Steelers go running back in the first round of latest NFL mock draft

Najee Harris #22 of the Alabama Crimson Tide. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Najee Harris #22 of the Alabama Crimson Tide. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The Steelers have an obvious need for a quality running back. Here’s why CBS Sports has them taking one early in their latest NFL mock draft.

After a promising start on the ground this year that included 5 straight games of over 100 yards rushing, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been abysmal at running the football ever since. Over their last 10 games, they have just one 100-yard performance on the ground as a team, and they have failed to reach 50 total rushing yards 6 times over this span. In fact, the Steelers rank dead-last in the league in rushing with just 84.3 yards per game, according to Team Rankings.

There are clearly a lot of factors that go into play with the running game, and it’s hardly just the fault of the running backs. However, I’d be lying if I said they weren’t a big part of the problem.

The Steelers have invested less at the running back position than any team in the league (in terms of both draft capital and contracts). While I don’t mind skimping a bit in this area, they are feeling the effects of the lack of talent in the backfield.

Recently, CBS Sports analyst Ryan Wilson revealed his latest 2021 NFL mock draft. He had Pittsburgh taking Alabama running back Najee Harris with the 30th overall pick in the draft. Harris is a bruising runner at 6’2” and 230 pounds but is remarkably well-rounded and one of the few backs in this class who projects as a feature runner at the next level. In 11 games this year, Harris has compiled 1,269 yards on the ground to go with 316 receiving yards and 27 total touchdowns. What’s most impressive is his 6.1 career yards per carry and 9.7 yards per reception.

This pick would go against the trend for Steelers

While Harris would undoubtedly be a nice fit in Pittsburgh with his well-balanced skillset, durability, and size, there are plenty of reasons to believe that this pick will never come to fruition – regardless of where the Steelers are drafting in the first round.

For starters, Pittsburgh historically hasn’t drafted Alabama players in round one (though perhaps trading for Minkah Fitzpatrick counts for something). The Steelers front office typically doesn’t venture far outside their comfort zone and the last Alabama player they drafted in the first round was fullback Butch Avinger all the way back in 1951, according to Pro Football Reference.

In addition, running back has not something that has historically been on their radar in the first round. Rashard Mendenhall was the last first-round running back drafted by the Steelers back in 2008. Prior to that, Pittsburgh hasn’t drafted a running back in the first round since 1989 (Tim Worly).

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The Steelers do need help at running back; there’s no doubt about this. However, we can certainly make a case for why running backs have been devalued in today’s NFL, and there are many more things Pittsburgh needs to fix on their offense as well. I’d be surprised if they went that route this year.