Steelers Mock Draft 2021: Can Pittsburgh improve offensively?

The Steelers are an enigma of a team. They began the 2020 NFL season 11-0 and finished 12-4 with an opening-round loss to the Browns at home. It does not help that the Steelers suffered a mass exodus in free agency, losing Bud Dupree, Mike Hilton, Matt Feiler, Steven Nelson, Vance McDonald, Maurkice Pouncey, and others. However, the returns of Cam Sutton, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Tyson Alualu soften some of the turnover. Still, the Steelers must lay the foundation for their post-Ben Roethlisberger rebuild this year through the NFL Draft. Thus, in this 2021 7-Round Steelers Mock Draft, they look to inject talent and youth into their team.

Pittsburgh Steelers Post-Free Agency 7-Round Mock Draft

  • Round 1, Pick 24: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
  • Round 2, Pick 55: Quinn Meinerz, C, Wisconsin-Whitewater
  • Round 3, Pick 87: Tommy Tremble, TE, Notre Dame
  • Round 4, Pick 128: Elerson Smith, EDGE, Northern Iowa
  • Round 4, Pick 140: Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
  • Round 6, Pick 216: Tamorrion Terry, WR, Florida State
  • Round 7, Pick 245: Kayode Awosika, OT, Buffalo
  • Round 7, Pick 254: K.J. Britt, LB, Auburn

Steelers 2021 Mock Draft pick-by-pick analysis

Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

There are no better natural connections for the Steelers than Najee Harris. Let’s be honest, the Steelers and Harris are a combination that has been projected for months. To no one’s surprise, the Steelers sent the entire crew to Tuscaloosa: Mike Tomlin, Kevin Colbert, and Matt Canada were on site for Alabama’s Pro Day. Pittsburgh would not send their decision-makers for no reason. Combine that with the worst rushing attack in the NFL last season, and it is obvious the Steelers want to upgrade that in some manner.

Their running back room is nothing to write home about. The best RB currently rostered may very well be Kalen Ballage. Benny Snell has shown little to nothing up to this point, and Anthony McFarland is a complete question mark. So, Harris gives them the lead back they long for.

The Steelers want to win now, and that is a big-time rationale for this move. Harris is not only a first-round talent, but he is an all-around back that can help from Day 1. His receiving and pass protection abilities are top-notch, making him an immediate three-down contributor.

The Steelers are a team that had no threat out of the backfield in the receiving game last season. Ballage alleviates some of those concerns as a potential second option. Nonetheless, Harris turns this area into a strength. The value may not be exceptional given the franchise’s needs elsewhere, but the Steelers are clearly signaling they are going this route. Between fit, need, and apparent interest, Harris is the perfect pick in this mock draft to help power the Steelers’ 2021 playoff hopes. Art Rooney’s mandate to improve the running game is addressed early.

Quinn Meinerz, C, Wisconsin-Whitewater

Perhaps the greatest riser out of anyone throughout the draft process, Quinn Meinerz has certified himself as a top-five center at the very least. In fact, it is possible Meinerz could go as high as the second center off the board. All of that will depend on Landon Dickerson’s medicals, but Meinerz is comfortably a top-75 prospect at this point. His athleticism, fluidity, and mean streak will translate nicely to the NFL. Even at a Division-III level, it was clear that Meinerz is explosive, hard-nosed, and powerful within his frame.

The Steelers know they must replace Maurkice Pouncey after his retirement. It is arguably their most urgent draft need. With Meinerz’s elite performance at the Senior Bowl, he proved he could withstand himself against top competition and play center at a high level. While Meinerz is far from a polished prospect out of Wisconsin-Whitewater, he does possess what the Steelers covet in centers — athleticism, high football IQ, and nastiness to set the tone up front.

With those traits, and Steelers offensive line coach Adrian Klemm literally running Meinerz through drills at his pro day, Pittsburgh has a clear interest in him. He fits nicely into Matt Canada’s diverse playbook and can start the build towards a more zone-heavy scheme, having played in one throughout his college career.

