Steelers Use Same Draft Plan Every Year, and Will Use It Again in 2021

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been drafting the same way for 20-plus years, and won't make it any different in 2021.
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PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers tend to stay pretty consistent when working in the NFL Draft. Since Kevin Colbert's arrival in 2001, there's been a philosophy, and that plan has worked well over the last 20 years. 

Even when the Steelers selected Terrell Edmunds with the 28th pick in the 2018 draft, they were sticking to their plan. Pittsburgh doesn't go into an NFL Draft looking for a certain superstar - they have positions they need to fill, and from there, they pick the best player available. 

It's how Artie Burns, T.J. Watt, Chase Claypool, JuJu Smith-Schuster and almost everyone else on this roster ended up in black and gold. Whether they were the top player left on the board or not, they were the best at their position - which is what the Steelers look at. 

This year won't be any different. The Steelers need a running back, left tackle, center and cornerback. Those positions NEED to be filled before the end of the draft whether they'll all start in 2021 or not. 

With the 24th pick, no one knows what direction the Steelers will go because Pittsburgh doesn't even know. Colbert, Art Rooney II and Mike Tomlin don't have a name in their minds and likely won't until their picks away from their selection. But what they do know is it will be a player at one of the four positions of need. 

Chances are this puts Alabama running back Najee Harris above the rest at the end of the first round. If he's still on the board at No. 24, he'll be the best player available compared to the third or fourth-best tackle left and third or fourth-best cornerback. 

It won't change their approach, though. If Harris leaves, and possibly Travis Etienne as well, things get interesting. The Steelers will be picking from the middle of groups instead of having the top player from a position on the board. Which means "best player available" is now up for debate. 

That's how shocking picks like Claypool happen. The Steelers knew the best player for their buck at the time was the gigantic wide receiver from Notre Dame. And so, they went with it, avoiding a running back until later in the draft and passing up on names like J.K. Dobbins. 

So, when you're putting together your list of Steelers prospects, don't forget their formula. Their draft board lists positions first, then players, and when the 24th pick comes around, it'll be between four position groups before they decide who the best pick is.

Noah Strackbein is a Publisher with AllSteelers. Follow Noah on Twitter @NoahStrack, and AllSteelers @si_steelers.