This year's NFL Draft will mark the first time since 1966, that the Pittsburgh Steelers, will be without a pick in the first round. Last September, the Steelers traded their first round pick for former Miami Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, an investment which proved to pay dividends, as he bloomed into an All-pro player, and was a major factor in the success of their defensive unit in 2019. The major area of concern for the Steelers last season, was the regression of their offensive unit. Though the absence of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was a major factor in their offensive woes last season, age and injuries also surfaced as contributing factors. With this noted, the expectations within the Steelers fanbase as it pertains to this year's draft, is one that is focused on adding youth and skill to an offensive unit in dire need of renovations. So the question on everyone's mind is who will the Steelers select with the 49th overall pick? Well, here are some potential names to keep in mind when their moment arrives.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts - Oklahoma
That last two seasons of Hurts collegiate career, was the type of stuff that you see in a Hollywood film. Once the starting quarterback for the Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide, Hurts watched as the spotlight was taken away from him by prospective first round pick, Tua Tagovailoa. After spending an entire season as a backup, Hurts made the difficult but necessary decision to transfer to the University of Oklahoma in January 2019. As the starting quarterback for Lincoln Riley's Sooners, Hurts not only met expectations, he exceeded them in a big way, accumulating 5,149 total combined yards and 52 total touchdowns; and being selected as a finalist for the 2019 Heisman Trophy. If we learned anything from watching a Roethlisberger-less offense last season, is that his heir apparent is not on their current roster. Award-winning college quarterback Mason Rudolph struggled for the most part in the starting role, and backup Devlin Hodges limitations were exposed throughout the course of the season. Considering the youth movement of quarterbacks in the AFC East with Lamar Jackson on the Baltimore Ravens and LSU's Joe Burrow likely going first overall to the Cinncinnati Bengals, all signs point to the Steelers trending in that direction.
Running back Cam Akers - Florida State
For current starting running back James Conner, his greatest obstacle since day one has been overcoming injuries. Since being drafted in 2017, Conner has yet to play a full season healthy. Last season, he was sidelined with a shoulder injury sustained during their week 8 victory over the Dolphins. After returning in week 11 against the Cleveland Browns, he
re-aggravated his shoulder injury again. His lack of availability has been noted by many in the Steelers brass, which one of the reasons why they have conducted meetings with various running backs.
At this year's NFL Combine, the Steelers met with Seminoles standout Cam Akers, who had an impressive showing, posting a sub 4.5 time in the 40-yard event, and putting up an impressive 20 repetitions in the bench press event. What is notable about the Steelers running backs currently on the roster, is the absence of speed which many of the elite backs in the NFL possess. In addition to possessing high-level speed, Akers brings the type of toughness that is synonymous with the Steelers brand of football. Despite drafting Kentucky legend Benny Snell Jr. in last year's NFL Draft, it is clear they need a true, healthy no.1 back to help with their ailing ground offence. One should not be surprised if they select Akers to be that guy.
Center Lloyd Cushenberry III - LSU
When we often think of the historic National Championship run of the 2019 LSU Tigers, we think of the transcendent play of quarterback Joe Burrow. If one were to look closely at this historic squad, their true strength the play of their offensive line, anchored by All-SEC center, Llyod Cushenberry III. Last season, Cushenberry and his linemates earned the Joe Moore Award for the most outstanding offensive line in college football and rightfully so. Cushenberry himself is considered one of the best offensive linemen in their program's history, as he earned second team All-America honors, while playing in 39 career games, with 29 consecutive starts at center. Simply put, Cushenberry is in a class on his own at his position. With All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey entering his 11th season, his heir apparent will soon be necessary, as he enters the last two seasons of his contract. With little depth at the center position following the departure of BJ Finney to the Seattle Seahawks , Cushenberry could be the first name they pick off the board.