I’m not sure for how many this ended up going unnoticed, but by the time the regular season rolled around this year, the Pittsburgh Steelers had not one, not two, but three former first-round picks on their roster from the 2010 NFL Draft. That is by far the most from any single class, as no others have more than one.
Not that that is particularly surprising, considering the fact that the Steelers are not prolific actors in free agency, nor are they known for making many trades. Of course, this offseason has begun to turn things its head. The team has four players on its current roster that they signed in free agency and another two that they traded for—with another on the practice squad.
Those free agents include two of the additions made to their previously-modest collection of talent from the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Everybody following the Steelers knows Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, whom the team selected with the 18th pick in the draft that year.
Pouncey has started every game in which he has played, but he has only played in 77 games through seven seasons, not including Sunday’s start. He only missed three games in his first three seasons, not including the Super Bowl during his rookie year, but he missed 15 with a torn ACL in 2013, and then all of the 2015 season with complications from a fractured fibula. He was fully healthy last season, however, and only missed the finale due to rest.
To Pouncey the Steelers have added a pair of top-10 picks from that draft, starting with the 10th pick, defensive end Tyson Alualu. While he never lived up to his draft status in seven years with the Jaguars, he has been a solid and consistent player over that time, never missing a game due to injury.
During the season opener, thanks to an injury suffered by Stephon Tuitt, Alualu actually played more snaps than anybody else along the defensive line en route to recording five tackles in the game. While he will not start, barring injury, he will play a key role this season.
The Steelers got the opportunity to add another talent very late in the process when the Browns released cornerback Joe Haden on August 30. Pittsburgh finalized a three-year contract with the two-time Pro Bowler by the end of the day.
While he was added too late to participate in the preseason, Haden—the seventh-overall pick that year, and Pouncey’s college teammate—started the season opener for the Steelers where he recorded six tackles, a sack, and a pass defensed.
According to Pro Football Focus, however, Haden gave up seven receptions on 10 targets for 109 yards and a 105.8 quarterback rating. He gave up 2.73 yards per snap in coverage and was targeted once every four coverage snaps, giving up a reception once every 5.7 coverage snaps.