We are still a long way away from the 2021 NFL Draft, but it is never too early to consider potential targets. Even NFL teams have already begun to perk their ears up towards the draft in their scouting department. Earlier this week, PFN Draft Analyst Matt Valdovinos released his early three-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft, so let’s dive into the review of how the Pittsburgh Steelers did.
Review of the Steelers haul from Valdovinos’s early 3-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft
The Steelers picked 25th in this mock draft, coming into the draft with a bevy of issues to fill. As with any mock draft this early, there is uncertainty about what the salary cap will look like in 2021. For Pittsburgh, that will dictate who they can retain and sign, and as such, their draft needs.
These overall needs that Valdovinos highlights could be looked at in a completely different way by many people. It is genuinely a tough prospect to predict just what the Steelers will do this far out.
Round 1, Pick 25: Hamsah Nasirildeen, S, Florida State
This is a pick you will either love or hate. Terrell Edmunds has been the very definition of average during his first two seasons in the NFL. His lack of ball skills and splash plays will make him replaceable, and most importantly, a football player that can come in and make those plays at a consistent clip across from Minkah Fitzpatrick would be a huge addition.
Enter in Hamsah Nasirildeen, who would transform the Steelers defense in a plethora of ways. Nasriildeen is a freaky athlete and would fit in the Steelers two-high shells and three-high exquisitely. He also has strong ball skills and is still the physical freak that Edmunds truly is on the field. In deep zones, there is zero doubt that Nasirilideen is fantastic. He showcases good hip fluidity and has the potential to line up in the slot as well.
On top of that, this selection frees up Edmunds to be that third safety and help the Steelers in sub-packages as a dime backer playing downhill. Edmunds would serve as a hybrid who would get slot work. Overall, he would be a valuable subpackage piece. The increased production from the strong safety and dime backer spots would do wonders for this defense.
The real question here is if Nasirildeen was worth it. While safety depth will be a need next year, is it a first-round need? Possibly, but talented tackles like Abraham Lucas were on the board here as well. Alejandro Villanueva may retire after 2020, leaving a hole at left tackle, which means tackle could be the way to go with this selection. Either way, Nasirildeen is an excellent fit in Pittsburgh and would make a significant impact.
Round 2, Pick 57: Journey Brown, RB, Penn State
What do you do about the Steelers running back room after 2020? It seems as though James Conner is on his way out given cap constraints and successors lining up behind him, but are those successors worthy enough?
Benny Snell was just another guy last season. However, his powerful, fiery style of play has won him lots of fans in Pittsburgh. Snell came into training camp looking slimmer and seems to have added burst and athleticism. He will still have to prove to be a capable receiver and be able to run outside the tackles. We know he runs hard and is a great power back, but outside of that, what is he?
Maybe the key to all of this is the Steelers 4th round pick from the 2020 NFL Draft, Anthony McFarland. A home run hitter, McFarland has already drawn rave reviews from the Steelers coaching staff. They like his receiving upside and believe he can be a future featured back. On the other hand, with limited opportunities this season, he may not cement himself enough.
Can Brown take this Steelers backfield up a level?
That is where a potential pick of Journey Brown comes in. Another home run hitter who has rockets on his cleats given his elite explosiveness and long speed, Brown would be a slightly uncharacteristic selection for the Steelers. His lack of consistent vision and contact balance is concerning. Most importantly, there is a significant question mark of if he can run between the tackles. He can run outside of them, but McFarland can do that and run in between the tackles.
I do not believe Brown is the guy in the second round, and the Steelers will likely steer clear of running back early next season. Brown is a good prospect, but he does not fit the Steelers’ mold. They seem to like Snell and McFarland, that much is being made clear. The Steelers could add an offensive tackle, tight end, or an inside linebacker here instead.
Round 3, Pick 89: Tyler Shelvin, IDL, LSU
Finishing out our review of the Steelers early three-round 2021 mock draft is a selection that may be a reality the Steelers have to face. The interior defensive line is a sneakily significant need next year. With Cam Heyward, Tyson Alualu, and Chris Wormley all on expiring contracts, the potential to have to sign or draft someone at that position is growing increasingly likely. It does appear as though Heyward likely will be back, but still, the nose tackle position will be a concern.
Isaiah Buggs is high up on the Steelers’ radar and should get the opportunity to prove himself to the Steelers this season as a quality player. His flashes last season were very exciting and should give Steelers fans hope for his growth.
Can Shelvin give the Steelers an immediate boost?
Tyler Shelvin, out of LSU, would fill that nose tackle role and be the immediate day one starter. He is not particularly impressive in any one area athletically, but this man has hammers for hands and brings power with them. His ability to collapse pockets and running lanes are legitimately impressive.
Seeing as he would likely be a base down nose tackle, his snaps would be limited. This leads me to be skeptical if the Steelers would spend a pick this high on a nose tackle, especially given Kevin Colbert’s recent comments diminishing the position. However, I have no complaints about this player whatsoever.