Why is Travis Etienne rarely considered for Steelers first pick?
By Austin Lloyd
Travis Etienne is quite possibly the best running back available in the upcoming NFL Draft, but you would certainly not know it.
With the 2021 NFL Draft just days away, Alabama RB Najee Harris is seemingly a lock for the Pittsburgh Steelers 24th overall pick (their sole selection in the first round). Speculations of this have garnered more and more attention as they have come from increasingly reliable sources over time. However, what about Travis Etienne?
The Clemson running back broke multiple rushing records within both the university and the conference it participates in. He has also appeared to have been in college football’s mainstream spotlight for longer than the aforementioned Harris has.
Comparing the two of them statistically would be ultimately futile to say the least, as both are indisputably outstanding talents who are practically guaranteed to alter their eventual NFL franchises’ rushing attacks for the better. But it is nonetheless worth noting that Etienne did have far superior numbers over the same four seasons that Harris participated in while being the better part of a year (about ten to eleven months) younger than him. Etienne is also very likely to still be on the board by the time the Steelers pick rolls around.
In terms of visuals, both backs are exceptionally dynamic on the gridiron. In other words, I do not commit the same act of football pseudoscience that many draft “experts” out there do by saying that one of them “feels more like a Pittsburgh running back” than the other. What dictates whether or not an RB receives such a title? Jerome Bettis was a heavyweight bruiser who just barreled through defenders. Meanwhile, Le’Veon Bell held back and chose his routes carefully, even as defenders were marching right to him. Two successful Steelers backs, but totally different in regards to playstyle. Slap either Harris or Etienne on the roster, and either one is susceptible to going absolutely ballistic on the field.
The only reason that comes to mind for me as to why Harris would be looked upon as a for sure safer selection than Etienne is due to the schools that the two of them are coming out of. Historically, and even more so recently, Alabama RBs have had exponentially better careers in the National Football League than the ones that hail from Clemson. There is an explanation, though, for how Etienne broke the records that he did: he is better than most, if not all, of the Clemson backs before him. It is not fair to judge him by the college that he had become too good for.
For those who have not heard, I absolutely despise the idea of Pittsburgh selecting any running back with their only pick in the draft’s opening round, whether it is Najee Harris, Travis Etienne, or any other. But Etienne is just as capable of leading the Steelers rushing attack as Harris is (I would even go as far as saying that Etienne is better). With that said, the Steel City’s complete and utter lack of consideration regarding him is unbelievable.