Joe Kuzma’s 2021 3-Round Steelers Mock Draft 2.0: defense with the first pick?

For those who have been following my Steelers mock drafts over the last couple of weeks, I’m beating my brain over what to do at the top half of the NFL Draft.

The first pick presents some challenges. If I skip taking a tackle or a running back, then I feel the Steelers will fill that need but much later in the draft.

So what might make me pass on drafting for the offensive side of the ball with the Steelers top pick?

Originally I had considered linebacker to be a target, but that’s now off of the board with the re-signing of Vince Williams along with the return of Robert Spillane (restricted free agent) and Devin Bush (injury). A linebacker pick would be a luxury, as that player would likely sit behind the three mentioned while the team has other needs.

I don’t see defensive line as an issue either with starters Cameron Hewyard, Stephon Tuitt, and Tyson Alualu all returning.

The two starting safety spots are locked up, but cornerback could be a mystery. Cameron Sutton was signed this offseason, which then made Steven Nelson expendable for some reason. Sutton can play on the outside or the inside, replacing Mike Hilton who also left during free agency.

Joe Haden turns 32 this month as well… leading to my top overall pick…

Note: please refer to my 7-round 1.0 draft and my 3-round mock 1.0 so you can read my rationale in each strategy and compare the differences.

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First Round (24): Asante Samuel Jr. – CB (Florida State)

As noted, the Steelers could use a cornerback. They’ve often swung and missed on the position in the draft, but this year they’re only looking at the top names and that’s it.

At pick 24 there’s a chance Asante Samuel or Greg Newsome II are both available – there’s a chance that they won’t be as well.

Make no mistake, however, that neither will last to pick 55. So, if the Steelers want depth and/or the future of this position in this draft, it must be their first-round pick or else.

For me, that pick is Samuel, continuing a Steelers trend of selecting based on bloodlines with generational players and family genes.

Also considered: RB Greg Newsome II (Northwestern)

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Second Round (55): Creed Humphrey – C (Oklahoma),

Having taken a cornerback and getting a sense that the tackle position is incredibly deep in this year’s draft, I must get my running back or center with this pick.

The ever-present danger is that Najee Harris and/or Travis Etienne, the draft’s top two running back prospects, will be off of the board by pick 55.

If I were the Steelers and I risked either being available in the second round, and I lose that gamble, then I have to go with an offensive lineman.

Any of the top three centers should be available at this point, if not two of the three. I still believe Creed Humphrey will be the Steelers target and I land him here comfortably at pick 55.

Also considered: C Landon Dickerson (Alabama), C Quinn Meinerz (Wisconsin-Whitewater)

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Third Round (87): Trey Sermon – RB (Ohio State)

Five running backs were selected by pick 55 in the 2020 NFL Draft, but I can’t see the top five being all gone by the time the Steelers are on the clock again in the third round.

At this point in the draft Harris, Etienee, and UNC’s Javonte Williams should all be off of the board, leaving the next two of the top five backs: Ohio State’s Trey Sermon and Memphis’ Kenneth Gainwell.

Each is an intriguing prospect that should be a good fit – maybe not an upgrade immediately, but starter quality.

Gainwell is the smaller of the two and the Steelers love their Buckeyes, so give me Sermon as Pittsburgh figures out what else they still have with Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland too.

Also considered: RB Kenneth Gainwell (Memphis)

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