There are not a lot of meaningful conclusions that you can reach about a player after the end of his first season, but that certainly doesn’t stop people from talking about it. You can find just about any variety of analysis that you would care to read if you just look for it, complete with bold letter grades.
I’m not going to do that. But I am going to talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2016 NFL Draft class, both collectively, in this article, as well as individually, in succeeding articles.
The Steelers entered the draft process this past year with seven draft picks, including their natural draft picks sans their fifth, which they gave up in a trade for Brandon Boykin, plus an extra seventh-round pick in exchange for Brad Wing.
In contrast to recent history, the Steelers received significant playing time on defense from three rookies, while also getting some minor contributions from some late-round picks to boot. In terms of rookie seasons, it was the most successful class in recent memory.
Player: Travis Feeney
Draft Status: 6th round (220nd overall)
It would be hard to argue against the position that the Steelers’ 2016 NFL Draft was an overwhelming success when weighed upon first-season expectations. They seemingly hit on all three of their top draft picks, with each of them entering the starting lineup. While their fourth-round pick spent the year on injured reserve, only one draft pick out of seven failed to contribute.
That draft pick would be outside linebacker Travis Feeney—or whatever position he might ultimately wind up being considered. The Steelers used their lone sixth-round draft choice on him, but with a deep roster at the position, the rookie had to settle for a spot on the practice squad.
Coming out of Washington, the young player dealt with injuries during his college days, and that followed him into training camp. He missed the team’s first preseason game as a result, but did participate in the other three, recording just one assisted tackle in each of them.
It was believed by some that he would make the roster as a special teams contributor—he put up impressive Combine numbers with a 4.5-second 40-yard dash with a 40-inch vertical, among other notable performances—but ultimately the Steelers felt they could get him onto the practice squad, where he would better serve the team.
He remained there for most of the season, but he was signed by the Saints prior to their Week 14 game. He spent the final four games on their roster, but he did not dress, so he did not record any statistics. New Orleans had him in for a pre-draft visit.
Feeney offers an intriguing athletic skill set, but at 232 pounds, it’s unclear if he can ever hope to succeed in the NFL as an edge defender. It’s always interesting to follow the careers of Steelers players who ‘got away’, so to speak. Few of their career arcs are pretty, though Kraig Urbik, Chris Scott, and Wesley Johnson have done reasonably well for themselves—all linemen.