Tim Benz, Matt Williamson’s NFL Draft Preview: Steelers Plan at QB; running they can’t ignore in Round 1

Ahead of the NFL Draft (April 29-May 1), “Breakfast With Benz” will spend this week posting daily previews related to the Steelers draft. We are dividing the needs of the franchise into five different sections.

Monday: quarterbacks and running backs

Tuesday: receivers and tight ends

Wednesday: Offensive line

Thursday: Defensive Front Seven

Friday: Secondary

Every day, former college and NFL scout Matt williamson (Steelers Radio Contributor / “Peacock and Williamson NFL Show”) joins me for an analysis and podcast on the potential talents within those position groups. We will also discuss the Steelers’ potential goals, organizational needs, and draft strategy.

We started off with a bang talking about quarterbacks and running backs.

No one would dispute the theory that the Steelers need a running back. Few would dispute that Alabama’s Najee Harris would be a good fit (3,843 career yards, 46 touchdowns).

Some might challenge the strategy of taking a running back in the first round, as conventional NFL wisdom seems to devalue the position.

The 2021 view on running backs is that their success is more a function of offense and blocking in front of them than the result of their own ability. So the belief is that you can find the capable at any point in the draft, or cheap in free agency.

Furthermore, the injury rate is such that it is often considered unwise to invest large amounts of money or withdraw capital in the position.

Williamson normally agrees with that school of thought. But based on how much the Steelers need a running back and the fact that Harris, Travis Etienne (Clemson) and Javonte Williams (North Carolina) may not last long in the second round, Williamson is not averse to going against the grain.

“As a general rule, if it’s an offensive line or a running back, nine out of 10 years, I’m going to go to the offensive line,” Williamson said. “This year, I think there are only three running backs in this draft who are franchise running backs. Obvious updates that address the problem in that position. And that position (with the Steelers) has been very bad two years in a row now. “

Williamson believes Harris is special enough to acquire with the No. 24 pick in the first round. In large part, that’s down to Harris’s abilities. in catching football outside the backfield, something he wasn’t asked to do much early in his college career. However, in his last two years with the Crimson Tide, he caught 70 passes for 729 yards and 11 touchdowns.

“He is a very good receiver and an excellent receiving prospect. I hate using the Le’Veon Bell receiver comparison. But I think it is similar. At 230 pounds, he can line up wide against a linebacker and run steep and wide receiver routes and has a large reception radius. If I’m going to use an early pick of a running back, he really has to contribute in the passing game. “

Another reason Williamson signed on to the idea of ​​selecting Harris in the first round is that he sees enough talent available at center and offensive tackle for the Steelers to address those two obvious needs in the second and third rounds if so. they want it.

I agree with that idea. The only potential problem is that the Steelers will have to prepare for the possibility of ignoring the cornerback or pass rusher until the fourth round.

As for quarterbacks, Williamson isn’t buying the talk of those who say the Steelers will be looking for Ben Roethlisberger’s successor this year. That means he hopes they will avoid the temptation to trade in the first round to land any of the five possible first-round quarterbacks (Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance or Mac Jones).

He also doesn’t expect general manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin to pursue yet another development option like Florida’s Kyle Trask, Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond or Stanford’s Davis Mills.

“I don’t know if this is the year the Steelers would talk about quarterback. I think they are preparing for a year from now, ”said Williamson. “This is the year you build a nest for the next quarterback to fall softly. Build a running game. Rebuild your offensive line. Please have some space at the top. ”

Also on our podcast, Williamson gives us his reasons why the Steelers should steer clear of Mac Jones, a second- or third-round running back if the Steelers can’t get a top three, and how many quarterbacks jump out of the top. 10 could help the Steelers’ cause.

Listen: Tim Ben and Matt Williamson discuss quarterbacks and running backs in this year’s NFL Draft and what the Steelers could do at those positions.

Tim Benz is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or by Twitter. All tweets can be republished. All emails are subject to publication unless otherwise specified.

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