The NFL Draft recently has been all about the defense for the Pittsburgh Steelers. David DeCastro in 2012 was the last offensive player taken in the first round, and Day 2 has seen at least one defensive player taken in six of the last seven classes.
That took a hard turn in 2021 as the Steelers and general manager Kevin Colbert went offense for the entirety of Days 1 and 2, and began Day 3 with one more pick for that side of the ball. As noted by our Alex Kozora, it’s been nearly 40 years since Pittsburgh waited as long to draft defense.
The draft picks come as welcome reinforcements for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, entering his 18th season and playing with the reality that each might be his final one in the NFL. OTAs this week are giving Roethlisberger opportunities to work with the rookies on offense, and he spoke about that with the media Tuesday.
“It’s been awhile since we’ve gotten so many weapons early on offensively. Guys look great. But we are in shorts and T-shirts, and we’re still waiting to see what some of the guys can do. I’d say what I’ve seen so far has been really impressive, knowledge of the game of football, picking up the offense already,” Roethlisberger said. “These guys came in at the rookie minicamp and haven’t left. To be able to have the repetition with those guys, to communicate with them, to talk to them, whether it’s at a locker or on the field, I’m really excited about the group that we got in here.”
The four players taken at the top of the draft by Pittsburgh were running back Najee Harris, tight end Pat Freiermuth, guard/center Kendrick Green, and tackle Dan Moore Jr. Of those four, Harris is a locked-in starter as a rookie. Green and Moore get to compete for spots along the line, while Freiermuth is the anticipated starter in 2022 after Eric Ebron’s contract expires next offseason.
Alex Kozora has Roethlisberger’s thoughts on his new best friend in the backfield. But Roethlisberger also went into detail on the two new rookies along the line on offense. Green as the frontrunner to inherit Maurkice Pouncey’s job at center (already inheriting his number 53), and Moore fighting as an outside contender to unseat Chukwuma Okorafor or Zach Banner as a starting tackle, and Joe Haeg as the swing tackle.
“You know the guys are working hard, they’re busting their butt, they’re here, and they’re trying to get better. And that’s what matters,” Roethlisberger said.