With the 24th pick, the Pittsburgh Steelers select…

Najee+Harris+is+swarmed+by+South+Carolina+during+their+game+on+September+14%2C+2019.+The+Crimson+Tide+won+47-23.

Gamecock Central, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Najee Harris is swarmed by South Carolina during their game on September 14, 2019. The Crimson Tide won 47-23.

Matt McGrath, Staff Writer

Buckle up Steelers fans. After what’s been quite an emotionally draining off-season, the black and gold finally have one thing to look forward to: the 2021 NFL Draft. Round one, of the most anticipated part of the season for some fans, debuts April 29, with the Steelers holding the 24th selection out of 32.

In recent history, the Steelers’ first-round picks have been hit or miss, with busts such as Jarvis Jones and Artie Burns, to booms with players like Devin Bush and Ryan Shazier.

The Steelers disappointed most fans after collapsing an 11-0 start into a 12-4 finish.

Things got even worse over the off-season, with offensive linemen Matt Feiler, Alejandro Villanueva, and Maurkice Pouncey going their respective ways.

The already-slacking offensive line also lost their lead running back, James Conner, to the Arizona Cardinals in free agency. However, “loss” may not be the right word. The Steelers ranked dead last in rushing yards per game, and Conner is deserving of some blame. His lackadaisical spin moves and poor anticipation of holes opening have cost him many-a-yard over his career. He’s gone now, though, and I can only imagine General Manager Kevin Colbert sleeps better at night knowing a liability is elsewhere.

Thus turning to the true question: what route do the Steelers go to completely flip their overall offensive efficiency round one: running back or offensive line?

For me, it’s pretty self-explanatory. Though it’s the riskier option, running back will install a perfect “win now” mentality. It’s not an obvious choice to go RB over OL solely because of the immediate impact, but because likely the best RB available will fall: Najee Harris.

Najee is a freak of nature, standing 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, drawing comparisons to Mr. 2,000 yards himself, Titans RB Derrick Henry. Henry is a proven RB in the league, using his massive size and strength to plow defenders en route to the pylon. Like Najee, Henry was an Alabama running back, learning under arguably the best coach in sports history, Nick Saban.

However, scouts have put one massive checkmark on the scouting report for Najee: his ability to catch. After Alabama’s WR2 went down to injury, Najee was arguably the second target, behind none other than Heisman trophy winner Devonta Smith. Najee has spent his collegiate career chucking defenders off his back like rag dolls, and hurdling some of the world’s greatest athletes while floating like a cloud.

The Steelers have a threat or two ahead of them to snatch Harris off our hands, however. Both the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets host picks before the Steelers, and require a running back. So, if Najee is gone, it’s down to a good blocker, or second-in-line Travis Etienne, the lean runner from Clemson. Though talented, he’s more worthy of another team’s second-round pick. An offensive lineman is a smart choice at that point.

However, Najee has seemed to come to a liking with Pittsburgh over the off-season, commenting that it would be “cool” to play in the 412. Though out of our management’s control, it seems like Harris would be the ideal fit to don the black and gold next year. Get excited for Thursday, because we might be drafting a future Hall of Famer.

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