The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.
The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.
How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: What is the Steelers’ best draft class of the decade beyond 2010?
If we include the 2010 NFL Draft, then the answer is, frankly, too easy. It’s 2010. You got Maurkice Pouncey in the first round, Antonio Brown in the sixth round, and Emmanuel Sanders in the third, even if his post-Steelers career was superior. You even got Jason Worilds in the second round, who was a productive starter for a couple of seasons.
But it’s not the only class that did well. In 2011, you got two long-term starters in Cameron Heyward, an All-Pro, and Marcus Gilbert, who was very underrated during the height of his career. Injuries are the only thing that have derailed his career now a decade in. Cortez Allen had a couple of good seasons before succumbing to injury as well.
2012 brought David DeCastro and Kelvin Beachum, two starter-level linemen, with DeCastro reaching All-Pro level. in 2013, they landed Le’Veon Bell and Vince Williams, along with Jarvis Jones and Markus Wheaton.
How about 2014? Ryan Shazier in the first round. Stephon Tuitt in the second. Martavis Bryant in the fourth. 2016 had Artie Burns, Sean Davis, and Javon Hargrave in the first three rounds, plus Tyler Matakevich.
2017 is still recent, but this class may have the strongest case to state, with T.J. Watt, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and James Conner in the first three rounds. Three Pro Bowlers, with Watt emerging as one of the best defenders in the league. Cameron Sutton. The rest of the class yielded next to nothing, but that’s a strong top.
We will wait on the 2019 class. Devin Bush and Diontae Johnson have the makings of potential stars. Justin Layne is very young. Benny Snell has a limited ceiling, but can be a reliable contributor for years, and you have guys like Ulysees Gilbert and Isaiah Buggs who can carve out bigger roles over time.