There always seems to be a certain segment of Pittsburgh Steelers fans who believe that every one of their drafts, and draft picks, is a home run. And equally populace is the segment of the fan base who believes that the Steelers have no idea what they’re doing, and unless there are a bunch of rookies in the starting lineup, then it was a terrible draft.
I have good news or bad news, depending on which group you more closely fall in line with: according to NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks, the Steelers had the worst draft class in the league in 2015. While 12 teams received a grade below a B-, Pittsburgh was the only team to be graded out as a C-.
While noting that the Steelers’ potent offense is sure to put them in position to make yearly runs into the postseason so long as they keep their franchise quarterback upright, Brooks unsurprisingly points to the defensive side of the ball as the area that needs to hold up its end to contend for a championship again, and he puts part of the blame on a sluggish rookie class.
Brooks wrote of the Steelers’ first-round pick, an outside linebacker, “Bud Dupree looks like a keeper as a designated rusher off the edge. Dupree not only exhibits explosive first-step quickness, but he has a non-stop motor that allows him to register sacks on extra effort”. He went on to point to Dupree’s athleticism and ability to set the edge against the run that suggest to him that he is a keeper, even if he faded down the stretch.
Unsurprisingly, a big chunk of the grade focused on Senquez Golson and Doran Grant, the Steelers’ second- and fourth-round cornerbacks. The former spent the entire season on injured reserve, while the latter spent half the season on the practice squad and saw just one snap on defense.
A bit of an oddity is Brooks pointing to Anthony Chickillo, saying that he “failed to really make his mark as a rotational player”—which is a rather absurd expectation for an outside linebacker who is fifth on the depth chart on a team that already heavily rotates four of them. Not to mention he was a sixth-round pick and played well on special teams.
Of the Steelers’ offensive acquisitions, third-round wide receiver Sammie Coates and fifth-round tight end Jesse James, Brooks acknowledged that “both players flashed potential in limited action and that the Steelers hope to get more from them going forward.
Of course, Coates was fifth on the depth chart at wide receiver and James was, in essence, fourth for half of the season, having been drafted at deep positions.
Pieces such as these primarily serve to point out the absurdity, if not the futility, of assigning letter grades to rookie draft classes after one season, because in many, if not most cases, it is uninformative. Assigning a poor grade for a second-round pick getting injured is like saying “nice job, idiots, you drafted a guy who was destined to get hurt”. Fortunately, we will be beginning our own look back at the Steelers’ rookie draft class tomorrow, and I promise—no letter grades.