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Louis Riddick of ESPN was recently on a panel with Mel Kiper, Todd McShay and Matt Miller discussing the Steelers' 2021 draft class, and he made some interesting comments in regards to the offensive line. It's no secret that the Steelers offensive line was horrendous last year and Riddick just so happened to witness the atrocity live.
"Having seen them up close and personal last year, this offensive line was just not good," Riddick said. "They couldn't run the football not necessarily because they didn't have any running backs, they couldn't run the football because they couldn't capture the line of scrimmage. They just simply could not. When I saw them on Monday night against the Cincinnati Bengals, I saw Carl Lawson just absolutely take Alejandro Villanueva and just take him to school. Turned him into like a theme park turnstile, that's how bad it looked out there."
The Steelers drafted center/guard Kendrick Green out of Illinois in the third round and offensive tackle Dan Moore Jr. out of Texas A&M in the fourth round, but Riddick questions if the Steelers did enough to improve their offensive line.
"I'll tell you this, Kendrick Green, who they drafted in the third round. I know they're going to probably plug him in at center and have him play there, and they need someone to take the place of Maurkice Pouncey, who was one of the very best in the league for a long time. I think he'll be serviceable, but I just don't see the improvement upfront, which is where Pittsburgh has always made its name and where Ben needs them to make their name now because he can't carry this football team on his shoulder anymore," Riddick said. "And he definitely cannot escape the pass rush like he used to, so if they are not more secure on the edges, this team is going to be in trouble. The defense can't win it all for them. So, I'm just wondering if this offensive line is going to be able to develop and make them more two-dimensional."
Chuks Okorafor is expected to start at left tackle and Zach Banner is projected to be the starter at right tackle in 2021 for the Steelers. Okorafor wasn't very impressive as a starter at right tackle last season and Banner is an unknown at this point, as he suffered a season-ending ACL tear in Week 1 against the Giants last year and has just one career start under his belt at the tackle position. With the Steelers not selecting a plug-and-play offensive tackle in the draft, I can see why Riddick is wary of the tackle position for the Steelers. There's just a lot of uncertainty regarding both Okorafor and Banner as starters.
Riddick loves the Steelers selection of Alabama running back Najee Harris in the first round and believes it's essential that they get the running game going to help out 39-year-old quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
"I'll tell you this, they better be able to run the football. They better be able to pass protect because Ben Roethlisberger is not getting any younger. I love Najee Harris. I love him," Riddick said.
While Riddick is high on the pick of Harris, he isn't sold on the Steelers' second-round selection of Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth.
"I don't think Pat Freiermuth all of sudden is the answer," Riddick said. "I didn't see a guy who was really going to be someone who was a game-changer in the run game, and definitely not in the pass game."