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: Justin Thomas
Draft Status: Undrafted
We don’t know a ton about Justin Thomas, to be honest. He first signed with the Steelers toward the end of August, though he did sign early enough to watch a couple of preseason games. He did not record any statistics in the process, and in fact only dressed for one. I do not believe he was targeted.
But we know he was a quarterback at Georgia Tech, and the Steelers have taken a recent interest in converted quarterbacks. They worked with two such players at wide receiver in 2015 during the offseason in Devin Gardner and Tyler Murphy. Murphy actually spent some time on the practice squad, even on the 53-man roster. He caught a pass for 16 yards.
Thomas also calls to mind some other recent wide receivers such as Shakim Phillips, Canaan Severin, and C.J. Goodwin. These are players that they did not get to see a lot from, but whom they kept around on the practice squad for the opportunity to see more the next year.
The Steelers didn’t get to see much from Thomas during the regular season, but they kept him on the practice squad for stretches, though he was frequently the man they bounced when they needed a spot. He was signed or released nine times during the year, including the initial 53-man roster cut.
Still, no matter how much they may like him, it goes without saying that he has the steepest of hills to climb in the hopes of making the roster this year. He could compete for another year on the practice squad, however.