Kevin Colbert will go down as one of the best general managers of his generation. He kept the Pittsburgh Steelers stocked with Super Bowl caliber talent throughout his career. He did this mainly through the draft. His draft record is near legendary as general manager of this franchise. When it comes to Steelers drafts however, 2021 stands out as an awful outlier to an otherwise spotless record. It’s still early, but the results so far have been less than impressive. Let’s take a look back at each selection from 2021:
Round 1 – Najee Harris – RB (Alabama)
We can go on for days on how the Steelers took a flawed approach in fixing their broken running game. Not prioritizing improving the offensive line in this draft was a huge mistake. Pittsburgh passed on several talented lineman in hopes of getting a quick fix with Najee Harris. They foolishly, or arrogantly believed they could piece together a line with later picks. Either because of the bad line, or the missed evaluation on how good Harris was, this has been a disastrous selection. We go into deeper detail about this off-season plan here:Looking back: Steelers 2021 plan was a complete disaster
It’s gotten so bad, the comparisons to Trent Richardson are now being thrown around. Truth be told Najee Harris is a talented back who behind a good offensive line probably would be at least moderately successful. The truth of the matter is however that he is nowhere near explosive enough to warrant a first round selection. This is a bad miss that has set this franchise back. Even the staunchest supporters of Harris must admit this by now.
Round 2: Pat Freiermuth – TE (Penn St.)
On the surface, this looks like a really good pick for the Steelers. The team needed a tight end badly, and Freiermuth has been very impressive so far in his season and half with the team. Two things that are concerning here however. First off are the many concussions Freiermuth has already suffered in his brief career. This is a problem that could end up derailing a bright future. Second, is that once again the team ignored the dire need to address their offensive line. While Freiermuth is undoubtedly a talent deserving of his draft position, his play has not moved the needle at all for this team’s struggling offense. Without a competent line, his play will continue to be overshadowed by poor offensive play.
Round 3: Kendrick Green – C (Illinois)
This is where things get really bad. When asked after the draft why the Steelers selected Kendrick Green, Mike Tomlin replied “we needed a plug and play center, and that’s what we got in Kendrick Green”. Where do we even begin with this evaluation? The fact that Green was primarily a guard in college and was anything but a “plug and play” ready center? Or the fact that he is clearly not an NFL caliber player at either guard or center?
This was the Steelers brass arrogantly believing they could just “coach up” players and magically improve the line. This group was spoiled by getting incredibly lucky with players like Alejandro Villanueva, and Matt Feiler. Those two players gave this coaching staff a false sense of thinking they could develop anyone into serviceable lineman. They can’t, and they didn’t. Now Kendrick Green is not even good enough to dress on Sundays, and the line continues to struggle. This selection is right up there with the worst picks in Steelers drafts history.
Round 4: Dan Moore Jr. – OT (Texas A+M)
There were glimpses of hope from an up and down rookie season for Dan Moore Jr. That hope is dwindling now as it appears he is regressing by the game in 2022. The long term prognosis is probably a serviceable swing tackle going forward. That’s pretty much what can be expected from a fourth round pick at such a premium position. The expectations were always too high for Dan Moore Jr. because of the desperation this team had at tackle.
Round 4B: Buddy Johnson – LB (Texas A+M)
The fact that Buddy Johnson is now languishing on the Houston Texans practice squad tells you all you need to know about this pick. Not being able to survive to year two is a very rare thing for a fourth round pick in Steelers drafts. Buddy Johnson is the second complete flop for this team, and we are not even out of the fourth round.
Round 5: Isaiahh Loudermilk – DL (Wisconsin)
Hard to argue this selection wasn’t at least decent. Isaiahh Loudermilk should be a fine depth piece along the defensive line for years to come. Nothing special or flashy, but on the higher end of what you’d expect from a fifth round pick.
Round 6: Quincy Roche – EDGE (Miami)
If the Steelers hadn’t left him on waivers in hopes of getting Quincy Roche to the practice squad, maybe this pick wouldn’t have been wasted. Unfortunately they did, and the once promising edge rusher was poached by the New York Giants. To be honest, he hasn’t faired all that well in his career so far anyway. The bar for sixth round picks is pretty low, but when you never get a single snap out of the player that’s not good.
Round 7: Tre Norwood – CB (Oklahoma)
Again going with the late round/low bar theory this isn’t a bad selection at all. Norwood is still kicking around as a backup safety/slot corner with this team. There are serious limitations here, but the team has gotten some decent play out of this player.
Round 7B: Pressley Harvin III – P (Georgia Tech)
We have two rules with Steelers drafts here at Steelers Sanctuary. Don’t draft running backs in the first round, and never draft kickers or punters…..ever! So it comes as no surprise that they have broken both rules in what is turning out to be a historically bad draft for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
If you like this post don’t forget to check out the new Steelers Sanctuary Podcast. Our latest episode does a deep dive into the Steelers second half schedule. https://www.buzzsprout.com/1981237/11659856-episode-45-tomlin-at-fault-and-yinzer-dave-predicts-steelers-second-half