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: Sutton Smith
Draft Status: Sixth Round (175th overall)
Starts: 0 (0 games)
The first of three selections made in the sixth round by the Steelers in 2019 and, one of four in total over the final two rounds of the draft, Northern Illinois outside linebacker Sutton Smith remains the only selection from Pittsburgh’s 2019 NFL Draft class who is no longer with the team. Seven of the other nine selections were all on the 53-man roster a year ago, while seventh-round lineman Derwin Gray was on the practice squad all season.
Smith’s biggest problem was the fact that he dealt with injuries during the offseason, especially in the preseason, and that pretty much torpedoed any chance that he had of making the team. Then the emergence of Tuzar Skipper, a college free agent at his point out of Toledo, made sure that he would be passed over.
Even Skipper was eventually waived and lost, though he would eventually wind his way back. In between, there was a brief period of time that the Steelers would—twice—re-sign Smith to a practice squad contract. Neither stint lasted very long.
A substantially undersized edge defender out of a small school, it was obvious that Smith would have to overwhelm with his talent in order to make a dent in the offseason, but circumstances prevented him from having that opportunity.
He did finished the 2019 season on the practice squad of the Seattle Seahawks, and he remains under contract as a futures signing. In between stints with the Steelers, he had a week-long stay with the Jacksonville Jaguars’ practice squad.