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Steelers Mailbag: Will Steelers Extend Najee Harris, NFL Draft Class Grade?

The Pittsburgh Steelers draft class gets its grade and will Najee Harris get an extension even after his fifth-year option was turned down?

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Pittsburgh Steelers LB Patrick Queen RB Najee Harris
Pittsburgh Steelers RB Najee Harris & LB Patrick Queen

With the NFL Draft in the books and the Pittsburgh Steelers roster beginning to take shape, it feels like an appropriate time to get to answer some of your questions about the team moving forward. As always, a special thanks goes out to everyone who submitted questions for the article. Without further ado, here we go!

Q: Should us fans be satisfied with the Steelers draft selections? Were all of the team’s needs addressed?

A: I landed on a B+ grade for the Steelers draft haul so the optimism surrounding Omar Khan’s draft haul is warranted in my opinion. Their first two selections, Troy Fautanu and Zach Frazier, are day one starter types that could legitimately offer an immediate upgrade over what the team had there last season. My biggest gripe was that they didn’t really add an outside wide receiver, as Roman Wilson is more of a slot player. With that being said, the roster had some pretty glaring needs entering the weekend and not enough draft capital to plug all of the holes. 

Q: Do you think the steelers declined Najee’s option to extend him? I love Warren but let’s say they let Najee go. Do you think Warren easily sustains a full load?

A: As of right now, it looks like 2024 is going to be Najee Harris’ last year in Pittsburgh. If the Steelers weren’t willing to commit to a fully guaranteed $6.79M salary in 2025, it doesn’t sound realistic that they’d want to dive into long-term talks with him. As far as Warren goes, it’s worth noting that typically when usage goes up, efficiency tends to dip for obvious reasons. He’s also a restricted free agent next off-season. If I had to guess, Warren is retained for 2025, assuming he operates well in Smith’s offense and the Steelers take a running back in the middle rounds to compliment him. 

Q: Realistic floor and ceiling of this roster as things stand right now? Still think we’ll be pretty limited at QB in some extent.

A: Pittsburgh is in a tough position because the AFC North should be highly competitive once again and the conference itself is littered with big-time passers. I am on record for saying that the Steelers upgraded the room this off-season but there are still obvious questions about what the offense will look like with Wilson or Fields at quarterback. To me, the ceiling feels like a wild card playoff win and the floor is somewhere around seven wins or so. Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season so until it happens, it’s going to continue to feel impossible. However, there’s a lot of unknown about what this offense will look like as we sit here today. 

Q: What makes a guy like Diontae Johnson an outside receiver while Calvin Austin (who played outside in college) and especially Roman Wilson are slot only? Is it just that smaller guys have to prove it first?

Diontae Johnson played the X-receiver spot in college and came into the NFL with a proven ability to defeat press coverage and run the full route tree. There’s less allotted space when you’re on the line of scrimmage, thus you see more press coverage and as a smaller receiver, you have to win with quick footwork to avoid jams, a varied release package to get defenders off balance while also having the requisite play strength to fight through contact. Calvin Austin played outside at Memphis but he’s a historical outlier when it comes to both height and weight which is going to be a significant hurdle regardless of position. In Roman Wilson’s case, Michigan had a very good plan on how to use him where most of his routes came from the slot or motioning across the formation to keep him away from press. He wasn’t asked to do as much in the scheme and his transition outside will depend on his development against press and how quickly he can pick up a more diverse route tree. 

Q: Which newest addition makes the biggest impact?

A: In terms on incoming free agents, Patrick Queen’s athleticism is something the Steelers organization has been wanting for quite a while. If we’re just taking rookies into account, Zach Frazier would be my guess here. He’s already technically refined. Frazier plays with great leverage, is a finisher in the run game and is a highly intelligent player at the pivot who won’t be overwhelmed from a mental perspective. Rookie offensive lineman tend to struggles which is something to keep in mind early on next season. However, Frazier’s game should translate extremely well making him an obvious choice to start week one. 

Q: Are there any QBs in the 2025 Draft that you are high on? This class feels weak

A: The 2025 quarterback class offers less initial clarity than its predecessor which is concerning to an extent considering Pittsburgh’s potential need for a signal caller. Georgia’s Carson Beck impressed in his first season as a starter, specifically his ability to throw over the middle of the field and handle a pro-style offense. Colorado’s Shedeur Sanders arm and play style reminds me a bit of Geno Smith coming out of West Virginia but he’ll need to cut down on the sacks moving forward. Alabama’s Jalen Milton throws a beautiful deep ball but he‘s still very much a work in progress in other areas. Overall, there’s some intriguing names that I can’t wait to start scouting but I’m not sure that there’s a true franchise caliber guy in next years class.

Q: What would fair compensation look like in a DK Metcalf trade in your opinion?

A: D.K. Metcalf doesn’t turn 27-years old until December, has been consistently productive throughout his career and is firmly in the prime of his career. For those reasons, I cannot understand why he would be available even if Seattle is in a weird transition period in the moment. Metcalf is a fantastic linear athlete but has improved as a separator since entering the league and is more than just a deep threat contrary to popular belief even if his route tree isn’t the most comprehensive among star wideouts. The addition would give the Steelers two sky-scraping targets that are interchangeable in certain ways, both with big-play potential on every snap. I would guess that Seattle could get a second-round pick in return, at worst, in the event that he’s actually traded.