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How Big is the Gap Between Harris, Etienne and Rest of RB Class?

Jim Mora explains whether the Pittsburgh Steelers should hold off on picking a running back after the 24th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers will likely target a running back during the 2021 NFL Draft after letting most of the big-name free agent runners head somewhere else on the open market. 

Right now, many believe Alabama's Najee Harris and Clemson's Travis Etienne will be the only two running backs taken in the opening round of the NFL Draft. For the Steelers, they'll wait to see if either fall to pick No. 24, where former NFL and NCAA head coach Jim Mora believes they can add a star to their backfield. 

"I'm not going to back off my belief that if the Pittsburgh Steelers draft Najee Harris that we should all be doing backflips because it's a great pick," Mora said.

AllSteelers spoke with Mora about the difference between Harris, Etienne and the rest of the running back class in 2021, which he believes has a decent-sized gap in talent after the first round.

"It's rather significant," Mora explained. "There are only two running backs in my opinion that are first-round values, and that's Najee [Harris] and Travis [Etienne]."

The former coach highlighted Harris and Etienne's personality as high-level traits the Steelers will want to add to their locker room. 

"First of all, an amazing person," Mora said on Harris. "I know that that organization values that.

"Travis is the exact same type of character kid," he continued. "Different on the field. Travis has a little bit more breakaway speed. Travis may be a little bit better coming out of the backfield as a receiver, although we know Najee can do that."

After the two projected first-rounders, though, Mora sees distance in talent in the rest of the draft class.

"When you get away from those two guys, all of a sudden, you're finding players that absolutely have traits, have redeeming qualities, but they also have some things that you go, 'I don't know,'" Mora said. "Whether it's the size, the breakaway speed, the ability to stand and protect - Ben [Roethlisberger] needs his protection. I think you can probably drop into the third round and get some guys that you can get in the second round."

The Steelers have been named as a potential landing spot for North Carolina's Javonte Williams and other mid-round runners, but Mora believes their best bet is to use their first pick on a running back.

"I'm hoping they end up with Najee Harris. That would be a great pick."

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