By Jeremy Hritz
Round 1, Pick 24
Najee Harris, Running Back – Alabama: 6’1, 232
Bench: N/A, 3 Cone: N/A, 40: 4.45 (estimated)
Birthdate: March 9, 1998 – 23 years old
A predictable pick at #24, but a lock should Harris be available. The most complete running back of the big three (Harris, Etienne, and Williams), Harris will contribute from day one and will instantly make the Steelers offense better. This is what is needed from their first round selection. With Roethlisberger near the end of his career, he needs a bellcow now, and Harris fits that mold. With the addition of the Alabama back, the Steelers will now have a steady and productive, although not explosive, running game that will add a dimension to the offense that was missing in 2020. Throw in his receiving ability, and the Steelers offense is now well-rounded, multifaceted, and capable of more than just the ineffectual quick passing game. I’d like to go against the grain here and make an outlandish selection, but Najee Harris is just common sense.
Round 2, Pick 88
Payton Turner, Edge – Houston: 6’5 270
Bench: 23 reps, 3 Cone: 6.98, 40: 4.82 (estimated)
Birthdate: January 7, 1999 – 22 years old
Hear me out on this. I understand there are plentiful needs on the offensive line, but I do believe another year of development for Dotson and Chuks, a healthy season for DeCastro, and the addition of Banner at tackle, makes for a much better unit than what we saw in 2020. The biggest question mark is center, but I believe you can address that position in the later rounds and plan for Finney to begin the year.
What is most important is ensuring a talented outside linebacking corps with depth, and beyond Watt and Highsmith, there is nothing. An injury to one of these players debilitates the defense as a whole, and makes an elite unit, just a good one. The Steelers need a talented 3rd edge rusher not just for depth but also for a rotation to keep their starters fresh. This is where Payton Turner enters the movie.
Turner is One. Big. Dude. Seriously.
He can dominate his opponent on the edge, and while more accustomed to playing as a defensive end, he can project to a 3-4 outside linebacker. Disruptive and explosive, Turner can make plays in the backfield, and as a raw prospect, he still has much room for development. Coming to the Steelers with two entrenched starters, he would have the luxury of time to develop and grow into the position of a Steelers’ outside linebacker. He can set the edge and stop the run, but he also possesses the ferociousness to punish NFL quarterbacks. Selecting Turner provides the security blanket needed to ensure that should one of our starters go down, we have talent in the waiting, ready to burgeon.
Round 3, Pick 87
Jamin Davis, Inside Linebacker – Kentucky: 6’3 1/2, 235
Bench: 21 reps, 3 Cone: N/A, 40: 4.48
Birthdate: December 12, 1998 – 22 years old
Same logic that applies to the edge position at the second round pick applies here in round 3 at inside linebacker. Should there be an injury (again) at the inside linebacker position and Devin Bush has to be out for a significant period of time, it will enervate the Steelers defense. Jamin Davis is highly athletic and capable of delivering the splash play, which is essential on the defensive side of the ball. While he does not have a significant amount of starts, Davis has a high-ceiling, and his potential for development is attractive. Since there would be no expectation for him to start right away, he would have the luxury to learn and grow into the position, and potentially, a year from now, he could be paired with Bush as his starting inside backer counterpart. Imagine what that athletic tandem could do.
Davis could be used in the rotation to spell the inside linebackers in year one, and if there is an injury, he would provide a more twitchy option at the position than Vince Williams and Robert Spillane.
This pick may seem to be insurance, but the success of this team will be dependent on the performance of its defense, and quality depth must be in place before the start of the season.
Will Davis be available at pick #87? Probably not. But if he is, the Steelers would be wise to select him.
Round 4, Pick 128
Tommy Tremble, Tight End – Notre Dame: 6’3, 241
Bench: 20 reps, 3 Cone: N/A, 40: 4.65
Birthdate: June 2, 2000 – 20 years old
Ever since Heath Miller retired, there has been a gigantic hole at the tight end position. While there have been some glimmers of playmaking by means of Jesse James, Vance MacDonald, and Eric Ebron, the Steelers have not had a player of consistency at the position, and that is what Tommy Tremble can provide. While primarily a blocker at Notre Dame, and a good one at that, he possesses the pass catching ability down the field that was not capitalized on in college. The blocking will upgrade what is currently in place on the team, but Tremble will also provide Roethlisberger with another target amongst a truly deep receiving corps. While his college numbers are not impressive, the potential is there, and he could rejuvenate the tight end position.
