Underrated Prospects Steelers Must Prioritize in 2021 NFL Draft

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistApril 7, 2021

Underrated Prospects Steelers Must Prioritize in 2021 NFL Draft

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    With little cash to spend in free agency and a slew of needs on the roster, the 2021 NFL draft was always going to be important for the Pittsburgh Steelers

    As it turns out, general manager Kevin Colbert was able to hold on to a little more talent than originally anticipated. For instance, JuJu Smith-Schuster is coming back on a one-year deal, and they were able to keep from cutting Joe Haden, although Steven Nelson is now out of the picture. 

    Regardless, the draft remains crucial for the Steelers. After a disappointing end to the 2020 campaign, it's clear the Steelers are a strong but flawed team. 

    Addressing some of the team's long-term needs means they are going to have to hit on some of their picks outside of the first two rounds. Pittsburgh owns a third-rounder as well as two picks in the fourth round as well as their original picks in the sixth and seventh rounds. 

    While the first round or two get most of the attention during draft season, finding talents who can contribute on Days 2 and 3 is vital. With that in mind, here's a look at a few under-the-radar options the Steelers should consider.

Spencer Brown, OT, Northern Iowa

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    Matthew Hinton/Associated Press

    The Steelers struck gold with Alejandro Villanueva. The organization signed an unorthodox, 6'10" tackle prospect and he ended up being their solution at one of the most important offensive positions for years. 

    Villanueva may or may not be back with the team next season, but the Steelers could do worse than rolling the dice on a similar prospect in Spencer Brown. Much like Villanueva, Brown is a towering prospect at 6'9" and a rare athletic profile. Brown's relative athletic score based on his unofficial pro day times is among the best of all time.

    Brown didn't move to the offensive line until he got to Northern Iowa, so he's a bit of a project. It will likely take time for him to adjust to the NFL game, but the payoff could be high once again for the Steelers. 

    He's well worth the look if the Steelers don't grab a tackle early in the draft. 

Drake Jackson, C, Kentucky

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    Rusty Costanza/Associated Press

    It's likely the Steelers address the center position early in the draft. Maurkice Pouncey's absence will be felt. Wisconsin-Whitewater's Quinn Meinerz has emerged as a not-so-underrated small school prospect after the Senior Bowl, while Alabama's Landon Dickerson could be a good fit. 

    Should they miss out on those early round center prospects, Drake Jackson should be on their radar. Jackson is a bit undersized for the position. He's 6'2" and 290 pounds with 31.1" arms that will put him at a disadvantage against longer defensive tackles. 

    Lance Zeirlein of NFL.com describes Jackson as “a smart, three-year starter with the core strength and footwork needed to land centered strikes that carry some pop behind them."

    Jackson isn't the athletic specimen that draws all the attention in the draft process. But he is a three-year starter at a position in which the ability to identify fronts and communicate is just as important as blocking ability. 

    He's a heady player with the will to fight through his physical shortcomings, and he could develop into a nice starter.

Tommy Tremble, TE, Notre Dame

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Tommy Tremble wasn't even the most productive tight end at Notre Dame last season. His 19 catches for 218 yards don't jump off the page. 

    What does stand out about Tremble is his aggression and ability to block. He was the nation's highest-graded blocking tight end by PFF last season. For a team that needs to add punch to its run-blocking, there's space on the roster for Tremble. 

    He isn't your traditional tight end when it comes to size. He's 6'4" and 248 pounds, but Notre Dame moved him all around. He can line up from an H-Back spot, as the move tight end, in the slot or as a traditional in-line blocker. 

    Vance McDonald's retirement leaves the Steelers with just one proven tight end in Eric Ebron. Tremble could break into that rotation and two-tight end sets in McDonald's absence and gives them positional flexibility as he has the speed to line up all over the place.