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: Tuzar Skipper
Draft Status: Undrafted
Starts: 0 (0 games)
Originally undrafted and unsigned, the Toledo Rocket, a college teammate of Olasunkanmi Adeniyi and Diontae Johnson, was given an invitation to try out for the Steelers at their rookie minicamp. He performed well enough to earn a contract onto the 90-man roster, Pittsburgh jettisoning former seventh-round pick Keion Adams to make room for him.
While he didn’t make a ton of noise through OTAs, things picked up steam as the pads came on, and especially during the preseason. He recorded five sacks, producing a pair of fumbles, over the four games, leading the league in that respect. He also showed strong run defense and, finally in the final preseason game, the capability of being a special teams contributor.
Skipper was kept on the initial 53-man roster, but was waived prior to the opening game with the intention of getting him onto the practice squad. The New York Giants threw a monkey wrench in those plans by claiming him off waivers, where he would spend the first half of the season. He played a few dozen snaps there, even registering half a sack, before he was waived.
The Steelers elected not to claim him, however, as did everyone else. The Giants re-signed him to their practice squad, where he sat safely until Pittsburgh signed him after Week 11, when L.T. Walton was placed on injured reserve. He remained on Pittsburgh’s 53-man roster for the remainder of the year, but did not dress for a game.