It may not seem this way based on how some people talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers, but believe it or not, they are not the only team that has problems, or that makes mistakes. The Steelers are certainly fallible, yet they remain one of the better teams, and one of the better organizations, in the NFL.
Arguably what has separated themselves and their biggest rivals, the Baltimore Ravens, from the rest of their division has been studious draft evaluation and pragmatic selections that have helped to build generally stable rosters. The process has been imperfect, and there have been misses, but frankly, there’s a reason Pittsburgh has cap issues without spending a lot on other teams’ players. They draft good players they end up paying.
The Steelers have missed on some key players in recent years, such as Jarvis Jones in the first round in 2013 and Senquez Golson in the second round in 2015. But they are far from the only ones, and Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti is spending time this offseason contemplating how to fix some of their own issues in the draft.
“If you saw our grading system and you were in the draft-prep meetings, you would see that there’s a case to be made that we may get too many opinions about the top players in the draft”, he said during his postseason press conference.
“If you’re talking the first three rounds, that’s 96 players. We almost always get our three players in our top 60 picks, not 96. That’s the same with every team because everybody has their favorites. If you look at those top 60 players, I think they’ve been overanalyzed”.
As Jamison Hensley points out, four of the 17 players the Ravens have drafted in the first three rounds over the past five seasons are no longer with the team, those being safeties Matt Elam and Terrence Brooks, inside linebacker Arthur Brown, and defensive end Timmy Jernigan, though the latter was a result of a trade.
Meanwhile, only five of the 13 remaining players are currently projected to be starters in 2018, those being linebacker C.J. Mosley (the only one of the group to make the Pro Bowl), defensive tackle Brandon Williams, defensive end Carl Davis, tackle Ronnie Stanley, and cornerback Marlon Humphrey.
Inevitably, many are going to want to compare this to the Steelers, so I’ll do the legwork for you.
Over the past five years, the Steelers have drafted 16 players in the first three rounds, with the third round accounting for the additional selection. Five of those players are no longer with the team (Jones, Markus Wheaton, Dri Archer, Golson, and Sammie Coates.
That is a pretty bad ratio, admittedly, and out of character for the Steelers. But they also got eight or nine starters as well, depending on who you want to include among Le’Veon Bell (an All-Pro), Ryan Shazier (a Pro Bowler who may not play again), Stephon Tuitt, Bud Dupree, Artie Burns, Sean Davis, Javon Hargrave, T.J. Watt, and JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Bisciotti blames their recent issues on scouting, and specifically the loss of some veteran scouts that they replaced with younger and less experienced scouts, urging Eric DeCosta to fill out the scouting department with more veteran eyes.