The 2020 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 2019 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 from.
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 Robert Spillane and Tevin Jones because they were first-year players, not rookies.
The Steelers went into the 2018 NFL Draft with 10 selections, including two in the third round and three in the sixth, but ended up trading their second-round pick to move up in the first round. They received additional third- and fifth-round picks for trading Antonio Brown, a sixth for Marcus Gilbert, and the other sixth was part of the Ryan Switzer trade the year before.
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: Derwin Gray
Draft Status: Seventh Round (219th overall)
Starts: 0 (0 games)
The only player among the Steelers’ nine draft selections in 2019 that did not make the 53-man roster other than Sutton Smith, Derwin Gray in contrast to the former still remains with the organization. The lineman out of Maryland spent the entire 2019 season on their practice squad.
I do view him as a bit of a forgotten man who could take a step up and secure an important backup role for the Steelers in 2020. A tackle out of Maryland, they fed him guard snaps all summer, even a bit of center, so if he should make the team, he could serve as an eighth or ninth lineman who could back up at four positions, similar to Matt Feiler before he earned a starting job.
Given the losses that they have suffered in the past year—Ramon Foster, B.J. Finney, Fred Johnson, and Patrick Morris—being able to get something out of Gray for the future would be a major win in replenishing the talent in the offensive line pipeline, which has been stocked fairly well in the past half-decade.
We have seen this team develop Foster, Finney, Feiler, Chris Hubbard, Alejandro Villanueva, and Kelvin Beachum within the recent past, all of whom were either undrafted or seventh-round picks. Most of them spent a year or more on the practice squad before making the 53-man roster. Don’t count of Gray yet.