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: R.J. Prince
Draft Status: Undrafted
It’s not every year that you carry three players from a class of undrafted free agents from one offseason into another, but that is the case for the Steelers in 2019, as they still retain Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, Patrick Morris, and the subject of this article, R.J. Prince, all of whom were originally signed as college free agents in 2018.
As a matter of fact, Prince wasn’t even a part of their original group of signings. He was invited to participate in the team’s rookie minicamp and earned his way onto the team that way, in doing so replacing Ikenna Nwokeji, who was a part of that original group, also an offensive lineman.
Listed a 6’6” and 311 pounds, Prince is actually one of the tallest players on the team. Though his size might be geared more toward playing tackle, the team quickly began to flex him out into playing at guard, and even at center.
The Steelers liked what they saw in him enough that they carried him on the practice squad all season, as well as Morris, in spite of the fact that they already had nine offensive linemen on the 53-man roster. It’s rare that a team goes with 11 total linemen, usually sticking with 10 as needed to field two full lines, so that says something about how they felt about that group.
Prince has the opportunity to compete for a roster spot in 2019, and his ability to be versatile will be his greatest asset, especially if Matt Feiler ends up winning the starting right tackle job. Given the depth at tackle, in fact, he figures to see most of his work inside this offseason, depending on how the college free agent class goes this year.