Given how significant the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie class has been so far during the 2021 season, it would be fitting if we use some of the downtime this week during the team’s bye to pause and take stock of where those rookies are right now.
Pittsburgh drafted nine players, with eight of them making the initial roster. Seven of them have been regular contributors for all or most of the season, including numerous starters, so there is a lot to discuss, with four starters on the offensive side of the ball alone.
After investing in the skill positions in the first two rounds with running back Najee Harris and tight end Pat Freiermuth, the Steelers turned to the offensive line, with center Kendrick Green in round three, followed by tackle Dan Moore Jr. in round four. All four are starting.
Their next four picks all went to the defense, starting with inside linebacker Buddy Johnson in the fourth round, followed by defensive lineman Isaiahh Loudermilk in the fifth, outside linebacker Quincy Roche in the sixth, and defensive back Tre Norwood in the seventh. They rounded things out with punter Pressley Harvin III with a final seventh-round pick.
The Steelers entered the 2021 NFL Draft process with eight selections, but they came away with nine when they opted to trade into the fifth round by trading away a future draft pick. Of the nine selections, eight made the 53-man roster and remain there. Seven of them are and have been regular to semi-regular contributors, including five full-time starters.
The top half of the draft has been heavy on the starters, and all on the offensive side of the ball. Most impressive in particular have been the Steelers’ top two picks, first-round running back Najee Harris and second-round tight end Pat Freiermuth, who are already establishing themselves as go-to contributors, albeit with plenty of room left to grow.
The third and fourth rounds yielded two starters along the offensive line in center Kendrick Green and left tackle Dan Moore Jr. Green in particular has experienced growing pains associated with adjusting to playing at center, and has had the most struggles of all the rookies receiving significant playing time, but is coming along.
Moore hasn’t been a disappointment, especially when you consider that he wasn’t supposed to be starting, but I think he certainly could have benefitted by some more time on the bench, and it remains to be seen whether or not that will eventually happen now that Zach Banner is back.
Seventh-round defensive back Tre Norwood has become the Steelers’ dime back, settling into that role after initially operating as the nickel to start the season. He has made a few plays already, particularly in his last outing. Fellow seventh-round pick punter Pressley Harvin III, has battled inconsistency, but is also coming off of his best game.
As for the middle rounds, inside linebacker Buddy Johnson is earmarked for the inactive list as a rookie, barring injuries. If the defensive line ever gets healthy, fifth-round defensive lineman Isiahh Loudermilk will join him as well, but due to injuries, he has been logging about a dozen snaps a game, and has been improving. Sixth-round outside linebacker Quincy Roche did not make the 53-man roster, despite having a solid preseason, and was claimed off waivers by the New York Giants, who just sign every edge rusher the Steelers let get away, apparently.