For as much flak as you all love to give Pro Football Focus, perhaps you might appreciate this: the site gave the Pittsburgh Steelers a rating of ‘above average’ for their 2019 NFL Draft class. They handed out only five or six ‘excellent’ ratings, and they tended to go to the teams who had premium prospects fall into their laps, while the Steelers had to move up to get theirs.
And every other team in the AFC North received only an ‘average’ grade for their selections. Broken down by day, here is what they had to see about each installment of the draft as it relates to the Steelers’ activity.
“The Steelers had to give up picks Nos. 20 and 52 in the 2019 NFL Draft and a third-rounder in the 2020 NFL Draft to get him, but former Michigan off-ball linebacker Devin Bush has a very good chance to be worth the extra draft capital if he can bring his play in Ann Arbor to Pittsburgh”, they wrote of the team’s first-round pick, Devin Bush.
“He is a freakishly athletic linebacker with outstanding coverage and pass-rushing ability compared to his peers in this year’s class”, they went on. “He’s also a tone-setter on the defensive side of the ball who craves contact and knows how to lay the boom. He also earned 90.2 and 85.0 overall grades in 2017 and 2018, respectively”.
The Steelers ended up with only two picks on day two, and used them on wide receiver Diontae Johnson and cornerback Justin Layne. Of the former, Johnson was called “a favorite of practically everyone at the PFF offices”, describing him as “a superb route runner that will be a nightmare” to cover. On Layne, they called him “quite a steal” and noted he had among the best coverage grades of Power-5 players last season.
They singled out Sutton Smith and Isaiah Buggs for comment of the Steelers’ six selections on the third day of the draft, noting that Smith “should make the transition to off-ball linebacker and bring pass-rush upside in the NFL”. He recorded the second-most pressures in the FBS last season by their reckoning.
On Buggs, who played a larger role in Alabama’s defense in 2018 because of injuries, they said that the increased workload lowered his overall performance. He particularly graded better as a run defender in 2017 than a season ago. But he did have nearly 10 sacks last year, something the Steelers need off the bench from their front line.
The other four players the Steelers selected on day three, of course, were running back Benny Snell in the fourth round, tight end Zach Gentry in the fifth, inside linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III in the sixth, and offensive lineman Derwin Gray in the seventh.