The Pittsburgh Steelers may be inclined to select one of college football's biggest names with their first-round pick in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft.
ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. has the Steelers taking former Alabama star Najee Harris at No. 24 overall to address their need at the running back position in his latest two-round mock draft (subscription needed.)
Kiper acknowledged that his projection has the Steelers ignoring their biggest draft need, offensive line, but believes Harris' skill set fits perfectly in a Pittsburgh offense that's relied on its running backs to "grind down defenses" and provide a short passing option out of the backfield.
"The Steelers could go with an offensive lineman here, as center Maurkice Pouncey retired, tackle Matt Feiler left in free agency and free-agent tackle Alejandro Villanueva is still unsigned," Kiper wrote. "But I'd love to see Harris in this offense to take the pressure off quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He could grind down defenses as a runner and help in the short passing game."
Harris, who ranked as the No. 1 running back and No. 2 overall prospect for the 2017 national recruiting cycle, is projected by many to be the top running back prospect in the upcoming draft and has championship experience, having played on two College Football National Championship winning teams at Alabama.
The senior led all FBS running backs with 26 rushing touchdowns and ranked third nationally with 1,466 rushing yards, which led all SEC players.
The projection comes on the same day free agent James Conner signed a one-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals, leaving the Steelers with one less running back on their active roster.
Kiper does have Pittsburgh addressing its need at offensive line in the second-round, selecting former North Dakota State offensive lineman Dillon Radunz at No. 55 overall.
You can read his full mock draft with an ESPN+ subscription here.
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