Article

Perspective Of An Average Steelers Fan: 2021 Draft Midseason Update

TRACKING 2021 STEELERS DRAFT CLASS

For the past few seasons, I compared the Pittsburgh Steelers top draft picks against rookies drafted in nearby rounds and playing similar positions selected by other teams. Last year, I tracked Chase Claypool and Alex Highsmith with their contemporaries from the 2020 NFL draft class. This season, we’ll track Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, and Kendrick Green to see how they stack up.

The charts cover the first six weeks for most players to be comparable with the Steelers first three draft picks who had a bye in week seven. I’ll summarize the rest of the rookie class drafted on day three.

Let me know if there are other players you want tracked against these Steelers rookies in the comments section.

RUNNING BACK

Name RUSHING RECEIVING   ALL
Name G Snap % ATT Yds Rush/G TGTs REC Yards Y/G TOT YDS TDs
Najee Harris 6 86 102 388 64.7 46 34 244 40.7 632 4
Travis Etienne 0 INJURED RESERVE
Javonte Williams 7 45 69 320 45.7 22 20 122 17.4 442 2
Trey Sermon 4 30 31 135 33.8 3 2 3 0.8 138 1

All statistics pulled from the Pro Football Reference

Synopsis of each player:

Najee Harris (First Rd/24th overall) Najee Harris is the Steelers primary runner gaining 388 pf the Steelers 487 total rushing yards. He’s added another 244 receiving yards and scored four touchdowns. He tops the small pack of running backs drafted in the first couple rounds. Harris has accomplished this with an offensive line that is still developing. He’s shown ability to run both inside and outside using his vision to find small holes. Ben uses him as a regular outlet for passes and he will line up wide on some plays.

Travis Etienne (First Rd/25th overall) Travis Etienne had foot surgery back in August. We will have to wait until 2022 to see how he stacks up.

Javonte Williams (Second Rd/35th overall) Javonte Williams splits carries with starter Melvin Gordon. The Denver Broncos alternate the tandem on series. Williams is both a rushing and receiving threat catching 20 of 22 targeted passes. He’s scored a touchdown rushing and one receiving. His ten-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter brought the Broncos within three points of the Browns.

Trey Sermon (Third Rd/88th overall) The San Francisco 49ers are bringing Trey Sermon along slowly giving him limited playing time. He did start two games but listed third at running back on the depth chart. In his two starts, he played over half the snaps rushing for 120 yards on 29 carries. Sermon scored a fourth quarter touchdown in their 30-28 loss to the Packers. His playing time limited to primarily special teams since week four.

Running Back Summary

Najee Harris came off the board first followed immediately by Jacksonville’s selection of Travis Etienne. Denver picked Javonte Williams with pick 35. San Francisco went with Trey Sermon in the third round. Najee the clear leader of the small pack. The question is whether he will sustain the pace of playing nearly 90% of offensive snaps averaging over 22 touches per game compared to 12.7 per game for Javonte Williams. But so far, Najee delivering why the Steelers drafted him. If his offensive line improves, Harris could be set for a monster second half of his rookie season.

TIGHT END

Name G Snap % TGTs RECs Yds Y/C Y/G Catch % TDs
Kyle Pitts 5 74 36 24 308 12.8 61.6 66.7 1
Pat Freiermuth 6 51 20 18 158 8.8 26.3 90.0 1
Hunter Long 3 14 1 0 0 0 0 0.00 0
Tommy Tremble 6 36 8 3 42 14.0 7.0 37.5 2
Tre McKitty 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 0

All statistics pulled from the Pro Football Reference

Synopsis of each player:

Pat Freiermuth (Second Rd/55th overall) Freiermuth started three of six games played. Ben Roethlisberger stated a desire to work the young tight end into the offense more. In his last game he caught seven passes for 58 yards and appears on his way to supplant Eric Ebron as the number one tight end in Pittsburgh. He caught a four-yard touchdown pass early in the Bengals game for his first NFL score. Steelers fans want to see more.

Kyle Pitts (First Rd/4th overall) Kyle Pitts started every game for the Atlanta Falcons this season. He receives 8-10 targets in most games. He caught a two-yard Matt Ryan touchdown pass in the Falcons 27-20 over the Jets in week five. Pro Football Focus rates him the top rookie through week six. Pitts had a monster seven catch for 163-yard game in week seven not reflected in the chart above.

Hunter Long (Third Rd/81st overall) The Dolphins buried Hunter Long as the fourth tight end on their depth chart. Long played three games with limited offensive snaps and just one target. His progress stymied by a left leg injury in training camp. He returned to practice but wearing a leg brace. It may take time for him to work into the lineup. He was a healthy scratch in week seven.

Tommy Tremble (Third Rd/83rd overall) Tommy Tremble receiving increased offensive snaps as the season progresses. He scored on a seven-yard run in week three. Then caught his first NFL touchdown pass in a 21-18 loss to the Eagles in week five. He’s only received eight targets in the first six games but expect that to increase dramatically in the second half of the season.

Tre’ McKitty (Third Rd/97th overall) Tre’ McKitty has not played yet in 2021. The Chargers list him as the number four tight end on their depth chart.

Tight End Summary

Pat Freiermuth was the second tight end selected after Kyle Pitts who was out of reach of the Steelers. Three tight ends selected in the third round to complete this comparable group. So far, Pitts remains on top of the rookie tight end list as a first round selection should. Tommy Tremble with two scores but just eight targets are third on the list. I rate Freiermuth second so far this season. Just where the Steelers drafted him among the 2021 tight end class.

