Pittsburgh Steelers NFL draft picks 2021: Analysis for every selection

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Najee Harris poised to bring his talent to the next level (1:56)

Relive the top moments from Alabama's Najee Harris as he looks to be one of the first running backs off the board in the NFL draft. (1:56)

The 2021 NFL draft was held April 29-May 1 and every Pittsburgh Steelers' draft pick is analyzed here.

After last season's virtual draft, Cleveland played host to festivities this year with a handful of potential draft picks present and socially distanced because of COVID-19.

Here's a pick-by-pick look at how each player Pittsburgh selected will fit.

Analysis of every NFL pick | Updated NFL depth charts


Round 1, No. 24 overall: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

My take: In a draft full of surprises, Harris and the Steelers was a predictable fit. Harris was Pittsburgh's target all along, the team's first first-round running back selection since Rashard Mendenhall in 2008. Many teams considered the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Harris the best tailback in the class, an every down back who absorbs contact, breaks away from defenders -- or hurdles them. The Steelers have plenty of pass-catchers, and in what could be Ben Roethlisberger's final season, he needs a reliable option to take his handoffs.

Much-needed running game help: A team that once punished defenses with the running game sunk to new lows in 2020. Pittsburgh rushed for the fewest yards (1,351) and yards per rush (3.6) in the NFL last season. The Steelers ran by design on 34% of their plays, which ranked 27th in the NFL, and then lost three starters (Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler and Maurkice Pouncey) this offseason. Former Pro Bowler David DeCastro is the only projected starter on the line with more than 20 career starts. But Harris will help the offensive line as an instant producer. The nation's top recruit out of high school, Harris produced 3,843 rushing yards and 46 rushing touchdowns in four seasons at Alabama, along with 80 catches for 781 yards and 11 receiving scores.

No LB this time: Pittsburgh made a living with first-round linebackers under coach Mike Tomlin. Five of the Steelers' last seven top picks were at the inside or outside linebacker spots, including star pass-rusher T.J. Watt and emerging star Devin Bush. And the Steelers liked several linebackers in this year's draft, including Tulsa's Zaven Collins (went 16th to Arizona), Washington's Joe Tryon (32nd to Tampa Bay) or Notre Dame's Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who's from Tomlin's hometown of Hampton, Va. But the Steelers were willing to pass on good defensive players for Harris, whom they felt would change the attitude of the running game.


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Pat Freiermuth's NFL draft profile

Check out the best highlights from Penn State TE Pat Freiermuth's college career.

Round 2, No. 55 overall: Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State

My take: The Steelers got the second-best tight end in the draft with shades of Rob Gronkowski at 6-foot-5, 251 pounds and the ability to stretch the field. With Vance McDonald retired, Pittsburgh needs a do-it-all tight end opposite Eric Ebron. Pittsburgh passed on the chance to address a struggling offensive line. Many good centers and guards were available. But the first two picks, Harris and Freiermuth, seem like quintessential Steelers with toughness and production. Hard to knock that.


Round 3, No. 87 overall: Kendrick Green, G, Illinois

My take: This is a sneaky good pick for the Steelers, who had to address the offensive line on Day 2. Green (6-foot-2, 305 pounds) is a three-year collegiate starter who can play guard or center and has good "get off," which coach Mike Tomlin loves. The Steelers spent significant time with Green in the pre-draft process, and he was one of their top interior linemen candidates. The Steelers have improved their offense the last two days with help at running back, tight end and offensive line.


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Dan Moore Jr.'s NFL draft profile

Check out the highlights from Texas A&M OT Dan Moore Jr.'s college career.

Round 4, No. 128 overall: Dan Moore, OT, Texas A&M

My take: Steelers double down on offensive linemen with back-to-back picks to address its blocking issues. Moore has ideal size at 6-foot-6 and 311 pounds, with ESPN ranking him as the 12th-best tackle in the class. He comes from a zone-blocking scheme, so he should fit what the Steelers do, assuming he's physical enough. Pittsburgh needs to address the defense, but with current starting tackles Zach Banner and Chuks Okorafor combining for 21 career starts, the Steelers need depth in the worst way.


Round 4, No. 140 overall: Buddy Johnson, LB, Texas A&M

My take: Hearing good things about Johnson's makeup as an inside 'backer who can fly around sideline to sideline and showed leadership qualities for A&M. The Steelers' needs at corner and pass rush were more pressing, but with Devin Bush recovering from a torn ACL and Vince Williams possibly in his last season at age 31, the franchise could use a young, promising option who might pair with Bush in the future. The 6-foot, 229-pound Johnson posted 85 tackles in 2020 but also got to the quarterback with four sacks.


Round 5, No. 156 overall: Isaiahh Loudermilk, DE, Wisconsin

My take: The Steelers must love this guy, because they sent a future fourth-rounder to Miami in order to get him in the fifth round. Loudermilk has a big frame at 6-foot-8 and 293 pounds and was productive at Wisconsin, earning All-Big Ten third-team honors and totaling 11.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks for his career. He can jump in the 3-4 end rotation in Pittsburgh, but there are questions about his upside as a pass-rusher. It's up to the Steelers to enhance his game.


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Quincy Roche's NFL draft profile

Check out the best highlights from Miami-FL LB Quincy Roche's college career.

Round 6, No. 216 overall: Quincy Roche, OLB, Miami

My take: Roche is a skilled pass-rusher, which is what the Steelers need behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. Roche is ranked as ESPN's No. 173 prospect, so this is good value here. He will need to make a special-teams impact.


Round 7, No. 245 overall: Tre Norwood, S, Oklahoma

My take: You can never have enough ballhawks, and Norwood was the Big 12 co-leader in interceptions with five. The Steelers need coverage help after losing Steven Nelson (released) and slot corner Mike Hilton (Bengals). Norwood has the flexibility to play multiple spots if he earns a job in camp.


Round 7, No. 254 overall: Pressley Harvin III, P, Georgia Tech

My take: The Steelers could probably use an upgrade at punter. They've tried to replace seven-year veteran Jordan Berry in the past. Getting the ACC leader in punting average (49.0) is a good start. The unanimous first-team All-American will try to boom kicks in camp on his way to a spot on the 53-man roster.