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: Fred Johnson
Draft Status: Undrafted
Starts: 0 (0 games)
Technically speaking, Fred Johnson did not play any games last season as a Steeler. But he did play in multiple games as a Cincinnati Bengals lineman. In the second quarter of the season or so, Pittsburgh waived him in order to make necessary injury-related moves, and the Bengals claimed him off waivers.
Prior to that, he was a priority college free agent signing by the team after the 2020 NFL Draft, and he had drawn the notice of Ramon Foster early on, saying that he and fellow lineman Garrett Brumfield had caught his eye.
He kept catching the eyes of the coaching staff throughout the offseason, and was consistently working with the second-team offensive line at guard, though he did get moved around some. A college tackle, they wanted to expand his repertoire.
But after injuries at quarterback and running back, the Steelers had to promote Trey Edmunds and Paxton Lynch from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. Johnson and outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott were the players that they let go, and they would never see the former again.
Not only did the Bengals claim him off waivers, they worked with him, and he eventually played, even starting the season finale, due to injury, at left tackle. At the moment, he is expected to be in the mix to start somewhere along the line, perhaps at right guard or right tackle, in 2020. Meanwhile, the Steelers are once again looking to boost their offensive line pipeline.