PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin careworn earlier than the NFL draft that fixing the league’s worst dashing offense didn’t rely solely on bringing in an inflow of expertise.
After which Tomlin and common supervisor Kevin Colbert used the draft to just do that.
The Steelers used their first 4 picks on offensive gamers for the primary time in 45 years — operating again Najee Harris, tight finish Pat Freiermuth, heart Kendrick Inexperienced and deal with Dan Moore — every of them tasked with being a part of an answer to an issue that contributed to a late swoon that despatched the AFC North champions tumbling out of the playoffs within the opening spherical.
“I just like the gamers, I like the skills, I like what the gamers convey,” Tomlin stated Saturday night. “(However) the acquisition of gamers is only a element of it. I really feel higher right this moment about (the operating sport) than I did on Monday as a result of they’re high quality gamers.”
Pittsburgh ran for simply 1,351 yards in 2020 and averaged simply 3.6 yards per carry, each of these numbers final within the league. The operating again rotation by no means developed any type of readability or consistency and the offensive line struggled to get any type of push.
Harris a minimum of addresses the primary a part of the issue. A workhorse throughout his time at Alabama, the 23-year-old may be very a lot within the mildew of former Steeler Le’Veon Bell, who developed into the most effective dual-threat backs within the league throughout his five-season run with the Steelers.
Save for the primary half of 2018 when James Conner appeared on the cusp of being a strong alternative for Bell, the Steelers have been so-so at greatest. They tried to compensate in 2020 by relying closely on a brief passing sport that required quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to eliminate the ball shortly so gamers equivalent to JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson might work in area.
Defenses finally caught on and the Steelers ended up dropping 5 of their last six following an 11-Zero begin, averaging simply 52 yards on the bottom within the course of.
That quantity figures to rise in 2021, although Harris will want some assist in entrance of him. The Steelers consider they addressed it by grabbing Freiermuth within the second spherical, Inexperienced within the third and Moore with their first decide within the fourth.
Freiermuth is a little bit of a throwback, a good finish who’s comfy serving as a sixth offensive lineman within the operating sport in addition to lining up on the skin and taking over linebackers and safeties.
Inexperienced performed guard at Illinois, although Pittsburgh views him extra as a middle and maybe an eventual alternative for the lately retired Maurkice Pouncey. Moore started final season at left guard sliding exterior to deal with, a transfer he stated he made after only one observe. No matter the place they play, first-year offensive line coach Adrian Klemm is impressed with their physicality and toughness, notably Inexperienced’s.
“When you’ve got that canine in you, that wolf in you, you will proceed to do this in vital moments of the sport. I find it irresistible after I discover a man that I don’t need to convey that out of,” Klemm stated. “He’s simply naturally like that, he carries himself that manner, he performs with that nastiness at that place.”
Pittsburgh didn’t utterly ignore depth considerations on the NFL’s third-ranked protection, taking inside linebacker Buddy Johnson from Texas A&M within the fourth spherical, defensive finish Isaiahh Loudermilk from Wisconsin within the fifth, edge rusher Quincy Roche from Miami within the sixth and cornerback/security Tre Norwood from Oklahoma State within the seventh.
It’s unlikely any of them shall be known as on to make any type of instant affect, although it’s potential Johnson might work himself into the rotation shortly.
“We had a number of wants on protection, we acquired to them,” defensive coordinator Keith Butler stated. “We’re nonetheless in want at a pair positions right here and there. We’ll see what occurs.”
IN MASON THEY TRUST?
With 4 quarterbacks already on the roster, the Steelers didn’t take one with any of their eight picks. The staff did, nevertheless, signal major backup Mason Rudolph to a one-year extension by way of 2022, giving them a minimum of some semblance of stability on the place with Roethlisberger’s future past this season unsure and Josh Dobbs and Dwayne Haskins on one-year offers.
CAN HE KICK IT?
The Steelers used a draft decide on a punter for the primary time since 2007 once they chosen Pressley Harvin III from Georgia Tech within the seventh spherical. Harvin will face incumbent Jordan Berry throughout coaching camp. The Steelers really minimize Berry on the finish of coaching camp final yr earlier than bringing him again when Dustin Colquitt didn’t work out. Berry kicked properly final season, however apparently not properly sufficient to guarantee himself just a little job safety.
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