3 Possible First-Round ‘Sleepers’ for Steelers

Zaven Collins

Julio Aguilar/Getty Images Zaven Collins of the Tulsa Golden Hurricane celebrates after an interception on October 23, 2020.

At this point, pretty much every Pittsburgh Steelers fan is aware that Alabama running back Najee Harris is a likely first-round target for Kevin Colbert & Co.—perhaps the target. But there are at least two teams—the Miami Dolphins (No. 18) and New York Jets (No. 23)—that have also been strongly linked to Harris, so it’s very possible that he will be gone come pick No. 24.

In that case, here are three names that have come up as possible substitutes, however unlikely.

Linebacker Zaven Collins

At the top of the list—and the most likely among the three names mentioned here—is Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins, who has been named as first-alternate to Harris by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk and his sources.

The main team standing in the way of the Steelers getting Collins is the Arizona Cardinals, who “are expected to take Collins at No. 16, if cornerbacks Patrick Surtain II and Jaycee Horn and receiver Jaylen Waddle are gone,” writes Florio.

Collins possesses a rare combination of size (6-foot-5, 260 pounds) and coverage ability, so he would make a great complement to inside linebacker Devin Bush while also being able to slide outside and rush the passer, thereby helping with the depth problem the team currently has at outside linebacker, where the Steelers have T.J. Watt and second-year player Alex Highsmith and not much else.

Quarterback Justin Fields

A fairly remote possibility, but an interesting one nonetheless. If Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields falls all the way down to No. 24 you can expect the Steelers to select him. (For those who completely dismiss this possibility out of hand, recall that Aaron Rodgers was considered the possible No. 1 overall pick in 2005 but fell all the way to No. 24 before the Packers selected him.)

According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the organization likes Fields “as much as ANY quarterback in the draft.” So there’s that.

Tight End Pat Freiermuth

Finally, if you want the name of a true sleeper, consider Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth, another prospect highlighted by Dulac.

Never mind the fact that Freiermuth is not typically considered a first-round pick, as that didn’t stop of the Steelers from selecting strong safety Terrell Edmunds No. 28 overall in 2018.

For what it’s worth, Pro Football Focus (PFF) has Freiermuth as the 55th-best prospect available, saying, “Freiermuth was the focal point of the Nittany Lions offense this past season before going down with a shoulder injury. He racked up 310 yards in four games with 23 catches on 37 targets. At nearly 260 pounds, he is a jumbo-sized target at the position.”

Meanwhile, PFF has Collins as the No. 36 ranked prospect, saying, “Collins is one unique backer at 6-foot-5, 260 pounds. He’s not physically limited by any means at that size and earned a 93.0 coverage grade this past season for Tulsa. While he won’t be for everyone, certain schemes will covet that size.”

Last but not least, PFF ranks Fields as the No. 3 best player in this draft, behind quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and quarterback Zach Wilson.

Also Read:
Family of Fallen Hero to Announce a Steelers Draft Pick

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