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Steelers Might Have to Reach in First Round of NFL Draft

Brian Giuffra
Ben Roethlisberger face.
Ben Roethlisberger face. / Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
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This ain't your grandpa's Steelers, but maybe they're trying to be.

A report emerged today in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the Steelers are set to draft a running back, "likely in the first round, no later than the second." They reportedly want a "dynamic" running back who can be what Le'Veon Bell once was. This is part of an offseason spent overhauling their approach to the rushing game in an attempt to not be the worst running team in the league, as they were in 2020. Seems like a smart plan with injury-prone Ben Roethlisberger back under center in 2021.

The top two draft prospects who fit that criteria are Alabama running back Najee Harris and Clemson running back Travis Etienne. Harris is expected to be picked in the first round and is the consensus top back in the public's eye. Etienne is projected to go late in the first round or early in the second. The Steelers have the 24th overall pick and seem destined to make their stand there. No way they get those guys with their next pick at 55. Even the best second-tier guys will be gone by then.

So that leaves the Steelers with a choice at 24. Harris or Etienne or, perhaps, someone else like North Carolina RB Javonte Williams, who is also expected to be a second-round pick. Harris is the consensus top back, but what if the Steelers like Etienne or Williams or someone else better? Would they be willing to reach and bet their talent evaluators are smarter than the masses screaming Harris > Everyone?

It's a critical decision for the franchise, one they can't afford to bungle. They have glaring holes on their offensive line and defensive backfield and could use some more help in the defensive front seven too. If they pass on filling one of those needs by drafting a running back, they have to get it right.

That could require reaching in the first round. That could then require some explaining about why they reached. But if it results in the right pick, it will all be worth it.

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