Updated: Feb 5
When it comes to the NFL Draft, the one thing all Pittsburgh Steelers fans should expect is the unexpected.
This year's offseason theme has been about improving the Steelers offense, more specifically their run offense, which was undoubtedly the worst in the NFL last season. Yet, if one were to follow their various prospect meetings and visits, there has seemingly been a greater emphasis on defense.
One thing we learned after they selected safety Terrell Edmunds in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, is that this organization is capable of anything. As much as one would like to assume that their first round pick will be an offensive player, they may make a move contrary to what many believe they should have done.
With all this noted, we believe Steelers may end up taking one of the following players in the first round of the upcoming NFL Draft.
Running Back Najee Harris - Alabama
Part of their plan of rebuilding their run offense will likely start with selecting the right running back for newly appointed offensive coordinator Matt Canada. It is no secret that the Steelers very high Harris for quite some time; since January to be exact. This was further confirmed in Pro Football Network's Tony Pauline's report, which noted that the Steelers were one of three teams who are likely to take him in the first round if available. From this year's class of talented running backs, Harris has arguably the most desirable physical traits, and overall skill set which all teams are looking for.
As it stands, they have not shown any real interest in bringing back former starting running back James Conner, as they have made it a priority meeting with several running back prospects. One would have to go back 13 years, to find the last time the Steelers drafted a running back in the first round. From everything that has been revealed, they may break that streak this year.
Alternative pick: RB Travis Etienne Jr. - Clemson or RB Trey Sermon - Ohio State
Inside Linebacker Nick Bolton - Missouri
Believe it or not, the position in which the Steelers have had the most prospect meetings or visits, has the at linebacker. When it comes to Bolton, not only did inside linebackers coach Jerry Olsavsky go to his pro day to watch him work out, he was also seen meeting with his family and his agent. One would have to assume if they are willing to go that extra mile for a prospect, it likely means they are very high on their list.
With the release of veteran linebacker Vince Williams, many have speculated that the vacated starting role next to Devin Bush Jr., would automatically go to Robert Spillane, who was a revelation on defense last season. Yet, Bolton at his pro day, put together the type of numbers that would make him worthy of a first round selection:
Bench press - 24 | 40 yard - 4.59 and 4.60 | Vertical jump: 32 inches
Placing him alongside Bush Jr. could help reinforce their linebacking corps, and strengthen their defensive unit which was one of the best in the NFL last season. If Harris is unavailable by time they reach the 24th overall pick, one should not be surprised if they take Bolton at that spot.
Alternative pick: LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah - Notre Dame
Offensive Tackle Teven Jenkins - Oklahoma State
Of all the positions on the Steelers roster last season, their offensive line was arguably their weakest. This offseason has seen them lose center Maurkice Pouncey, the anchor of their offense for over a decade; and they have not yet resigned veteran tackle Alejandro Villanueva. As part of their initiative in strengthening their run offense, the Steelers staff has been seen at different college pro days, viewing and meeting various offensive line prospects. One such a player was standout offensive lineman Teven Jenkins out of Oklahoma State.
If one has ever viewed his tape, very few play with the type of tenor and physicality seen in Jenkins. This past season with the Cowboys, Jenkins earned a 93.6 Pro Football Focus run blocking grade, the third highest among FBS tackles. As deep as this year's group of tackle may be, Jenkins fits the mold of a lineman that could immediately improve their run offense.
Alternative pick: Center Landon Dickerson - Alabama