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: Kerrith Whyte, Jr.
Draft Status: Seventh Round (222nd overall by Chicago Bears)
Starts: 0 (6 games)
And now we finish up our draft class review today, as well, this time with a draft pick whom the Steelers didn’t even draft. Originally selected by thee Chicago Bears, the slight Kerrith Whyte actually did make their initial 53-man roster, and was there for the first three weeks of the season, despite not dressing.
The team waived him after that, however, and after clearing waivers, he spent what would likely have been the remainder of the season on the practice squad before the Steelers signed him in the middle of November. Tony Brooks-James, another running back of a similar build who had been promoted from the practice squad, was waived in order to make room for him.
It didn’t take long for him to make an impact. He broke off a 21-yard run on his first NFL touch, and then would have a 16-yard run later in the same game. Those would prove to be his longest runs of the season, albeit on just 24 carries.
Whyte finished the year with 122 rushing yards on those 24 carries, averaging over five yards per carry. 13 went for four yards or more, including four double-digit runs. He had three runs of negative yardage as well, however. All of his runs of under four yards were unsuccessful plays, but he still had a success rate of about 50 percent, depending on which metric you use.
Whyte also took over kick return duties, and although he wasn’t overall very efficient, he did flash his dangerous speed on a couple, threatening to break a long gain. Still, he will have a challenge as he pushes for a roster spot in 2020.