The Pittsburgh Steelers ended the 2020 season labeled as a disappointment. After a terrific 11-0 start to the season and the likelihood that Ben Roethlisberger would ride off into the sunset with an AFC Championship, those dreams quickly disappeared. They went 1-4 to end the season and ended up losing to the Cleveland Browns 48-37 in the Wild Card Round.
Big Ben decided to return in the offseason as did JuJu Smith-Schuster. James Conner took off to sign with the Arizona Cardinals and the Steelers had some big holes to fill if they want to remain competitive on Big Ben’s final ride in the NFL.
All in all, their draft haul was rather decent. They filled their biggest need at running back, as Najee Harris was the obvious choice for the Steelers with their first-round selection. He’s an absolute beast that will step in and become an every-down back that the Steelers have lacked since the departure of Le’Veon Bell.
Najee Harris rushing last season
🚀 821 yards after contact (2nd)
🚀 71 missed tackles forced (2nd) pic.twitter.com/bqkx5W4ovj
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) May 3, 2021
However, they made a couple of mistakes in the 2021 NFL Draft with two specific positions on the team.
Mistake No.1: Pat Freiermuth in the Second Round
Make no mistake, Freiermuth is a terrific prospect. He was labeled by some as the second-best tight end in the class behind Kyle Pitts. However, this pick seems like a strange one for Pittsburgh.
The Steelers roster consists of Harris, JuJu, Chase Claypool, James Washington and Eric Ebron. So the need for a tight end could be argued, especially after Ebron’s production has taken a bit of a hit. However, the position being filled that early in the draft seems a bit off.
It’s no doubt Freiermuth can play and should be able to produce, although Ebron might be a Steeler for another year or two before the Penn State product can emerge as the starting tight end.
With so many other options on the board on offense and defense, the choice to settle and “reach” for Freiermuth is a head-scratcher, especially considering that Brevin Jordan stuck around a lot longer than that.
Mistake No. 2: Not Taking a Successor for Big Ben
Ben Roethlisberger decided to run it back for possibly one last time in a Steelers uniform. After a great start to the year, Pittsburgh fell flat and ended up as a disappointment.
The Steelers were linked to Kyle Trask as a potential option in the draft as they look to groom the heir-apparent to Big Ben, who has been at the helm for his entire career.
As it stands, Mason Rudolph, Josh Dobbs and newly-signed Dwayne Haskins are the options after Big Ben. Are one of them the guy to take over as the starting quarterback once Roethlisberger departs?
It seems unlikely, and the fact they didn’t take a quarterback- at least in the later rounds- is shocking. Do they really believe in Rudolph? Do they believe that Haskins can turn it around after his mediocre performances and troublesome past with Washington?
Or perhaps the Steelers are waiting on the 2022 class? Nobody knows, but their reluctance to even take a swipe at a quarterback was rather surprising and the likelihood of Rudolph being the starter in 2022 isn’t exactly a pleasing sign for Steelers Nation.