(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Longtime ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper released a two-round mock draft this morning and he has the Steelers selecting Alabama running back Najee Harris at 24th overall in the first round and North Dakota State offensive tackle Dillon Radunz at 55th overall in the second round.
Kiper having the Steelers selecting Harris in the first round comes as no surprise, as the Alabama running back has been linked to the Steelers in many mock drafts. It's also no secret that the Steelers need to fix their run game, as they've ranked 31st, 29th and 32 in rushing yards per game the last three seasons.
Harris is a complete back that has great size, strength and athleticism. He stands at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds and displays top-notch patience and power. In his four years at Alabama, Harris rushed for 3,843 yards on 638 carries (6.0 average) and 46 touchdowns. He also had 80 receptions for 781 yards (9.8 average) and 11 touchdowns.
Harris really broke out last season, rushing for 1,446 yards on 251 carries (5.8 average) and 26 touchdowns. In the air, Harris had 43 receptions for 425 yards (9.9 average) and four touchdowns. Harris was a unanimous All-American and first-team All-SEC in 2020.
Kiper says the Steelers can also go either offensive tackle or at center in the first round. Matt Feiler signed with the Chargers in free agency and Alejandro Villanueva is still unsigned in free agency, so there's some uncertainty at both tackle positions with Zach Banner projected as the starting right tackle and Chuks Okorafor slotted as the left tackle. Banner has just one career start at the right tackle position in his career and is coming off an ACL injury, and Okorafor didn't perform well last year at right tackle. Longtime center Maurkice Pouncey also retired this offseason after 11 seasons with the Steelers, so there's a big void to fill at the center position.
However, Kiper thinks Harris is just too good to pass up on and feels that he'll take the pressure off the 39-year-old Ben Roethlisberger and grind down defenses, along with helping out in the short passing game. Roethlisberger attempted 608 passes last season, which was the third-most pass attempts in the league. That simply just cannon happen again in 2021, as Roethlisberger is another year older and the Steelers need a more balanced attack. Baltimore and Washington exposed the Steelers' quick dink-and-dunk passing game last season in Weeks 12 and 13, and they were never able to adjust and teams figured them out, which resulted in the Steelers losing five of their last six games, including the embarrassing first-round playoff loss to the Browns at Heinz Field.
There's a lot of depth at the offensive tackle position in this year's draft, so the Steeles could hold off to the second round and still get a top-tier talent. Kiper has the Steelers addressing the offensive tackle position in the second round by selecting Radunz, who stands at 6-foot-6, 299 pounds.
Harris on the "Adam Schefter Podcast" said he had met Mike Tomlin in-person and had a "cool" Zoom meeting with the Steelers, who had Tomlin and Kevin Colbert present, along with the defensive coaching staff.
Radunz was a three-year starter at North Dakota State, starting 33 consecutive games at left tackle. As a junior, Radunz played 682 snaps with 63 knockdowns and zero sacks allowed in 12 regular-season games and started all 16 of the Bison's games and was named first-team All-MVFC and was a consensus first-team All-American selection. Radunz entered his redshirt senior season as a consensus preseason All-American. He started the only game of North Dakota State's fall season against Central Arkansas as the MVFC postponed its season to the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kiper says Radunz stood out on film when he was studying North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance and noticed that "he just swallowed FCS edge rushers." Kiper also says that Radunz will provide both Banner and Okorafor competition for one of the starting tackle positions.
Steelers offensive line coach Adrian Klemm worked Radunz out at his pro day.