24. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (12-5)
LAST SEASON: The Steelers ran off to the best start in franchise history (11-0) behind a resurgent performance from QB Ben Roethlisberger and one of the NFL’s top defenses before it all fell apart down the stretch. Pittsburgh limped to the finish, dropping five of its final six games, including a blowout loss at home to Cleveland in the opening round of the playoffs.
FREE AGENCY: Lost LB Bud Dupree, RB James Conner, LT Alejandro Villanueva, OL Matt Feiler, DB Mike Hilton, LB Avery Williamson. Released CB Steven Nelson. Also, C Maurkice Pouncey and TE Vance McDonald retired.
THEY NEED: OT, C, RB, TE, EDGE, ILB, QB.
THEY DON’T NEED: WR, OLB, CB, K.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: Alabama RB Najee Harris, Oklahoma State OT Teven Jenkins, Alabama C Landon Dickerson, Wake Forest DE Carlos Basham.
OUTLOOK: The Steelers are — at least in theory — gearing up for one last ride with the 39-year-old Roethlisberge. He restructured his contract to free up some money for wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who surprisingly returned on a one-year deal rather than leave in free agency. Even with no QB successor plan, Pittsburgh is likely going to do what it can to provide him with better protection and a better running game after the Steelers finished dead last in yards rushing in 2020. Harris would be tempting if available at No. 24, though the smart play would be landing Jenkins or Dickerson. Bud Dupree’s exit leaves a need for fresh blood in the pass rush, but the more pressing concern is making sure Roethlisberger remains upright and effective, and every decision the team makes will be predicated on that.
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