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: Brandon Brown-Dukes
Draft Status: undrafted
If you take a look at the Steelers’ official transactions list on their website for the year 201 and you do a page search for his name, Brandon Brown-Dukes will come up with nine different hits. From his signing in early May—not among the initial wave of undrafted free agents—to his re-signing to the practice squad at the end of December, the man Mike Tomlin called Mercyhurst was the start of the transactions page.
And most importantly, he is still with the team, as the Steelers signed him to a Reserve/Future contract upon the conclusion of their football calendar following their playoff loss. So he will get an opportunity to compete for a roster spot once again, the likelihood of him succeeding probably depending greatly upon what the team does at the position in the draft.
While Brown-Dukes made it to the final 75 players before the final wave of cut downs, he didn’t survive the final roster cuts, but he was immediately re-signed to the practice squad once he cleared waivers. He only stayed put for less than two weeks, however, before he was released for the first time.
Following the third game of the season, Pittsburgh had a couple of banged up safeties, so they released Brown-Dukes as one of two running backs on the practice squad in order to sign safety Jacob Hagen to the practice squad. The two flip places again four days later.
And then he was released again the following week. He spent nearly two months out of a job until the Steelers re-signed him around Thanksgiving. He was released again a little more than two weeks after that, and spent three weeks out of a job before finally being re-signed to the practice squad for the final time.
Brown-Dukes got extremely light work during three preseason games for the team last year. He gained seven yards on six rushing attempts late in games. He also caught two passes for 15 yards.