It’s mock draft Monday and CBS is cranking out a three round mock draft to get things started. Author Ryan Wilson takes the team in a fairly predictable direction, loading up the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense with three prospects to improve their woeful running game.
At #24 is one of the most popular names to mock to the Steelers – Alabama RB Najee Harris. At this point, the pick hardly needs explaining but here’s what Wilson writes:
“Big Ben is coming back for at least one more year and the Steelers need to beef up the O-line, but they also need to figure out how to reestablish the run. Najee Harris isn’t Derrick Henry, but he has similar traits with the added ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. If Pittsburgh can find a run game, its passing offense becomes much more consistent (and less predictable).”
The Steelers desire to fix their run game is the worst kept secret in football. The team’s mindset in bringing back Ben Roethlisberger is undoubtedly to surround him with a better, more balanced run game. Which means needing a drastic change in results last season. Pittsburgh had the league’s worst ranked rushing attack and even those nightmarish numbers don’t tell the whole story. After the first four games of the season, the Steelers had by far the lowest run game output. We’ve shared the stat before but it bears repeating. Here’s the rush yards and YPC numbers from Games 5-16.
Rush Yards (Games 5-16)
30. Jaguars – 1102
31. Lions – 1092
32. Steelers – 796
Rush YPC (Games 5-16)
30. Chargers – 3.8
31. Falcons – 3.7
32. Steelers – 3.2
Pittsburgh isn’t just last in those categories. They’re in a league of their own.
Harris is a complete back who can run, catch, and block. He’s potentially a Day One, three-down starter in this offense. History says he won’t be here for a long-time but he’d be there for a good time. Hopefully.
At #55 in the second round, the Steelers address their offensive line with North Dakota State OT Dillon Radunz. Wilson doesn’t have explanations for selections outside the first round but Radunz makes sense. The Steelers have plenty of unknowns along the offensive line. Alejandro Villanueva seems good as gone, he’s hardly even discussed as a pending free agent anymore, and though Zach Banner is certain to be re-signed, there’s questions here about starters and depth. Even if Banner and Chukwuma Okorafor are the 2021 starting tackles, they’ll both be free agents in 2022, assuming Banner inks a one-year deal in the coming weeks.
Radunz impressed with a solid week at the Senior Bowl despite playing just one game in 2020. He could also kick inside to guard. But if Pittsburgh is drafting him, it’s likely to play tackle.
At pick 88 in the third round, the Steelers stick with the offense by taking Notre Dame TE Tommy Tremble. Tremble was a bit-piece in the Fighting Irish’s passing game but he’s got good size and is a tenacious run blocker. Here’s how we started off our recent scouting report of him.
“It’s hard to find tight ends who can block coming out of the draft. Tommy Tremble is an exception. He’s arguably one of the better blockers in this class and that was the role he primarily occupied at Notre Dame, especially in 2019 when he was playing behind Cole Kmet.
Blocking is what teams will draft Tremble for. He’s aggressive, tenacious, and takes a lot of pride in being the guy to clear a path for his running back. Check out him clearing the way on the goal line against South Florida in 2019.”
Though tight end is one of the toughest positions to transition to, he could slide in as the team’s #2 tight end out of the gate. Depth behind Eric Ebron is virtually non-existent right now.
If you’re wondering where the QBs are going in Wilson’s mock, it’s early. All five go in the top 12 with Trey Lance being last off the board at #12 to the 49ers. The next two QBs selected were Florida’s Kyle Trask at #60 and Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond at #68.
Again, check out the complete mock draft at the link here.