CENTER

Name G GS D/ST Snap % Hold False Start Other Declined or offset Total Penalty
Landon Dickerson 5 4 88/14 0 1 1 0 2
Josh Myers – IR 5 5 83/0 0 0 0 0 0
Creed Humphrey 6 6 100/19 0 0 0 2 2
Kendrick Green 6 6 97/0 3 0 1 0 4
Robert Hainsey 1 0 16/0 0 0 0 0 0
Quinn Meinerz 5 1 27/8 0 1 0 0 1
Drew Dalman 5 0 3/13 0 0 0 0 0

All statistics pulled from the Pro Football Reference

Synopsis of each player:

Kendrick Green (Third Rd/87th overall) Kendrick Green played 385 of the Steelers 397 offensive snaps as the starting center this season. Green susceptible to the bull rush early in the season but has recorded four penalties, highest among this group of rookies. Matthew Marczi noted Green spends too much time on the ground but “his excellent athleticism is on display often enough whenever the Steelers can ever actually work to the second and third levels ….”

Landon Dickerson (Second Rd/32nd overall) The Philadelphia Eagles shifted Landon Dickerson to left guard. Jason Kelce remains the starting center in his eleventh year. The Eagles put Dickerson at right guard after Brandon Brooks went on injured reserve in week two. Then Dickerson shifted to left guard when Isaac Seumalo went down. Dickerson’s ACL hurt during his last season at Alabama is holding up.

Josh Myers (Second Rd/62nd overall) Josh Myers started the first four games at center playing every single offensive snap. He did not play in week five due to a finger injury. Myers started the week six game against the Bears. But he went down with a knee injury after just four snaps. Green Bay Packers placed him on injured reserve, and we will see if Myers returns later in the season.

Creed Humphrey (Second Rd/63rd overall) Creed Humphrey has started every offensive snap as the Kansas City Chiefs center. Pro Football Focus (PFF) rated Humphrey as the top performing rookie in the NFL in the first five weeks of the season. In fact, PFF rated him the top center in the league. “Humphrey quickly went from ‘he looks good for a rookie’ to ‘he looks good for an NFL player, period’ over the past couple of weeks. The former Oklahoma star is now the highest-graded center in the league and has allowed only two pressures on 240 pass-blocking snaps all season.”

Robert Hainsey (Third Rd/95th overall) Robert Hainsey saw action in week five. He played 12 offensive snaps late in the 45-17 win over the Miami Dolphins. Hainsey listed as the backup center behind Ryan Jensen.

Quinn Meinerz (Third Rd/98th overall) Quinn Meinerz started at left guard in the Broncos week four game against the Baltimore Ravens due to injuries. In his first start, “Meinerz played exceptionally well, and his physical play style resonated with the Broncos’ offensive line.” Meinerz remains the backup to second year center Lloyd Cushenberry. He’s only played a handful of special team snaps since week four.

Drew Dalman (Fourth Rd/114th overall) Started 20 of 25 games at Stanford as center. Dalman played nine interior lineman offensive snaps in the Falcons season opener. He graded well in those nine snaps, earning a 69.4 from PFF from his performance, but that’s hardly a trustworthy sample size. Currently, Dalman is the back-up center and right guard. He has, however, been part of the field-goal unit for what that’s worth.

Center Summary

The Steelers drafted Kendrick Green in the middle of six players projected to play center. Not a lot of statistics are maintained for offensive linemen. I wish Pro Football Reference recorded sacks given up. The above chart does compare the percentage of their teams’ offensive snaps played and penalties. Creed Humphrey heads the list. The Eagles moved Dickerson, the former 2020, Rimington Trophy winner as the nation’s best college center, to guard. The move due to injuries but appears to be his position in 2021. Green was the least experienced center with just four college starts before entering the NFL. Green remains on pace with his development and should be a solid third on this list of centers at season’s end.

Day Three Selections

Pittsburgh drafted Texas A & M teammates offensive tackle Dan Moore Jr. and ILB Buddy Johnson in the fourth round. Dan Moore started all six games at left tackle. He played every snap until suffering a hip injury against the Seahawks. We’ll see if he continues starting in week eight. Buddy Johnson played 13 special team snaps opening day but has been inactive since. Kevin Colbert surprised many by trading a 2022 draft pick to snag Isaiahh Loudermilk in the fifth round. Loudermilk playing sparingly in last five games. He’s made three tackles and deflected a pass.

Pittsburgh also picked up Miami linebacker Quincy Roche in the sixth round. But the New York Giants signed him off waivers at season start. In the seventh round, Pittsburgh picked up Oklahoma DB Tre Norwood. Many consider it a steal so late in the draft. Norwood played defensive and special teams snaps in all six games. One of the slot options, Norwood has 15 combined tackles and a pass defense. The Steelers final pick Pressley Harvin III beat out veteran punter Jordan Berry. Harvin showed inconsistency but settled down his last two games with some long boots flipping field position.

One fulltime starter, the regular punter and a slot defender contributed to a strong start for the day three selections.

ROOKIE REVIEWS BY MATTHEW MARCZI

Steelers Depot stalwart contributor Matthew Marczi used the bye week to review each Steelers draft pick. I’ve pulled the links together for you to check out more detail on the rookie performances:

Najee Harris

Pat Freiermuth

Kendrick Green

Dan Moore Jr

Buddy Johnson

Isaiahh Loudermilk

Quincy Roche

Tre Norwood

Pressley Harvin III 

Your Music Selection

I always like to include a bit of music. The 2021 draft class off to a solid if not spectacular start with 11 more games to play. Let’s see what’s next for this Steelers draft class after the bye week. Here is What’s Next by Drake.

To Top
error: Alert: Content is protected !!