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It's a common belief that running backs are a dime a dozen and has short shelf lives in the NFL. It's certainly a valid point of view as the theory has merit. However, if you can get a special running back like Najee Harris in the first round, you simply have to select him. The same really can be said for running backs Travis Etienne and Javonte Williams.
The trio of Harris, Etienne and Williams are the top three running backs in this year's draft and either one of them would look great in the black and gold and would instantly boost the Steelers ailing run game, which has ranked 31st, 29th and 32nd the past three years in rushing yards per game.
Steelers president Art Rooney II was even outspoken about the horrendous run game this past year.
“I would like to see us be a team that can be more consistent running the football," Rooney said. "I think that has to be a part of the game. It’s an important component I think in terms of being able to play at the level we want to play at in a place like Pittsburgh.
“I think everybody in the building agrees that you can’t finish 32nd in the league in running and feel you’re going to have a successful season.”
The Steelers haven't drafted a running back in the first round since selecting Rashard Mendenhall out of Illinois in 2008 at 23rd overall. Lately, Kevin Colbert has drafted mid-to-late round picks at the running back position and the results have been mediocre. The Steelers have drafted a running back in each of the last four drafts -- James Conner (third round, 2017), Jaylen Samuels (fifth round, 2018), Benny Snell Jr. (fourth round, 2019) and Anthony McFarland Jr. (fourth round, 2020).
Conner is still unsigned as a free agent and it would be surprising to see him come back to Pittsburgh. He was a decent back with the Steelers, but he just wasn't a No. 1 back and had durability issues. Samuels doesn't do anything earth-shattering and Snell has produced well at times, but he just doesn't have the speed to be a feature back. McFarland is still an unknown at this point, but his rookie season was a bit of a disappointment.
That's why I think the Steelers have to invest a first-round pick or trade up in the second round to get one of the top three running backs in this year's draft in Harris of Alabama, Etienne of Clemson and Williams of North Carolina. They can't afford to take another shot at a mid-to-late round running back. It clearly hasn't worked.