We’ve spent a lot of time this past week looking at Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert draft trends. Some of that can be applied to their free agency approach too. It’s measured, cost-effective, but you already know that. One thing you might not know is the connection between draft pedigree and who Pittsburgh signs in the offseason. Often, the guys they target were the former first and second rounders who didn’t quite live up to expectations. The goal, I assume, is to rekindle that promise.
In 2015, the team signed DeAngelo Williams, a former first round pick. He was someone who did live up to expectations and the Steelers were able to squeeze a little more out of him. The year before, Mike Mitchell was their high-profile signing, a former second round pick, and Darrius Heyward-Bey was a top ten pick who flamed out in Oakland.
In 2017, acquisitions Knile Davis and Justin Hunter were originally day two picks, the latter taken just outside the top 40. And Tyson Alualu went in the top ten years earlier, though he didn’t quite mesh well enough in Jacksonville.
So it’s not a huge surprise that the two players Pittsburgh has signed this year were cut from a similar cloth. Jon Bostic went 50th overall in 2013 and Morgan Burnett was an early third round pick coming out of Georgia Tech.
Of course, there are exceptions, just like there are to everything. But they’ve mostly been tied to small contracts for the “low pedigree” players like Brice McCain, a 6th round pick, who signed a one year deal with Pittsburgh for dirt cheap. And it certainly doesn’t mean there’s a 1:1 correlation between draft status and Steelers’ interest; after all, plenty changes from draft to free agency four or more years later.
But if you want to get an idea of who could be in the cards, it isn’t a bad place to start.