The 2019 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 2018 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 Matt McCrane and Trey Griffey because they were first-year players, not rookies.
The Steelers went into the 2018 NFL Draft with eight selections, including two in the third round, but ended up trading out of the sixth round to move up in the third. They had two fifth-round selections and none in the fourth round, and flipped a number of picks due to multiple trades
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: Mason Rudolph
Draft Status: 3rd round (76th overall)
When you have a franchise quarterback, it’s generally a good sign when your number three quarterback plays zero snaps in a season. Even your backup quarterback. So the fact that Mason Rudolph didn’t see the field for the Steelers in 2018 is certainly not a damning commentary about his present, let alone his future.
Even though the team drafted quarterback Joshua Dobbs in the fourth round in 2017, they felt that they could not pass up on the value that Rudolph presented as he slipped later into the third round with their two picks.
In fact, they used their sixth-round draft pick to trade up a few spots to ensure they would not miss out on the one quarterback who slipped out of the first round that they had graded at that level. Somewhat to Ben Roethlisberger’s chagrin, but Rudolph said that the veteran was an aid to him as a rookie.
Obviously he didn’t show enough during the offseason to convince the coaching staff that he could back up Roethlisberger immediately, that job going to Dobbs, but he said for himself personally that he felt he could have thrived if he were drafted by a team that needed an immediate starter.
He also said that he felt he could play by the end of last season if he were called upon, crediting Head Coach Mike Tomlin with keeping him engaged by allowing him to be a part of the game plan and being open to his ideas and suggestions.
While he isn’t expected to start in the immediate future, 2019 is a big year for Rudolph as he tries to demonstrate that he can be the starter if need be. Meanwhile, the Steelers are working toward an extension for Roethlisberger.