Steelers prioritizing early round running back to fix shoddy rushing attack

With the departure of James Conner, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be prioritizing its need a running back. 

When a team has a weak link, it’s always going to hold them back from the finished product. The Pittsburgh Steelers offense has three weak areas, but one of those could be addressed during the 2021 NFL Draft.

Pittsburgh enters April without a standout running back and multiple holes on the offensive line. Although Ben Roethlisberger in now playing on borrowed time, he’s going to be the starter come Week 1.

The best way to mask Roethlisberger’s reckless play is by solidifying the run game. That seems to be Kevin Colbert’s plan.

According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steelers are expected to use either their first or second round pick to add a running back for next season. Pittsburgh will be selecting at the No. 24 pick in Round 1 and the No. 55 pick in Round 2.

When should the Steelers address the running back position?

Pittsburgh allowed lead running back James Conner to walk in free agency. Even if he were to return on a one-year deal, that doesn’t help the Steelers woeful rushing attack. Conner recorded 721 rushing yards as the lead back in  2020. The other running backs combined for 482 yards in 16 games.

Since the departure of Le’Veon Bell in 2018, the Steelers have never been able to fix the run game. They’ve ranked 31st, 29th and 32nd in rushing yards and 31st, 20th and 28th in attempts in the past three seasons.

Alas, Pittsburgh must decide though what to do early and what to do later. Which position matters more at No. 24; offensive tackle or running back?

Should the Steelers address running back first, Alabama’s Najee Harris seems to be the ideal fit. A perfect blend of speed, size and agility as a receiving option, the former Crimson Tide standout can add a variety of skills for the Steel City offense. If Harris is off the board, Clemson’s Travis Etienne is a nice consolation.

Pittsburgh could perhaps trade out of the first-round altogether to garner more picks down the line. If that is the case, North Carolina’s Javonte Williams should be the ideal target. Should Pittsburgh stay put at No. 24 and draft a tackle, names like UNC’s Michael Carter or Memphis’ Kenneth Gainwell should be zeroed in on.

Although the Steelers lost plenty to free agency, they still can contend in the AFC North. To do so though, they must add a burly runner for the winter months to carry the offense.

It sounds like Colbert will be doing that at some point on Thursday or Friday night come draft week.

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