surprised to seem him get out of the fourth round (we had a late Round 3 grade on Roche).”
Roche’s sack numbers fell from 13 to 4.5, but his tackles for loss remained impressive. He had 14.5 TFL as a senior with Miami (FL), only a slight drop from the 19 he put up the year before. Overall, Roche had an extremely productive career and was great value at pick #216. Many had him pegged as a third or fourth round talent. In my league-wide, seven round mock, I sent Roche to the Steelers at #140. Getting him late in the sixth is a bargain.
And for the most surprising pick, Wilson landed on Freiermuth. An interesting choice but he explains his rationale:
“We had Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth as a mid-second-rounder so the Steelers actually got value where they selected him. That said, many of the top offensive tackles were off the board, and even though edge rusher Boogie Basham was still available, Pittsburgh considered tight end a bigger need.”
Wilson admits Freiermuth’s value was in-line with where they graded him, but argues the Steelers should’ve addressed another position like offensive tackle or edge rusher. As he writes, many top OTs were gone by pick #55. In the 15 picks ahead of the Steelers, four offensive tackles were taken (five if you count Jackson Carman). The Steelers felt the depth in the O-line class, tackle and interior, was strong enough to wait.
Personally, I would’ve chosen the fifth round trade-up for DL Isaiahh Loudermilk as the most surprising. Not only trading up into the fifth round but to take Loudermilk, who most graded out as a late Day 3/PFA selection. Defensive line wasn’t a need for the team, either.
You can check out all of Wilson’s rankings at the link here. Around the AFC North, he surprisingly gave the Baltimore Ravens’ class low marks with the 31st-ranked draft class. The Cincinnati Bengals were middle of the pack at 16 while the Cleveland Browns were a couple spots ahead at 13. Wilson has the Steelers with the best draft class in the AFC North.