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Marc Sessler of NFL.com recently wrote an article about the biggest remaining offseason priority for each AFC team, and he believes the top priority for the Steelers is to "pray offensive line aide Adrian Klemm can pull this off."
The Steelers drafted Alabama running back Najee Harris in the first round of this year's draft, a decision that was questioned by many, especially those in the analytics community, as they don't see the value in drafting a running back in the first round given that they tend to have short shelf lives opposed to an offensive tackle who can anchor an offensive line for a decade-plus.
The Steelers would eventually address the offensive line in the draft by selecting Illinois center Kendrick Green in the third round and Texas A&M offensive tackle Dan Moore Jr. in the fourth round. However, some believe that the Steelers waited too long to address their offensive line needs, opting to select Harris in the first round and Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth in the second round.
"The hope is that well-regarded line coach Adrian Klemm can make this work," Sessler wrote. Longtime pro tackle Kelvin Beachum raved about Klemm to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, saying: 'Number 1, he's going to change the culture and the mindset of the group. Secondly, his concept of developing players will be big [and] is one of his biggest attributes. He did it at SMU. He did it at UCLA, and he did it in Pittsburgh. He can coach all kinds of different players.'"
The Steelers were the worst run-blocking offensive line in 2020 and they finished the season ranked dead last in yards per game (84.4) and yards per carry (3.6). So, yeah, the run game was a mess in 2020 and it was a combination of not having a bell-cow running back, an aging offensive line and an offensive coordinator who was too pass-happy.
The Steelers addressed the first issue by getting a top-tier running back in Harris in the draft, which is a tremendous upgrade from James Conner. And they've made adjustments and changes to the offensive line as they'll have three new starters on the line this year with Maurkice Pouncey retiring and Matt Feiler signing with the Chargers and Alejandro Villanueva signing with the Ravens. Matt Canada replaces Randy Fichtner at offensive coordinator and should implement a more creative scheme, as well. Mike Tomlin mentioned in his pre-draft press conference in April that they need to be better across the board when it comes to the running game.
"The improvements in the running game go beyond just the acquisition of additional players,” Tomlin said. “We’re capable of performing better than we have, players aside. Schematics, formations, the things that we do to give ourselves a strategic advantage need to be improved and that’s some of the things that we’re working on.”
Like Canada, Klemm was also promoted and their No. 1 priority will be to improve the running game, which has ranked 29th or worst in rushing yards per game the last three seasons. They have the running back that they've been craving for in Harris, now Klemm just needs to develop the offensive line and Canada needs to work his magic as a play-caller.