The drumbeat for the Steelers selecting a first-round running back is only getting louder. Najee Harris, Travis Etienne, Javonte Williams -- all seem like reasonable possibilities. If it happens, that player immediately merits early consideration in fantasy drafts.
Pittsburgh could just as easily select an offensive lineman; that wouldn't be overly surprising. I've also seen suggestions they'll take a linebacker, since they so often select defensive players in the first round. As in, their last seven first-round picks, not counting the year they traded away their first-rounder -- for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. No one should get too comfortable with the idea of them drafting a running back in the first round. They've done so only once in the last 30 years.
But if they do, that player has a really good chance of being an important running back in fantasy leagues right away. The Steelers have long been a team to favor a featured player at the position. Before the injury-driven mishmash of the past two seasons, Pittsburgh had a significant lead runner almost every year for a decade.
The last two seasons, with now-departed James Conner the No. 1, Pittsburgh didn't have a top-25 running back. In the previous nine years, however, the Steelers had a top-15 player seven times. Four of those were LeVeon Bell, but three were different players who stepped up in those seasons: Mendenhall (Pittsburgh's last first-round running back), Williams, Conner. Harris, Etienne or Williams might very well be the next.
|BEST STEELERS RUNNING BACKS, 2010-2020|
To be honest, I won't believe Pittsburgh uses a first-round pick on a running back until I see it happen. They badly need an offensive lineman, and their consistency picking a defensive player is also noteworthy.
But if they do go running back, that player is not only likely to be the 1.01 in a lot of rookie drafts, he should be the first rookie drafted in most re-draft leagues, as well. And in the early rounds, too.