The Steelers 2021 draft class is complete, so now the question is will they have an immediate impact?
With the 2021 NFL draft behind us, it’s now time to look forward to the contributions each player can provide as the Steelers make the journey through the 2021 season. Like prior draft classes, the hope and expectation are that we will get positive contributions from at least the first four draft picks.
Don’t get me wrong, we have drafted quality players in the later rounds who blossomed into starters and provided a spark when one was necessary, but as of late, that really has not been the case. The Steelers have had to rely on our top draft picks for said spark. Will that be the story of the 2021 draft class?
I guess the answer to that question depends on what you consider to be a ‘spark’. I would label a ‘spark as something that breathes life into a dormant object, e.g. the Steelers running game. There’s no doubt that we needed a RB who will be able to ‘kick start’ the running game that was frankly awful last year.
Obviously, the hope is that Najee Harris, the RB whom we drafted in the first round, can provide that ‘lift that we desperately need, but will he? Will Harris be able to put the running game on his shoulders and become the ‘RB1’ the Steelers hope he will become? Your guess is as good as mine.
We will touch on Harris and the other members of the 2021 draft class shortly, but keep in mind that no player, regardless of where he was selected, is guaranteed to do anything, let alone have an immediate impact; however, the reality for us is that the majority of the draft class needs to make their presence known, as it were.
To finish the thought about Harris, I believe he will be given every opportunity to contribute early on. Whether or not he does anything with that opportunity is anyone’s guess, but, as I stated previously, we need him to not only contribute but to excel. Nothing like a little pressure on a rookie.
The Steelers drafted nine players whom we hope will contribute to a successful 2021 campaign
Like Harris, I believe Pat Freiermuth, TE out of Penn State who was drafted in the second round, will be given every opportunity to contribute early on. By all accounts and I guess it depends on who you ask, Freiermuth was probably the second-best TE available in the 2021 draft. I don’t know if he will become the ‘TE1’, but I do think he will become a positive contributor in the run game.
In the third round, we selected Kendrick Green, C out of Illinois. Green is listed as a center, but he’ll probably see some time at guard as he played the majority of his snaps at that position. Could Green crack the starting lineup? Sure, but I don’t think that’s likely. It’s more likely he will be the primary backup at center.
In the fourth round, the Steelers drafted two players out of Texas A&M, Dan Moore Jr., OT, and Buddy Johnson, LB. I can see Moore Jr. becoming the extra OL in the ‘heavy’ run package, but I don’t see him becoming a starter at either OT position. I think Johnson can become a core special teams player and may see a handful of snaps in certain defensive packages.
We traded into the fifth round to select Isaiahh Loudermilk, DE out of Wisconsin. Not originally possessing a fifth-round pick, the fact that we traded into the fifth round to draft Loudermilk is telling. Where he fits into our defensive scheme is most likely a rotational defensive end, assuming he sees any significant action in 2021.
In the sixth round, we drafted what I would label as a ‘steal’. Quincy Roche, LB out of Miami via Temple, my alma mater. If Roche can become the rotational OLB, I think he will have a good chance to become a positive contributor, but you have to wonder why he lasted until the sixth round. In the seventh round, we selected Tre Norwood, S out of Oklahoma, and Pressley Harvin III, P out of Georgia Tech.
To answer the ‘sixty-four thousand dollar question’, which is will the 2021 Steelers draft class make an immediate impact, you may want to look at it this way: I think we drafted some players that can help us in the present, while some players may help us in the future. My only hope is that when that future comes, we will have a franchise QB who can lead us to the ‘promised land’.