The Pittsburgh Steelers have a reputation of being excellent at selecting talent in the NFL draft. Some of this is a legacy of the 1970’s especially the 1974 draft when the Steelers picked four future Hall of Famers.
Drafting outstanding players continues in the 21st century. Troy Polamalu, Ben Roethlisberger, Casey Hampton & Heath Miller all had or in Ben’s case are having outstanding careers after being drafted by the Black & Gold. Le’Veon Bell has been a great running back; we’ll see if his career with the Steelers lasts beyond 2018.
The Steelers have also been regarded as superior at identifying and developing talented wide receivers. Antonio Brown was a 6th round choice. Quite a find!
The Steelers drafted 67 players from 2010-2017. I have broken this down into position groups so that we can see where the Steelers have focused their attention and to get an idea of how good overall player evaluations are by position. I have included some comments as an average Steelers fan. Let me know what you think.
NOTE: This information was gleaned from the Pro Football Reference. The positions in the table were how the players were listed during the draft. Some may be in different position groups since the Steelers may have converted them e.g. defensive lineman to linebacker. Also, the years played as well as games & starts are the player’s totals in the NFL not just the Steelers.
Landry Jones has done exactly what he was drafted for: played back-up to Ben Roethlisberger. Joshua Dobbs has an incomplete as he will probably remain as an inactive for at least one more year.
|2013||2||48||Le’Veon Bell||RB||2013||2017||62||62||Michigan St.|
|2011||7||232||Baron Batch||RB||2012||2012||12||0||Texas Tech|
|2010||6||188||Jonathan Dwyer||RB||2010||2014||38||6||Georgia Tech|
Once Le’Veon Bell was drafted in 2013 Steelers did not see much need to focus on running back. His recent contract situation has the Steelers looking. The Steelers took a flyer on Chris Rainey’s speed but attempts to use him as a return specialist and gadget play back did not pan out. Baron Batch & Jonathan Dwyer were late round picks seen as back-ups. We will have to see if future drafts demonstrate Steelers mastery of evaluating starting running backs to draft but they found a great back in Bell.
|2015||5||160||Jesse James||TE||2015||2017||40||29||Penn St.|
Heath Miller was a mainstay until his retirement after the 2015 season. Jesse James is still developing but most see him a second tight end as the Steelers traded first for Ladarius Green then Vance McDonald. Rob Blanchflower never made the roster, but David Paulson appeared in 32 games for the Steelers during his two seasons as a blocking tight end. Another position group that has not had a lot of draft activity in the last eight drafts.
|2014||3||97||Dri Archer||WR||2014||2015||20||0||Kent St.|
|2013||3||79||Markus Wheaton||WR||2013||2017||58||22||Oregon St.|
|2010||6||195||Antonio Brown||WR||2010||2017||115||88||Central Michigan|
Ten wide receivers selected in the last 8 drafts. The last on the list is a proven commodity; while the first has shown huge potential. Dri Archer was more of a return specialist; so, the only absolute whiffs in this group appear to be Toney Clemons and Justin Brown both late round picks. Demarcus Ayers and Sammie Coates are still within the rookie contract window so maybe one or both will produce with other teams in 2018. Eight pro bowls and 2 first team all pro selections between AB and Emmanuel Sanders. Not bad. Mike Wallace not listed since he was drafted in 2009.
|2012||2||56||Mike Adams||T||2012||2016||53||21||Ohio St.|
Only three of the nine offensive linemen the Steelers drafted from 2010-2017 did not appear on an NFL roster last season. Three are on the Steelers current starting line while a fourth; Kelvin Beachum is a starter for the New York Jets. Mike Adams a 2nd round pick who had a back injury and perhaps motivation issues is a disappointment but overall the Steelers appear to do a good job drafting the behemoths.
