Steelers Receive League-Worst Draft Grade from Famed Analyst

Pat Freiermuth

Scott Taetsch/Getty Images Pat Freiermuth of the Penn State Nittany Lions catches a touchdown pass against the Buffalo Bulls on September 07, 2019.

On Saturday evening the Pittsburgh Steelers selected super-sized punter Pressley Harvin III with their second of two seventh-round picks, putting the wraps on their nine-man 2021 draft class. On Sunday, NFL analysts started releasing their early draft grades, including ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., who gave Pittsburgh’s draft a C+, tied with the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints for the lowest grade in the NFL.

Pittsburgh’s 2021 Draft Class

R1 (24): RB Najee Harris, Alabama
R2 (55): TE Pat Freiermuth, Penn State
R3 (87): C Kendrick Green, Illinois
R4 (128): OT Dan Moore Jr., Texas A&M
R4 (140): LB Buddy Johnson, Texas A&M
R5 (156): DI Isaiahh Loudermilk, Wisconsin
R6 (216): EDGE Quincy Roche, Miami (FL)
R7 (245): S Tre Norwood, Oklahoma
R7 (254): P Pressley Harvin III, Georgia Tech

“I just don’t see much value in Pittsburgh’s class, and the offensive linemen they did take were picked too high. I haven’t ever mentioned that the Steelers still don’t have a plan for life after Ben Roethlisberger. This class gets a grade in the C range,” offers Kiper, who also isn’t a fan of picking running backs in the first round, as the Steelers did with Alabama’s Najee Harris.

“Harris needs to be a superstar, every-down back for this to work out,” concludes Kiper.

Pro Football Focus Gives the Steelers a C Grade

Yet Kiper isn’t the only analyst expressing dissatisfaction with Pittsburgh’s draft efforts. Pro Football Focus gives the Steelers a ‘C’ grade, by far the lowest grade in the AFC North.

PFF also frowns on the selection of Harris in the first round, arguing that “any running back in Round 1 is a reach,” and are lukewarm about tight end Pat Freiermuth, admitting that he is “the clear second-best tight end in the class after Kyle Pitts, but this is a weak group of tight ends.”

There are two draft picks that PFF likes, however, including third-rounder Kendrick Green (Illinois).

“Green is one of the most physically gifted guards to come into the NFL in the last few years,” and “a very good pick for a rebuilding Steelers offensive line.”

PFF seems most enthused about sixth-round pick Quincy Roche (University of Miami), who “is arguably the best value Pittsburgh has gotten all draft,” note the authors. “Roche isn’t an elite athlete on the edge, but he is adept at reading and reacting to the tackles he goes up against, which is one of the reasons why he posted PFF pass-rushing grades above 85.0 in each of the past two seasons.”

As such Roche will get the opportunity to earn a job backing up T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith at outside linebacker.

Around the AFC North

It’s worth noting that Pittsburgh’s C grade from PFF is the second-lowest grade awarded to any NFL team. Only the Green Bay Packers and Houston Texans received lower grades, with both getting a C-. Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints also received C grades from PFF.

On the other hand, PFF awarded much higher grades to the rest of the AFC North with the Baltimore Ravens getting a B+, the Cincinnati Bengals a B, and the Cleveland Browns an A+.

PFF’s analysts positively gush about Cleveland’s efforts, saying, “The Browns are one of the NFL’s smartest teams, and they attacked one of the most valuable positions in the game” by grabbing cornerback Greg Newsome II in the first round (No. 26 overall). They also regard Cleveland’s second-round pick—linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Notre Dame), at No. 52 overall—as worthy of a Top 20 selection. They also say that the Browns committed “highway robbery” by getting Tommy Togiai, ostensibly a Day 2 talent, in the fourth round.

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