The 2018 NFL Draft is drawing near, which seems to be a fitting time to take a look back at the rookie seasons of the Pittsburgh Steelers class from the 2017 NFL Draft. People start talking about the quality of a draft class before said class is even completed, of course, but now we have a year of data to work form.
Over the course of the next several days, I will be providing an overview of the team’s rookies, as well as an evaluation of each rookie that the Steelers drafted, while also noting any undrafted free agents that were able to stick around. This will not include the likes of Mike Hilton and Kameron Canaday because they were first-year players, not rookies.
The Steelers went into the 2017 NFL Draft with eight selections, including one in each round at their natural selections, as well as an additional pick in the third round as compensation for the net losses that they were dealt in free agency from the 2016 offseason.
Continuing a recent trend, the class has proven to be top-heavy in terms of early results, though there are still opportunities for those selected by them in the later rounds of the draft to develop into bigger contributors as well.
Player: Keith Kelsey
Draft Status: Undrafted
If we’re being honest, then it would have to be recognized that the Steelers’ 2017 class of undrafted free agent signings was one of the more unremarkable groups of players that they have ever signed, at least in recent memory. Not only did all of them fail to make the 53-man roster, many of them were released prior to or in training camp, and only two spent any time on the practice squad.
The only player immediately signed after the draft to spend time with the team during the season was Keith Kelsey, a second-generation football player drafted as an inside linebacker out of Louisville. Physically, he rated average to below average in most metrics, barely getting below five seconds in the 40-yard dash, though he had 23 reps on the bench.
Profiled as a two-down linebacker, that is pretty much what he looked like in training camp and the preseason, but he did look like a prospect. He got playing time in two preseason games and recorded nine tackles with a pass defensed between them.
Still, he was not actually the initial choice for the practice squad. Another inside linebacker signed a bit after the initial wave, Matt Galambos, was signed to the practice squad first. Later, he was put on the practice squad injured reserve list and the team signed Kelsey.
Both inside linebackers have been retained on Reserve/Future contracts, though they will still have an uphill battle in competing for a spot on the 53-man roster this year, especially with the team likely to address the position at least once in the draft.