Tommy Tremble, TE, Notre Dame

At this point, the Steelers can attack several different positions. As documented earlier, they have plenty of holes to fill, and it is more about value here. Tommy Tremble is the definition of great value paired with filling a need. The Steelers have not selected a tight end on Day 2 of the draft since Matt Spaeth in 2007. Since Heath Miller’s retirement, the Steelers have done a patchwork job at the position. They have no competent blocking tight ends currently on the roster, and Eric Ebron only has one year left on his contract.

This is why Tremble is the perfect selection here. On top of being an elite blocking tight end, perhaps the best in the class, Tremble has athletic upside. He feels like the epitome of being a better pro than a college player. His all-around athleticism, surprisingly savvy route running, and strong hands give him clear potential as a receiver. Tremble will be an NFL starter by Year 3 at the latest. Pittsburgh gets their needed depth and someone to carry the position into the future.

Elerson Smith, EDGE, Northern Iowa

After losing Dupree and Ola Adeniyi, the Steelers need depth at outside linebacker. With no one behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, someone will have to fill a significant amount of snaps in a rotational role. Enter Elerson Smith, who tested out of the gym at Northern Iowa’s Pro Day last month.

In particular, it is that explosiveness and flexibility that grant him the ability to be such a deadly player. Smith can pressure offensive tackles immediately, and still has a handy toolbox to attack back inside should a tackle overset for his speed rush. Combining need and the type of player the Steelers desire, Smith fits the bill in this 2021 NFL Mock Draft. His polished play with athletic upside should allow the Steelers to get quality rotational reps out of him.

Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State

The Steelers’ cornerback situation is certainly interesting. They lack a clear starter at either slot cornerback or on the boundary. Sutton’s return certainly gives them some much-needed flexibility on the back end. Thus, they can choose to wait a bit, given the outstanding depth of this cornerback class. Shaun Wade is the type of prospect that can enjoy success within the Steelers’ scheme.

While Wade fell off hard in 2020 after a poor season on the outside, there is an upside by kicking him back to the slot. Wade is physical, feisty, and fluid — great qualities for a guy that the Steelers want to have a defined role from Day 1. Whether that as a dime backer or slot cornerback, Wade can give the team quality play right away. He provides versatility to a secondary in need of some.

Tamorrion Terry, WR, Florida State

Even with the return of Smith-Schuster, this is the Steelers we are talking about here. The likelihood that they draft a wide receiver is very high. They have selected a receiver in every draft for nearly a decade. Moreover, James Washington and Smith-Schuster are both free agents after the 2021 season. Choosing a high-upside, developmental wideout is never a bad idea in this league.

Tamorrion Terry is the personification of upside as an X receiver. The Steelers churn out pass catchers like it is nobody’s business. Terry lacks polish on his routes and is woefully inconsistent at the catch point. However, he is a rare height, weight, and speed combination. If he can develop in Pittsburgh, Terry can be a dynamic piece for the offense in the future. The pick and value at this point are too good to pass up.

Kayode Awosika, OT, Buffalo

The Steelers are drafting for pure upside here, especially at a position such as tackle, where the future is somewhat bare. Taking a developmental player at this point is a solid value. In comes Kayode Awosika, who has phenomenal physical traits to be an impact player at the next level. Owning a basketball background, it is no surprise that Awosika has smooth and quick feet. On the other hand,  his overaggressiveness and inconsistent hands can be his downfall.

Awosika, with good coaching, can clean up his game and use his versatility to succeed. Of course, it all depends on his discipline and work ethic. The environment in Pittsburgh will be a stellar one for Awosika to grow and learn. At the very least, he could be a quality depth piece by his second year. Although, with his athleticism, the Steelers may find another one of their gems on the offensive line yet again.

K.J. Britt, LB, Auburn

Missing some significant linebacker depth, the Steelers will need help both on special teams and behind incumbent starters Devin Bush and Robert Spillane after the release of Vince Williams. In the room right now, there is no real ‘thumper’ type. Williams was an expert blitzer who was one of the best communicators in football. His football IQ and aggressiveness created a beautiful mix for the Steelers defense that needed his vocal presence.

K.J. Britt can replace some of that skill set. Often described as having a fiery attitude and insatiable work ethic, Britt is the type of guy the Steelers adore. He can make the roster off of special-teams ability alone. His vocal style of play at Auburn was one of his main draws. Britt is the type of linebacker the Steelers would enthusiastically welcome to the team.

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