The Steelers seem to have their eyes on two first-round running backs this year. Here’s why taking one that early would not be wise.
With quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returning for the 2021 season, the Steelers are apparently going to give it one more go and hope for better results this time around. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh already lost several key contributors this offseason including Bud Dupree, Mike Hilton, and Steven Nelson, and it’s entirely possible that they will end up with a worse roster on paper this year.
Because of their need to improve the running game that ranked dead last in the league last year in an effort to win now, many Steelers fans are lobbying for them to take a running back with the 24th overall pick. However, I would strongly advise against this line of logic. While a quality back like Najee Harris or Travis Etienne could give them a quick boost, there are plenty of reasons why taking a running back in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft would not be wise:
Short shelf-life of the position
For starters, no position in the league has a shorter shelf-life than running backs. While every once in a while a back will come around that can play beyond a decade of football, how many quality years are we really getting out of that player? In order to last that long in today’s NFL, a running back needs to be incredibly special.
Even earning big second contracts is incredibly challenging for most NFL running backs, as much of the tread has already been worn off the tires. Najee Harris, for example, is a player who already had a big college workload and will be turning 28 years old by the end of his fifth-year option. Because of the shelf-life of the position, the running back the Steelers choose to draft in the first round could be past their prime before the team even gets their next established franchise quarterback. The window just doesn’t line up.