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: Matthew Wright
Draft Status: Undrafted
Starts: 0 (0 games)
The 2019 season was an interesting one for the Steelers’ specialists, or at least the offseason was. While the team did not go out of its way to provide them with top challenges by signing either a kicker or punter in free agency or using a draft pick on one, they did sign as undrafted free agents a pair of challengers who were able to put up a fight.
Both incumbents were able to retain their jobs, but we know Chris Boswell was really under threat. He had a perfect preseason, making all six of his kick attempts, and was successful with his kickoffs as well, which gave Matthew Wright, the rookie out of UCF, much of a chance.
He did spend the entire offseason with the Steelers, and was going neck and neck with Boswell until the end. Through three preseason games, he connected on all three of his field goals and both of his extra point attempts. In the finale, however, he missed one of each across a total of five attempts, including three field goals.
Missing two kicks in one game is a death sentence for an undrafted rookie kicker competing with a veteran. Needless to say, he did not win the job. He would go on to be drafted in the XFL, but would not make the team, losing out to Andrew Franks for the Tampa Bay Vipers.
It’s worth noting that the Steelers let go of Matt McCrane, who kicked for them at the end of the 2018 season, prior to signing Wright. McCrane would go on to kick in the XFL, going a perfect eight for eight, including two from 50-plus.