Pro Football Focus’s 2021 NFL Re-Draft Sees Steelers Solidify Offensive Line

Najee Harris and Landon Dickerson

At this point in the career of running back Najee Harris, the Pittsburgh Steelers have to be pretty happy overall with the return on investment  with the former University of Alabama star.

In 17 games as a rookie, Harris set the Steelers’ single-season rookie rushing record with 1,200 yards, breaking Franco Harris’s long-standing record. Harris also racked up 1,667 total yards and 10 total touchdowns on 381 touches in his first season in the NFL, playing a key role in the Steelers doing just enough offensively in the final season with Ben Roethlisberger under center to reach the playoffs.

Of course, the debate about selecting a running back in the first round continues to rage on for Harris and the selection’s detractors, as the Steelers still have significant holes along the offensive line, which could really render Harris obsolete at the end of his rookie contract, in which the Steelers might never be true contenders.

Knowing that, Pro Football Focus decided to beef up the Steelers’ offensive line at No. 24 overall in its 2021 NFL Re-Draft exercise that it dropped Wednesday morning, seeing the Steelers head back to Tuscaloosa to grab Harris’s teammate in interior offensive lineman Landon Dickerson, shoring up the Steelers’ offensive line, at least for the time being.

“Pittsburgh is certainly happy with the performance of Harris after his rookie season, but the overall performance of the offense is proof positive of how little it mattered,” PFF’s Sam Monson writes regarding the Steelers’ re-draft selection. “The team needed to overhaul an offensive line if they expect to reestablish their run game, and Dickerson is the first step toward that. A college center, Dickerson filled in at guard for the Eagles as a rookie, earning a 69.7 PFF grade as a run-blocker and dramatically improving as the year wore on.”

Dickerson was certainly fine for the Philadelphia Eagles last season filling in at guard, playing 859 snaps offensively. In that time, Dickerson recorded a 67.3 overall grade from PFF, including a 57.1 pass blocking grade and a 69.7 run-blocking grade. As Monson pointed out, Dickerson dramatically improved as a run blocker as the season wore on.

That was his calling card out of Alabama, which made him appealing to the Steelers overall. At times, Dickerson was connected to the Steelers as the potential pick at No. 24 overall, but his injury history with multiple knee and leg injuries at Florida State and Alabama led to the Steelers ultimately passing on him, and drafting Harris at No. 24 overall instead.

Dickerson came off the board in the second round at No. 37 overall as the Eagles looked to beef up the interior of the offensive line with guys like Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks aging. The Alabama product likely would have solidified center or guard for the Steelers, causing them to pass on Kendrick Green and possibly draft a running back later on in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Of course, with Harris in the fold, the position is set for years to come. That wouldn’t have been the case if Dickerson were the selection. The offensive line still remains in a bit of flux for the Steelers, who rebuilt the interior in free agency with James Daniels and Mason Cole this offseason, but it’s a fun exercise to look back on.

Harris, for what it’s worth, came off the board at No. 32 in PFF’s re-draft exercise to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bengals, Browns and Ravens still landed the likes of Ja’Marr Chase, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Odafe Oweh and Rashod Bateman in the exercise too.

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