The 2021 NFL Draft is under two week away, and CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson has unveiled his latest seven-round mock.
Wilson is projecting the Pittsburgh Steelers to select a running back in the first round, but passing on Alabama’s Najee Harris. The Steelers instead take Clemson’s Travis Etienne at No. 24-overall.
“The Steelers need to recommit to the run game and Etienne has the dynamism to make that happen,” Wilson writes.
Etienne exits Clemson as a two-time Consensus All-American, two-time ACC Player of the Year and a national champion in 2018. He rushed for 4,952 career yards and 70 touchdowns, while also tallying 102 receptions for 1,155 yards and eight more scores. Etienne is the NCAA’s all-time leader in total games with a touchdown at 46.
Still, Wilson admits that the Steelers have plenty of need to address and directions they can take in the first round.
“The team has a ton of other needs, too, including offensive line, edge rusher and cornerback,” he writes.
Pittsburgh hypothetically addressed those offensive line concerns with their next two picks.
In the second round, the Steelers were mocked to select Notre Dame offensive tackle Liam Eichenberg. Measuring in at 6-foot-5, 302 pounds, Eichenberg started 38 games for the Irish over the last three seasons. He was named a consensus All-American a season ago.
The Steelers are also in need of a center. They addressed that by taking Ohio State center Josh Myers in the third round. Myers anchored an outstanding Buckeye offensive line in 2020 that led them all the way to the National Championship game. He was named First-Team All-Big Ten a season ago.
The Steelers are known for their expertise at finding value at wide receiver later in drafts, and CBS Sports believes they will go to the well once again, selecting North Texas wideout Jaelon Darden at No. 128. Darden was a four-year contributor for Mean Green, but exploded in 2020. He caught 74 passes for 1,190 yards and 19 touchdowns. He earned First-Team All-Conference USA honors and was named a consensus All-American.
With their compensatory fourth round selection, Wilson projects the Steelers to pick Syracuse defensive back Trill Williams. A long, athletic corner, Williams would bring versatility to the Steelers’ defense having played out wide, in the slot and at safety during his Orange career. He recorded four career interceptions and three forced fumbles.
With the 216th selection, CBS Sports has Pittsburgh taking Notre Dame pass rusher Daelin Hayes. A three-year starter for the Irish, Hayes posted 97 total tackles, 20.5 tackles-for-loss, nine sacks, five fumble recoveries, four forced fumbles and an interception over his career.
Wilson next projects the Steelers to select a second wide receiver with their first seventh rounder in LSU’s Racey McMath. McMath played in a very crowded Tigers receiver room, but caught 31 passes for 480 yards and four touchdowns over the last two seasons. He also displays great size at 6-foot-3, 217 pounds.
With Pittsburgh’s last selection, Wilson has Pittsburgh drafting BYU tight end Matt Bushman. A versatile tight end that played a number of roles for the Cougars, Bushman could improve as a blocker, but displays reliable hands. He missed the entire 2020 campaign with a torn Achilles, but caught 125 passes for 1,719 yards and nine touchdowns over his previous three seasons.
The 2021 NFL Draft gets underway Thursday, April 29 in Cleveland.