*Disclaimer* The Following picks are how I think the team will attack the draft given how the board falls at each pick, not how I personally would like to see them go about it. I also won’t be trading up or down in this scenario. Just going to let the chips fall. Here’s my first Steelers mock draft.
Round 1, Pick 24
Najee Harris: RB, Alabama
The latest information we have coming out of Pittsburgh tells us that Zach Banner will get the first crack at left tackle. That to me is “writing on the wall” that running back is their top priority. The running game was abysmal last year for a multitude of reasons. We know the team wants to get back to running the football. Enter the best running back in the 2021 draft class.
Najee Harris is everything you want in a running back. He brings a nice blend of power and versatility. He’s able to run between the tackles but has the juice to get out to the perimeter and turn it up field. Harris also brings a pass catching element to his game which allows him to stay on the field in any situation.
His best attribute in my opinion is he is always falling forward, so he gets the most out of every touch. His stature and style of play remind me of former Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell. It’s no wonder the team has him so high on their radar, being one of the most interested teams in him according to multiple reports. Harris is a top 20 player, so the only question here is positional value. While running back wouldn’t be my top option here, I do love me some Najee Harris. I’d be fine with this selection.
Round 2, Pick 55
Creed Humphrey: C, Oklahoma
With Maurkice Pouncey retiring, there is no more pressing need than Center for the Steelers. The value wasn’t there to select one in the first round but they absolutely need to grab one on Day 2 of the draft. We go with Creed Humphrey here. The only question mark is he is a rare left handed snapper and there could be an adjustment period for his quarterback in that aspect.
He is a somewhat limited athlete, but makes up for it by knowing how to use his frame. One of the smartest and experienced centers in the class, this is the perfect spot for him to go. The debate between he and Landon Dickerson will go on until draft day and maybe even after, but in this mock Dickerson was already gone. He also comes with many more question marks due to his injury history. Humphrey is the safer pick in my opinion, so I’m more than pleased to see it fall this way.
Round 3, Pick 87
D’Ante Smith: T, East Carolina
Finally! A tackle! Smith is a riser in the class after an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl. He, without question is a Day 2 selection. This is great value in my opinion. Smith, was set to start at left tackle for a third straight season for the Pirates, but an injury caused him to miss all but one game. He is certainly of the new age tackle mold. A lean, athletic, long prospect with good mobility and hand usage. He certainly could afford to put on some weight, which is why it’s great that he can be given time to do so and not jump in and start right away. Smith is a high ceiling prospect though, and I’d be very comfortable knowing that he along with Dotson and Humphrey (in this scenario) were holding down the line for a long time.
Round 4, Pick 128
Tutu Atwell: WR, Louisville
If you’re going to lose JuJu, you better replace him with Tutu. In all seriousness, I couldn’t believe Atwell dropped to me here, so this is a no brainer at this point. This value is too good to pass up. A converted quarterback, Atwell led his conference in receiving & receiving TDs in 2019. He has speed and finesse in bunches and operates primarily in the slot. A position where you figure any wide receiver added will be asked to play, should a departure of JuJu Smith-Schuster take place.
He wins in very different ways than JuJu, but at the end of the day, he replaces the snaps lost in the slot. His game isn’t close to complete as he doesn’t have a diverse route tree and also has struggled with drops, but he would add a new wrinkle to the offense. He would bring a skillset not yet part of the wide receiver room and could thrive in a Matt Canada offense. I like the fit here.
Round 4, Pick 141
Paulson Adebo: CB, Stanford
Each of the last 2 seasons, the Steelers have been 4 deep at the cornerback position. That is unlikely to remain the case in 2021. Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton are both free agents, meanwhile Joe Haden’s name has been thrown around as a potential cap casualty. Should Haden remain here, he isn’t getting much younger and like Steven Nelson, 2021 is the last year on their current contracts. Cornerback is certainly a need for the team, it’s just a matter of where to address it. This seems like a good spot to do so.
Adebo is a top 100 player for my money, and was once viewed even much higher than that. He’s got fluid hips, good ball skills and plays with a high football IQ. He can play off coverage due to his ability to click and close with ease. I think Adebo can play in any scheme and be a contributor right away, but it will be on the boundary. His skillset doesn’t translate to a role in the slot. Adebo has certainly taken a fall from grace from being viewed as a first-rounder to being pick 141, but with his skillset and now a chip on his shoulder? The Steelers could make out like bandits.
Round 6, Pick 217
Chris Rumph II: Edge, Duke
Rumph II lined up in a variety of ways at Duke, which is why I think he will be so intriguing to the Steelers as a late round pick. He can rush the pass off the edge or you can slide him inside and have him slash through the gap. I think the biggest reason the Steelers will fall in love with him is his high motor and football instincts. The son of a coach, he has those characteristics in bunches. I don’t think he fits every NFL defense, but I do think he is a fit here. It would be interesting to see how he would be used, other than his presumed role on special teams. I do think there is a spot in Pittsburgh for him though.
Round 6, Pick 225
Khyiris Tonga: DT, BYU
Tonga is just what the doctor ordered for the Steelers in terms of a late round addition to the defensive line. He is a run stopper and will be a welcomed addition for a team seeking depth inside. The potential loss of Alualu makes this pick that much more essential. He doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher, but in this role should provide sound play.
Round 7, Pick 244
Wyatt Hubert Edge, Kansas State
If there are spots where the team can afford to double dip in the draft, edge is certainly one of them. They have their starters in Watt and Highsmith and we have them an additional piece in Rumph II earlier in the draft. Hubert is an undersized edge rusher but makes up for that with his motor and energy. He was most productive when standing up and profiles best as an outside linebacker at the next level. He doesn’t have an off switch and maybe the team can find in Hubert what they were hoping to find in Sutton Smith a few years back.
Round 7, Pick 253
Pro Wells: TE, TCU
Eric Ebron will likely see most of the tight end reps for the 2021 Steelers, but behind him the cabinet is bare and he is a free agent following the season. The Steelers need to add a tight end at some point in the draft. I would’ve loved to have addressed it earlier, but this is just how it played out. I actually like Wells quite a bit and think he’s being undervalued here. Sure he is relatively new to the position, but the converted basketball player is a great athlete at the position. He still needs work on his in-line game, but he presents a big bodied mismatch when flexed out.
I think the ideal trajectory for him is he starts out as a number 3 tight end used situationally who eventually becomes a number 2 tight end who is a weapon in the red zone. He is certainly a project, but I’m a firm believer that his best football is ahead of him with the right coaching.