Pro Football Focus was notable critical of the Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 NFL Draft class, and one year later, PFF is doubling down on that criticism despite four members of the class becoming part of the Steelers’ starting lineup as rookies.
PFF regraded the entire 2021 NFL Draft on Wednesday, and one year after giving the Steelers a C for landing Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Kendrick Green, Dan Moore Jr., Buddy Johnson, Isaiahh Loudermilk, Quincy Roche, Tre Norwood and Pressley Harvin III, that hasn’t changed.
PFF gave the Steelers a C once again on Wednesday, tied for the second-worst redraft grade of any NFL team. Only the Arizona Cardinals got a C-minus. The New Orleans Saints also got a C.
“The Steelers’ 2021 draft class hasn’t had any major duds as of yet, but it also hasn’t really had any needle-movers,” PFF’s Michael Renner wrote. “Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth may have tallied impressive yardage totals in 2021, but that’s because they were both high-usage players. Harris averaged only 3.9 yards per carry, while Freiermuth managed 8.2 yards per reception.”
Harris was named to the PFWA All-Rookie Team, was selected as part of the AFC squad for the 2021 Pro Bowl and finished fourth in the league in rushing in his rookie season.
Freiermuth, Green and Moore were also regular members of the Steelers starting lineup last season, while Harvin was the club’s punter and Loudermilk and Norwood carried important rotational roles on the defense.
Only Roche, who was lost on waivers to the New York Giants, and Johnson, who spent most of the season inactive on game days, failed to contribute for the Steelers as rookies.
The dislike for the Steelers’ 2021 class stems mostly from PFF’s mindset that running backs do not make for good value picks in Round 1.
“This pick was not a surprise at all, and it also shouldn’t be shocking to hear that we at PFF wouldn’t pound the table for such a selection; any running back in Round 1 is a reach,” PFF wrote in 2021.
The Steelers seem happy with the selections of Harris and Freiermuth. The team did not add a significant backup behind Harris this offseason and let veteran tight end Eric Ebron walk after his injury forced the whole starting load on Freiermuth in the late part of the 2021 season.
The jury is still out on Green and Moore, who struggled at times in 2021. Green was replaced by J.C. Hassenauer after an injury late in the season and will have battle him and free agent signing Mason Cole to regain his starting position.
For his part, Harris hasn’t forgotten the draft-day criticism, recently telling the New York Post that he hates PFF.