The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Outside of Devin Bush, which was your favorite draft pick for the Steelers?
There’s no getting around the fact that Devin Bush was actively made the focal point of the Steelers’ 2019 draft class. They didn’t quite sell the farm to get him, but they certainly paid a steeper price than they would traditionally be expected to to get him, giving up a second- and third-round pick between the 2019 and 2020 drafts.
They added Bush at 10 and didn’t select again until the 60s, the largest distance they had between any two picks, and the perceived differential in quality of player is much higher the earlier you go, so you can say they’re putting most of their chips right there. But they brought in some other intriguing players.
The third round saw the addition of wide receiver Diontae Johnson and cornerback Justin Layne, while Benny Snell at running back and Zach Gentry at tight end came via the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively. Linebackers Sutton Smith and Ulysees Gilbert III as well as defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs were selected in the sixth round, while the draft was completed with the drafting of offensive lineman Derwin Gray in the seventh.
For me, factoring in value, I think my preferences here would be for Snell and Buggs. I was high on the idea of adding pass-rushing depth to the defensive line, and Buggs looks to be the type of player capable of doing that, which isn’t bad at all for late in the sixth round.
As for Snell, there can be some debate as to whether or not he could have been had later in the draft—I saw one mock draft pegging him to the Steelers in the sixth, though I don’t think that was realistic—but he certainly fits the team’s profile. And I think that with the absence of Antonio Brown, bolstering the running back position with strong depth was wise.