|2014||2||46||Stephon Tuitt||DE||2014||2017||56||44||Notre Dame|
|2011||1||31||Cameron Heyward||DE||2011||2017||102||67||Ohio St.|
|2016||3||89||Javon Hargrave||DT||2016||2017||31||25||South Carolina St.|
|2015||6||199||Leterrius Walton||DT||2015||2017||32||4||Central Michigan|
|2010||7||242||Doug Worthington||DT||2012||2015||8||0||Ohio St.|
The three players picked in the first 3 rounds are starters. Two 6 rounders are back-ups. I think must would agree that L.T. Walton has fulfilled his role; Dan McCullers not so much. The Steelers appear to be par for the course on their selection of defensive linemen.
|2015||6||212||Anthony Chickillo||DE||2015||2017||38||9||Miami (FL)|
|2014||1||15||Ryan Shazier||LB||2014||2017||46||41||Ohio St.|
|2013||6||206||Vince Williams||LB||2013||2017||79||33||Florida St.|
|2012||3||86||Sean Spence||LB||2012||2017||53||23||Miami (FL)|
|2011||5||162||Chris Carter||LB||2011||2017||75||4||Fresno St.|
|2010||2||52||Jason Worilds||DE||2010||2014||73||37||Virginia Tech|
|2010||4||116||Thaddeus Gibson||DE||2010||2012||4||0||Ohio St.|
|2017||7||248||Keion Adams||OLB||West. Michigan|
The Steelers averaged selecting two linebackers per draft from 2010-2017. Of course, this is really two position groups split between outside and inside linebackers. I have also listed players who were considered defensive linemen in college but were converted to linebackers; Anthony Chickillo being the most recent example. Eight of the 15 were on rosters last year plus Keion Adams was on IR. Jarvis Jones was released by the Cardinals with an injury settlement after the Steelers opted not to extend his rookie contract – an action that underscores opinion that he underperformed as a 1st round draft pick. Some say Bud Dupree is following in his footsteps; I’m not prepared to say that just yet – let’s see what happens in 2018. Ryan Shazier had appeared to be the shining light of this group until his devastating injury. Frankly, this is an overall unimpressive group with just two pro bowl selections (both Shazier) despite four first round picks.
|2016||1||25||Artie Burns||CB||2016||2017||32||25||Miami (FL)|
|2015||4||121||Doran Grant||CB||2015||2015||3||0||Ohio St.|
|2012||7||246||Terrence Frederick||DB||2012||2014||5||3||Texas A&M|
|2011||4||128||Cortez Allen||DB||2011||2015||56||18||The Citadel|
With 14 selections; the second most popular position group behind linebackers. Not a single pro bowl appearance and only 5 were on NFL rosters last season; Artie Burns, Sean Davis, Cam Sutton & Brian Allen still with the Black & Gold were drafted in 2016/17. If none of those the pan out over the next 2-3 seasons; the Steelers will effectively have been shut out from drafting a single quality defensive back over the past eight seasons. They have had to rely on talent developed outside the organization up to now. The Steelers need to reevaluate how they determine the talent of this position group if they have not already done so.
I wouldn’t count this as a fail. The Steelers drafted a player they thought they needed and hedged their bet by picking up a free agent. At Latrobe, I honestly could tell no difference between Colin Holba and Kameron Canady. Maybe it came down to how Jordan Berry handled the spin on their snaps. Holba played against the Steelers in the playoff game and advanced with his team though I doubt he made a difference.
The Steelers have been hampered by their own success. They have had only one top 16 pick in the last eight drafts which was used to draft Ryan Shazier at # 15 overall in 2014. While they do have a best player available policy; roster need appears to be factored in such as drafting a long snapper in 2017. The Steelers will use free agents or trades to hedge their draft choices, so the team is not built entirely on the draft. It takes a lot of pressure off teams when you have talented players coupled with career longevity permitting the organization to focus on particular position groups. The Steelers appear to have a good eye for wide receivers and offensive linemen – or is it their ability to develop players in those position groups? The Steelers appear to be just average in evaluating defensive linemen and linebackers overall. Evaluation or development of players in the secondary is a huge weakness that needs to be addressed if it has not all ready.
While the Steelers walk through the remainder of the free agency period; Steelers fan’s attention will run to the upcoming draft. So, I give you the Ventures classic; Walk, Don’t Run … in stereo!