The Pittsburgh Steelers under Head Coach Mike Tomlin have made it a bit of a habit of double-dipping at positions during the NFL Draft. The obvious advantage of doing so is that it improves your odds of landing a player that is actually going to make it.
Generally, the focus of these double-dips has been at three positions: wide receiver, cornerback, and linebacker. The Steelers actually happened to double down at both cornerback and outside linebacker in this current draft, and are hoping that they get a good haul out of this group.
It will be a while before we know how these young rookies will pan out in the future, but we can, at least, take a look back at how the team has fared in the past when they have used multiple draft picks on the same position in one year.
We’ll start off with a bit of controversy in Tomlin’s first season as head coach. He drafted Lawrence Timmons in the first round and then LaMarr Woodley in the second. Initially, it wasn’t entirely clear whether Timmons would ultimately play outside or inside. He ended up becoming a 10-year guy inside. Woodley played at a Pro Bowl level before soft-tissue injuries prematurely cut down his prime years, but he was a success.
In 2009, the Steelers drafted cornerbacks Keenan Lewis and Joe Burnett in the third and fifth rounds, respectively. Burnett lasted just one year, but ultimately found some success in Canada. Lewis was a slow learner, but he became their nickel in his third year and was a solid starter in year four before he left in free agency.
2010 featured another pair of double-dips, one fabulously more successful than the other. Second- and fourth-round picks were used on outside linebackers Jason Worilds and Thaddeus Gibson. Worilds eventually became an average starter before prematurely retiring, but Gibson was released in his rookie year.
The other pair, though…boy. Emmanuel Sanders in the third round and Antonio Brown in the sixth round. Both of them home runs, but the second one left the park. Of course, most of Sanders’ success came in Denver after he left the Steelers.
Two more years, two more pairs. 2011’s Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen in the third and fourth round did not pan out, though Allen had success early on before injuries piled up. Tackles Mike Adams and Kelvin Beachum were taken in the second and seventh rounds, respectively, and ended up playing up to the other’s pedigree.
Markus Wheaton and Justin Brown were the wide receivers drafted in 2013. Wheaton never lived up to his draft status for a number of reasons, not all of them in his control. Brown had a brief role early in his second season, but was released during the year.
The year the Steelers drafted Ryan Shazier in the first round at inside linebacker, they also drafted Jordan Zumwalt in the sixth. While Shazier is at this point at least a solid double, Zumwalt was a groundout. He never even got healthy.
Two years ago, the Steelers doubled down at outside linebacker and cornerback. Bud Dupree in the first round has become a starter, while Anthony Chickillo in the sixth round had a cameo starting spot and is a core special teams player. Cornerbacks Senquez Golson and Doran Grant haven’t had nearly the success. Grant, the fourth-rounder, didn’t make the roster in his second season, while Golson has yet to be healthy and will have to make the roster this year.
So what does this say about the Steelers’ double-dips this year? Really, nothing. Just that success is a crapshoot, which is nothing we didn’t already know. Whatever will come the way of outside linebackers T.J. Watt and Keion Adams—drafted in the first and seventh rounds—and cornerbacks Cameron Sutton and Brian Allen—in the third and fifth—will be a product of their own devising.