In hindsight, the 2015 NFL Draft class, or at least the top end of it, is not looking too spectacular at this point for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Following yesterday’s roster moves, the team has now parted with their draft picks from the second, third, and fourth rounds of that year; their seventh-round draft pick, safety Gerod Holliman, never made the team.
The last man standing at the top is first-round outside linebacker Bud Dupree, whom the Steelers are hoping is in for a big, big season this year. His second year was hampered by a sports hernia that kept him on injured reserve for the majority of the regular season, but he was able to record four and a half sacks in the final four games of the regular season.
It is largely up to him to salvage the draft class, because all of the other premium selections are now gone. Second-round cornerback Senquez Golson was released outright yesterday, while third-round wide receiver Sammie Coates (and a 2019 seventh-round draft pick) was flipped for their original 2018 sixth-round draft pick they gave up to the Browns a year ago. Fourth-round cornerback Doran Grant only spent a portion of his rookie season on the 53-man roster.
It should be noted, however, that the class still has its representatives. While fifth-round tight end Jesse James has now been rightfully demoted from the starting lineup, he does figure in all likelihood to serve as the number two tight end. He does not do any one thing particularly well, but he is serviceable.
A pair of sixth-round picks also remain. Defensive lineman L.T. Walton has moved up to second-team nose tackle while continuing to play defensive end and should get a regular game-day helmet this year. Outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo has looked good and could see some rotational work this year, while being a core special-teams contributor.
It hasn’t all simply been a talent issue with the top half of this draft class, of course. When it comes to Golson, he was in line last season to be the Steelers’ starting slot cornerback, but the theme of his career has been injuries, and he suffered a foot injury that sidelined him the whole year. A hamstring injury kept him out of all of the preseason this year, and the team had too much depth to keep him around after never playing even an exhibition game in three years.
Coates, too, obviously had major injury issues. The Steelers acknowledged that they drafted him as insurance for Martavis Bryant, and during the first five games of the 2016 season during his year-long suspension, it looked like Coates would provide that, producing on the field, but a hand injury derailed his season.
On the bright side, while these two cornerbacks and one wide receiver are not on the team now, both of those position groups on the current roster are deep, and arguably as talented as they’ve been in several years, which is ultimately more important than specific draft picks working out.