As we begin to approach the 2020 NFL Draft—assuming that it actually takes place when it’s supposed to—it is time that we take a look back upon the 2019 draft class that was, for the Pittsburgh Steelers, including any notable college free agent signings, which we did have this past year.
The Steelers did not get the sort of production out of their 2018 rookie class that they were hoping for immediately, even though Terrell Edmunds and James Washington were technically more or less starters. Both took steps forward in 2019, but the hope is for an even bigger jump in 2020.
The 2019 draft class for the Steelers was more of an anomaly, as it saw them make a big trade up in the first round, jumping from 20 to 10, and in doing so parting with their second-round choice, as well as their natural third-round pick for next month’s draft.
Yet they still finished with nine draft picks in total, having gotten additional third- and fifth-round picks from trading Antonio Brown. They also made some other moves, including trading Marcus Gilbert for a late sixth. In all, they had one first-round pick, two in the third, one in the fourth, fifth, and seventh, and three for the sixth round.
The centerpiece for the draft class was, of course, Devin Bush, the junior linebacker out of Michigan. He was a day-one starter, racking up over 100 tackles with six takeaways on the season. He was an alternate for the Pro Bowl as a rookie, but was ultimately not selected.
The team’s second pick was wide receiver Diontae Johnson in the third round, 66th overall. The entire offense was depleted due to the state of the quarterback position, but he was able to lead the team with 59 receptions and five touchdowns. He also had 580 receiving yards, second-most to Washington.
The second of two third-round picks was used on cornerback Justin Layne, who redshirted defensively but carved out a role on special teams in the second half of the year. A true junior who was a convert in college to the position, it was known that he would need time to develop.
Fourth-round running back Benny Snell had a fairly productive rookie season, like Johnson due to injuries ahead of him. There were four games in which he was able to get a sizable amount of touches. He ultimately finished the year with two scores, as he looks to improve his quickness in year two.
Fifth-round tight end Zach Gentry did make the roster, but spent most of it as a healthy scratch. Sutton Smith, an edge defender in the sixth round, is the only pick no longer with the team, though he was briefly on the practice squad.
Isaiah Buggs, the defensive lineman out of Alabama, was inactive until Stephon Tuitt was injured, playing sparingly afterward. Ulysees Gilbert III, linebacker out of Akron, was a fixture on special teams before suffering a season-ending injury. Finally, offensive lineman Derwin Gray spent the season on the practice squad.