The Pittsburgh Steelers have not drafted a running back in the first round since 2008 when they selected Rashard Mendenhall with their 23rd pick. The Steelers very rarely draft running backs in the first round, but it seems 2021 could be a different year for their organization especially after finishing in the bottom 20 over the past 3 seasons. Art Rooney II seems to have seen enough in regards to the Steeler's running game as the Steelers have let James Conner go to another team during free agency in 2021.
Could the Steelers pull the trigger on a first-round running back? Absolutely. Especially after their horrendous running game over the years. The reason why I think they could draft a first-round running back is that all of the first-round offensive linemen could be drafted by the time the Steelers pick. That would mean if the Steelers want an offensive lineman they would be reaching for one in the first round when they could just draft one in the second round and not have to waste their first-round pick.
Generally, you should not draft a running back with your first-round pick because over time it shows they do not give you good value, but the Steelers are in 'win now mode' and since James Conner left town it would feel right if they brought in a young premier running back early on in the NFL draft. Tony Pauline recently said the Steelers are locked in on 3 players in the draft and one of them is Najee Harris. He did say the Jets and Dolphins were high on Najee, but he feels the Jets will pass on Harris and the Dolphins are starting to move away from drafting a running back.
If the Jets and Dolphins do end up passing on Najee Harris and he falls to the Steelers pick I would expect the Steelers to take him. Steelers could potentially add an inside linebacker early on to put next to Devin Bush which would not be surprising one bit either. The Steelers love to pick defensively early on in the NFL draft. If Najee Harris is picked before the Steelers draft they do have options in Travis Etienne and Javonte Williams who are premier prospects, but I believe Harris would fit best in Pittsburgh.
Tony Pauline on the Steelers and Najee Harris: “It seems that the No. 1 player they are after is Najee Harris. They need a running back. I said last year they made a mistake passing on J.K. Dobbins because now, rather than handing the ball off to J.K. Dobbins, they’re going to have to stop him running over them with the Baltimore Ravens. (Harris) is a perfect fit. He fits the Steelers’ identity. He’s a three-down back. They have a gaping need at the running back position. So I think and I have been told that he is the guy they’ve been keying on.”
Gerry Dulac from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette has also said the Steelers are looking to add a premier running back in the first round and if not in the first round no later than the second round so it would seem the Steelers are in the market for a running back early on. If Dulac and Pauline's reports are correct expect the Steelers to pull the trigger on one of the top 3 premier running backs in the 2021 NFL draft early on (Najee Harris, Javonte Williams, or Travis Etienne).