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This is called a Rookie Forecast, in which I will use labels to predict how the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers rookies will pan out. I will be including every drafted Steelers player, not just the applicable ones. This forecast is not for just rookie years, but for several years to come. Boom Candidates: Najee Harris – This one is a straightforward selection to boom. Harris, with at least decent protection, can put up a 2,000 total yard season from the get-go. Harris’ ability to be a 3-down back makes his value and projection much brighter, as he can contribute both on the ground and in the pass game at a high level. Solid Starter Candidates:
Pat Freiermuth – I truly believe Freiermuth could boost up to the ‘Boom’ category because I had him graded out as a round one player. If the Steelers can use him correctly and keep his snap count consistent, we could be looking at a top-10 tight end in the league in the coming years. Just remember, tight ends normally take 3+ years to come into their own and breakout.
Kendrick Green – Green was a super intense, but agile interior linemen in his days at Illinois. Green’s projection is surely at center, but only having a small number of snaps at the position in college may press a learning curve. I believe Green can lean into the role and take it by storm in training camp, especially with the lack of talent currently at the position. Green could be a 10+ year center for the Steelers.
Pressley Harvin III – Call it what you will, but what a slam dunk of a pick in round seven. Teams pick players in round seven that they absolutely do not want to leave to chance they choose another team as an undrafted free agent. Harvin will battle incumbent Jordan Berry for the starting punter position. With Harvin’s consistencies, power and placement, I believe he wins and becomes a solid starter for the Steelers.
Depth to Starter Candidates:
Dan Moore – Moore possesses the size and tools to really come into his own as a starting left tackle in the NFL. Whether it be year one, or two, I believe we will see Moore earn the starting spot at some point. Week one, I believe the Steelers will go with the two players who have been on the team prior: Zach Banner and Chuks Okorafor. Down the road in year one, we may see an infusion of Moore into the lineup due to poor play, or as a sixth offensive lineman.
Buddy Johnson – Johnson has the athleticism and talent to start alongside former first-round pick Devin Bush, but has a handful of guys chomping at the bit as well. I believe Johnson starts out as a special teams asset and works his way into the starting lineup, whether it be year one or later on.
Depth Only Candidates:
Quincy Roche – Going into the 2020-2021 season, many analysts projected Roche as a top-50 prospect. Due to Covid-19 and other circumstances, Roche underperformed high expectations in terms of sacks but otherwise had a productive year. Roche can be a productive, rotational outside linebacker for the Steelers, but with TJ Watt projected to get a massive contract extension and second-year Alex Highsmith coming on strong his rookie year, the path to being a starter is a complicated one. Roche most certainly has the talent and ability to be a starter, but he is being labeled as a depth-only prospect because of his path to being a starter so tough.
Tre Norwood – I was so torn on where to place Norwood because I truly don’t know where he will contribute. The calling card to draft Norwood was his ball skills and size, but he really struggled in coverage and as a tackler. If the Steelers decide to move on from Edmunds, there will be an opening at strong safety, but I do not expect Norwood to slide into that role uncontested. If Norwood does not cement himself as a special teams asset early on, I could see him sliding down into the bust category.
Isaiah Loudermilk – Trading up and essentially using two draft picks on a guy who was selected to ride the bench is just blasphemy, but that is not what’s being assessed here. Loudermilk was not in most analysts’ top-300 boards and was expected by most to go undrafted. There are flashes of some good technique and versatility, but the production and talent are his shortcomings. I do not see the Wisconsin product finishing out his rookie contract with the Steelers.