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: Damian Prince
Draft Status: Undrafted
Starts: 0 (0 games)
Head coach Mike Tomlin makes a concerted effort to preach to all of his players, who come to the team in all directions and with all different backgrounds, that the most important thing is having an opportunity. Once you have an opportunity, you have the chance to succeed.
This is the message that he gives the tryout invitees who participate in rookie minicamp every year. Last year in particular, the invitee class made good on that message, as four of them were signed to the 90-man roster after camp closed.
One of those four was Damian Prince, a four-year starter along with 2019 seventh-round pick Derwin Gray, the bookend tackles of the Maryland Terrapins. Though Gray was seen as having inside-outside versatility, Prince spent most of his time at tackle.
He did manage to stick all throughout training camp and the preseason, but during a time that they were particularly deep along the offensive line, even with regards to the practice squad, Prince simply didn’t make the cut.
He was originally drafted to participate in the XFL by the Los Angeles Wildcats, but ultimately did not play. He remains an unsigned free agent. Gray remains with the team, however, and his head coach in 2018, Matt Canada, is now on the Steelers’ staff.
With the number of XFL players the team has signed, it’s not exactly unrealistic that they may call him up. They have already signed one who was in camp last year. In 2019, they signed two AAF players who were in camp with them the previous season.