The Steelers want to land an impact player at No. 24 in this year’s NFL Draft. They’ve narrowed their focus to two very different prospects.
The Steelers struggled to strengthen their roster in free agency due to salary cap constraints. That makes nailing their first round draft pick vital for the team’s hopes of making a deep playoff run in 2021. Pittsburgh’s front office has identified two players they believe can help their team if they’re still on the board when they pick at No. 24.
According to Pro Football Talk, the Steelers are interested in selecting either Alabama running back Najee Harris or Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins in the first round.
It’s impossible to be certain that either prospect will stay on the board long enough for Pittsburgh to land them at No. 24, but both are projected to be taken right around the spot where the Steelers will go on the clock.
Najee Harris would fill the void left by James Conner leaving in free agency
Drafting a running back in Round 1 is frowned on by many proponents of the modern game due to the relative ease in finding a quality running back late in the draft or via undrafted free agency. The Steelers clearly believe Harris is the exception to that rule. If Harris is the pick, he would be the sixth running back the Steelers have taken in the first round and first since Rashard Mendenhall in 2008.
The Alabama product a physical rusher than fits Mike Tomlin’s desire for Pittsburgh to reestablish a sense of dominance at the line of scrimmage. But he’s more than just an old-school run between the tackles rusher. It’s actually Harris’ ability to boost the team’s passing game that separates him from his peers in this draft class. He can help Ben Roethlisberger by catching short passes out of the backfield and by being a quality pass-protector right away at the pro level.
It’s possible another team snaps Harris up before No. 24, but it would be a modest surprise to see him go off the board before Pittsburgh has an opportunity to select him.
Collins’ potential draft landing spot is similarly difficult to project. He’s a talented linebacker who has the ability to do a little bit of everything at the next level. Questions over whether he’ll ever be an elite pass-rusher have caused his draft stock to dip slightly.
He’s a target for the Cardinals at No. 16 if they can’t land the cornerback they desire at that spot, but if he gets past Arizona she should make it all the way to Pittsburgh at 24.
It’s unclear what the Steelers will do if both Harris and Collins are options for them in Round 1. That’s a choice Pittsburgh’s front office would love to make. They see both players as potential impact guys in 2021.