Round 4, Pick 140
Benjamin St. Juste, Cornerback – Minnesota: 6’3, 202
Bench: 11 reps, 3 Cone: 6.63, 40: 4.55
Birthdate: September 8, 1997 – 23 years old
Benjamin St. Juste reminds me of another Steelers cornerback taken in the 4th round who turned out to be pretty damned good: Ike Taylor. Long at 6’3 and quality speed, his film is reminiscent of our former #24.
The depth chart is established at the starting left and right corner spots, and in terms of the 3rd corner, James Pierre figures to be that guy, especially with the recent news regarding Justin Layne. There is a need to begin grooming a starter to take over for Joe Haden once he finishes his tenure in Pittsburgh, which is sooner rather than later, and St. Juste has the measurables and promise that could culminate into a potent skill set to benefit the defense.
Physical, willing against the run, and aggressive in contesting catches, St. Juste’s shortcomings are a result of his inexperience and undeveloped technique, which can be accomplished under the Pittsburgh coaching staff. There is also some injury concern but that is outweighed by his potential.
While St. Juste had no interceptions in college career, his best football is still ahead of him. That trait seems to be common for effective Steelers corners, just ask Taylor.
Round 6, Pick 216
Royce Newman, Tackle – Ole Miss: 6’5, 310
Bench: 23 reps, 3 Cone: 7.91, 40: 5.15
Birthdate: August 17, 1997 – 23
I’ve saved the offensive line picks for later in the draft as developmental prospects because I’m a rare subscriber to the belief that the personnel on the offensive line heading into 2021 can get the job done. Sure, there is a definite need at center, but BJ Finney can be more than adequate at the position, and I believe that makes aiming for the center position early on too rich. I also believe the running backs contributed to the poor running game as equally as the lineman, and a quality runner will be key in improving the running game.
Royce Newman out of Ole Miss is a project tackle who can provide depth right away, all while allowing for his development and potential contribution to the team as a starter. Newman provides position flexibility which the Steelers value, able to line up at both guard and right tackle. Strong and a good punch, Newman is a powerful lineman who also has the ability to make blocks at the second level. Where he struggles is when he faces an opponent with exceptional speed and/or power and consistency must be achieved in this area in order for him to grow.
Maybe Newman’s name isn’t called with the Steelers sixth round pick, but I anticipate a tackle here. If I don’t get the player right, I feel pretty good about the position, as this is a deep tackle class.
Round 7, Pick 245
William Bradley King, Edge – Baylor: 6’3, 252
Bench: N/A, 3 Cone: 7.10, 40: 4.79
Birthdate: December 22, 1997 – 23 years old
The Steelers continue to build depth at the outside linebacker position with the selection of William Bradley King, a player who is steady and has solid get-off to anticipate a play. Has an ability to get after quarterbacks but needs to develop his strength and power to be productive at the NFL level. He will not be expected to start and will be a growth project whom the Steelers would use situationally as a pass rusher. Drafting Bradley King replenishes the OLB room and gives them a full stock of bodies to create a pass rush plan in 2021.
|Tackles||Sacks||Forced Fumbles||Passes Defensed|
Round 7, Pick 254
Michael Menet, Center – Penn State: 6’4, 301
Bench: 26 reps, 3 Cone: N/A, 40: 5.15 (estimated)
Birthdate: August 8, 1997 – 23 years old
Better late than never.
With their final pick, the Steelers select Michael Menet, center out of Penn State. Earlier this today, Kevin Colbert called this year’s center class deep, and Menet is a part of that depth in the 7th round. With 34 starts to his name at PSU, Menet is seasoned collegiately, and what he lacks in athleticism, he makes up for in technique and intangibles. With Menet more than likely slated to begin the season as the starter, he will have time to compete and show that he can develop into a starting role.