The 2021 NFL Draft is just about two weeks away. After last year’s draft was conducted virtually due to the COVID pandemic, the NFL got partially back to the in-person circuit this season. While the Combine was cancelled, an increased importance was placed on Pro Day workouts. The Steelers brass was able to get out and hit the Pro Day circuit again this year, with scouts and coaches traversing the country. The Steelers will once again be picking in the mid-20s in the first round.
Check out our Prospect Profiles on some specific prospects in the 2021 Draft class. Our positional Draft Preview series continues today, moving over the defensive side of the ball with a look at the D-line. Check out the previous previews:
- Quarterback Draft Preview
- Running Back Draft Preview
- Wide Receiver Draft Preview
- Tight End Draft Preview
- Offensive Line Preview
Returning Players: Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, Isaiah Buggs, Carlos Davis, Chris Wormley, Henry Mondeaux, Demarcus Christmas, Calvin Taylor
New Arrivals: none
The Departed: none
Draft Need: Minimal (Depth)
With the re-signing of Tyson Alualu, the Steelers were able to bring back their entire depth chart along the defensive line. Heyward and Tuitt will get the vast majority of the playing time. Alualu can anchor as the nose in the 3-4 and rotating in with Heyward and Tuitt in sub-packages. In addition to the starters, all of the reserves are also back, including Chris Wormley who the Steelers traded a 5th round pick to get from the Ravens. Practice squad members Demarcus Christmas and Calvin Taylor also return, giving the Steelers a minimal need to add to the position in the draft. Additionally, other than the guys on the back end of the roster, all of the defensive linemen are signed beyond 2021.
Likelihood of Drafting: Minimal
The Steelers are fortunate in the fact that in a year where they don’t need to add to the defensive line, it is also one of the thinnest defensive line classes in recent memory. The combination of the Steelers having a fully stocked depth chart combined with the weak defensive line class makes it highly unlikely the Steelers will draft a defensive lineman. If the Steelers do invest a pick, it would likely be on a true nose tackle late in the draft. While Alualu’s return gives the Steelers the starter they need for 2021, a future starter at the nose will be necessary at some point.
Alabama’s Christian Barmore is likely the only defensive lineman that will be taken in the first round of the draft. Given the limited depth at the position in the draft, players who would typically be Day 3 guys like Louisiana Tech’s Milton Williams, could go as early as Day 2. Karl Dunbar went on Pro Day trips to Florida State and Louisiana Tech. Florida State’s Marvin Wilson, along with UCLA’s Osa Odighizuwa who had a zoom meeting with the Steelers, both project as Day 3 picks. Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin when to Pro Days at Georgia and Ohio State where Malik Herring and Tommy Togiai worked out. Michigan State’s Naquan Jones could also be a name to watch as a late Day 3 pick.