The 2021 NFL Draft is in the books. The Pittsburgh Steelers were plenty busy making nine selections, including a trade up into the fifth round to grab DL Isaiahh Loudermilk.
We’ll spend these next couple of weeks breaking down the team’s picks individually. But for a moment, let’s take a step back and look at this class as a whole. Here are some notable trends of the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers’ draft class.
Power 5, One Through Seven
In any given draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers tend to focus on the Power 5 and only occasionally stray outside that group, usually with the MAC. This year, all nine picks came from college football’s best conferences. The schools Pittsburgh selected from were: Alabama, Penn State, Illinois, Texas A&M (twice), Wisconsin, Miami (FL), Oklahoma, and Georgia Tech. You know it’s a list of who’s who when the “smallest” school on the list is Illinois. The Steelers wanted as clean of an evaluation as possible in this crazy, COVID season. So they stuck to big-time programs.
Opting Out Of Opt Outs
Kevin Colbert said for tiebreakers, they’d go to to the prospect who played in 2020. Every single one of the Steelers’ draft picks played this past season. Again, the focus was on getting guys who had the clearest evaluation possible. Colbert’s comments that it was hard for guys who missed this year reflected in who they drafted.
All eight of the Steelers’ undrafted free agents also played in 2020. So all 17 of the newest Steelers played this past season. Very much an intentional philosophy by the team.
It’s The NFL Draft, Everyone Makes A Run
For the first time since 1984, the Steelers’ draft started with four straight picks on offense. Then Pittsburgh went with defense for their next four. It’s the first time since 1995 the team took four straight defensive players at any point in the draft (they went five in a row in ’95 after starting with three consecutive offensive picks). That was probably less intentional, but there’s no question Pittsburgh’s focus was on fixing the offense and specifically, the running game. Then they turned their attention to add defensive depth. But a rarely constructed draft, and really the first such one under Kevin Colbert.
Looking For Leaders
“Leadership” was a word I heard attached a lot to the Steelers’ draft class. Primarily after the Steelers’ top two picks. Offensive line coach Adrian Klemm referred to C Kendrick Green as an “alpha” in the Illinois’ locker room, trying to hold things together during some difficult seasons. OT Dan Moore Jr. was called a leader of the offense by LB Buddy Johnson, especially during the tough COVID season. Johnson himself was regarded a leader on the other side of the ball and named a team captain in 2020. EDGE Quincy Roche brought leadership to both Temple and Miami (FL), the latter impressive for a grad student who spent just one year with the team.
Hearts & Smarts
Bouncing off that previous point, Colbert’s motto has been “hearts and smarts” for several years running. No players drafted with even a hint of a character red flag. That stays true with this class. From Najee Harris holding a draft party at the homeless shelter he once spent time in to Pat Freiermuth’s squeaky clean record and the rest of the group, there isn’t a bad apple in this bunch. Almost all these players have been praised for their football IQ. Roche is a technical pass rusher, while Tre Norwood played all over the Sooners’ secondary.