It wasn't just a one-pick thing with former Alabama running back Najee Harris. The Pittsburgh Steelers made improving the running game the top priority of the 2021 NFL Draft and then stuck with it through its first four picks.
Granted, taking tight end Pat Freiermuth out of Penn State made not pay immediate dividends, but coaches describe him as a versatile, throwback type, the kind of player who can do a lot of things.
More telling were the Steelers' subsequent picks, Illinois guard Kendrick Green and Texas A&M tackle Dan Moore — whom Pro Football Hall of Famer Gil Brandt believes was one of the best steals of the draft.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
The Steelers' running game was bad last season. So bad that offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner was sent packing, along with running back James Conner and three of Pittsburgh's starting five offensive linemen from the prior year.
Enter Matt Canada, LSU's offensive coordinator in 2017, who was promoted from the role of quarterbacks coach. Veteran lineman were added including tackle Joe Haeg and interior linemen B.J. Finney.
Then came the draft, and Harris, who has been described by many as being the perfect addition for the Steelers.
But he's going to be playing behind an unproven line that's going to take time to develop.
AllSteelers projects the starting five for Week 1 as:
LT: Chukwuma Okorafor (19 games started in career, 15 of which came at RT in 2020)
LG: Kevin Dotson (4 games started in career)
C: B.J. Finney (13 games started in career. None last year between CIN/SEA)
RG: David DeCastro (124 starts in career)
RT: Zach Banner (2 games started in career. Coming off torn ACL)
Aside from the anchor that's been DeCastro (who himself played less than admirable last season), Pittsburgh's remaining four offensive linemen have a combined 38 starts between them. ESPN's Mike Clay also pointed out that only two offensive linemen on the roster played 340+ snaps last season.
In addition to Moore, the Steelers are very high on using Green at center, while Banner is a fan favorite despite missing most of last season.
So yes, it's a youth movement, but the coaches are looking for an attitude change, which may be the key to the success of the group as a whole and Harris.
The Extra Point is a new regular weekday feature on BamaCentral+, that will often include video and other elements from our FanNation parters. Other recent segments include:
It wasn't just a one-pick thing with former Alabama running back Najee Harris. The Pittsburgh Steelers made improving the running game the top priority of the 2021 NFL Draft and then stuck with it through its first four picks. Subscribe for full article
Get Exclusive Access to Bama Central Content
Already a FanNation Member? Log In