The time has come! Well, almost anyways. With one week until the draft, it’s time to put out my final Steelers 2021 mock draft of the season. Using Pro Football Network’s mock draft simulator, I’ll make the Steelers selections based on what I think the team will do should the board look the way it does when they are on the clock. You might hate some of the picks, even I might hate some of the picks but I’m going based off all the information we have with just one week until the real thing. Also, while it’s certainly possible for the Steelers to trade up or back at various points in the draft, for this exercise I just stuck with the team’s 8 current selections. Let’s jump right into it!
Round 1: Pick 24
Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
The Steelers want to fix their dead last rushing attack, as they should. Where the disagreement will come from some is that the better route would be to fix the offensive line first and then find your running back. As we sit here today though, I find it hard to believe if Najee Harris is on the board that the Steelers would pass on him. The do it all back has been linked to the Steelers for some time now.
Looking for their next bellcow back, the team could pivot to Travis Etienne here should Harris be off the board. In this simulation however, he was not. Things could get interesting should Harris and Etienne both be off the board when the Steelers are on the clock. For a team looking to make one last run with QB Ben Roethlisberger, I certainly get the appeal of having Harris to hand it off to. It just seems like an investment for the short term and not so much the long term. Especially when you take into consideration the age of Harris, the number of college touches and the short shelf life at the position.
Also considered; Travis Etienne, Caleb Farley, Creed Humphrey
Round 2: Pick 55
Quinn Meinerz, C, Wisconsin-Whitewater
Such as the case with running back in Round 1, I don’t think the Steelers want to leave Round 2 without addressing the Center position. Following the retirement of Maurkice Pouncey, there is a gaping hole in the middle of the offensive line. Without adding another Center, one of BJ Finney or JC Hassenauer would be opening up the season in that spot. I just don’t think either of those options are ideal. I also think the Steelers recognize that position needs addressed and will spend early draft capital to do so.
Enter Meinerz, the small school prospect who lit up the Senior Bowl and put his name on the map. He’s turned himself into a legit Top 50 prospect of this class. The Steelers got a good look at him again when offensive line coach Adriam Klemm ran drills for him at his Pro Day. Meinerz fits the mold of a Pittsburgh Steelers and fits the bill for what this team needs right now anchoring the middle of the offensive line. With Landon Dickerson’s bill of health and concern over his medicals, Meinerz could end up going much higher than this. If he is on the board though, there should be no reservations about turning the card in.
Also considered: Landon Dickerson, Dillon Radunz, Elijah Molden
Round 3: Pick 87
Spencer Brown, OT, Northern Iowa
The team needs to add a tackle at some point in this draft, the question is when will they do that. I like the value here and I think the Steelers will too. Brown is a nasty, physical, explosive tackle prospect who opted out of the 2020 season after having a phenomenal 2019 season. If not for a poor Senior Bowl, he would probably be off the board a lot sooner. Whether he plays left tackle or right tackle, the Steelers are going to need both down the line and he has some time to develop. If the season started today, Chuks Okorafor and Zach Banner would be the starting tackles. While I don’t love the idea of that, the Steelers seem ok with that being the case. Okorafor is in the last year of his deal though and Banner is coming off an ACL tear. There is much uncertainty about the short and long-term solutions at those spots. Brown gives them a nice safety blanket for this year and a high upside project moving forward.
Others considered: Hunter Long, Elerson Smith, Rober Rochell
Round 4: Pick 128
Ambry Thomas, CB, Michigan
I’m surprised I haven’t seen more smoke connecting the Steelers and Thomas. He was once considered a Top 50 prospect and just like Brown, also opted out of the 2020 season. The size and athleticism stand out right away. He would give the Steelers some flexibility as a guy who can play inside or outside, much like Cam Sutton. With the departures of Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson, the team needs some help at cornerback. Behind Joe Haden and Cam Sutton is a lot of uncertainty, even though James Pierre had his moments last year. Adding Thomas just gives them some more options and if he hits, could be a nice piece going forward.
Others considered: Caden Sterns, Daelin Hayes, Keith Taylor
Round 4: Pick 140
Cam Sample, Edge, Tulane
The Steelers have their starting edge rushers in place in TJ Watt and Alex Highsmith. However, behind them the cabinet is pretty much bare. The team brought back Cassius Marsh, but he’s very limited in what he can do and is best suited as just a special teams player. The team needs to add a legit third pass rusher to this defense, and it comes in the form of Cam Sample here. Simply put, he was the best player at a position of need left on the board. He lacks ideal size for a traditional defensive end, but he is a high upside prospect who can thrive after some time with an NFL strength and conditioning program. With his athletic build, you can almost liken him to Alex Highsmith and maybe there is some untapped potential to drop into coverage on occasion as well. For now though, he would just be asked to provide some situational pass rush and contribute on special teams. Something I think he is more than capable of doing.
Others considered: Aaron Banks, Anthony Schwartz, Shaka Toney
Round 6: Pick 216
Cornell Powell, WR, Clemson
While the Steelers had their eyes on Travis Etienne at Clemson’s Pro Day, I would assume seeing a physical specimen in the form of Cornell Powell took some of their attention away. A sparingly used player up until last season, he responded with a productive year to turn himself into an NFL prospect. He’s got great size and reliable hands. With James Washington and even JuJu Smith-Schuster only guaranteed to be back in the mix for one more season, the team will certainly look to add a wide receiver at some point. Let’s be honest, it’s the Steelers….they were going to add a wide receiver regardless.
Others considered: Robert Jones, Chris Rumph II, Kylen Granson
Round 7: Pick 245
K.J. Britt, LB, Auburn
Vince Williams being back in the mix might change how early the team thinks about adding another linebacker but they still need some depth at the position though. Marcus Allen is a tweener who only can be used in pass situations and unfortunately Ulysees Gilbert III just can’t seem to stay on the field. Even Vince Williams is only back for one more season before potentially transitioning into a coaching role (he hasn’t stated this himself, just some rumors floating out there). Britt just seems like a Steeler. He’s a hard-nosed, instinctive, intense player with a good feel for the game. His average play speed will limit him, but he can still contribute to an NFL roster.
Others considered: Darren Hall, Wyatt Hubert, Erroll Thompson
Round 7: Pick 254
Shaun Beyer, TE, Iowa
You have Eric Ebron on the roster and then pretty much nothing else. You also only have Eric Ebron on the roster for one more season. The team needs to add some tight end help at some point and I preferably would’ve liked it to come a lot sooner than this. Beyer is a little underrated here though. I don’t think he is phenomenal at anything, but he’s solid enough at everything to contribute at the next level. He won’t wow you with any one aspect of his game, but he offers enough across the board. Given the lack of options, he might be able to step up right away and become TE2 on the depth chart. I’m still somewhat expecting the Steelers to add another tight end in free agency before the season starts, but should they not Beyer could have a much larger role going into year one than you’d expect form a 7th round rookie.
Others considered: Sadarius Hutcherson, John Bates, Matt Bushman