Under the assumption that the injury for Tyson Alualu results in the Pittsburgh Steelers making the decision to dress Carlos Davis today, the rookie seventh-round draft pick, it would mark the first time in the Kevin Colbert era—and possibly the first time in the history of the franchise—in which they have had every player from a single draft class play in at least one game.
It is, of course, easier to manage that when your draft class consists of just six players, as was the case this year. They had no first-round draft pick, for one thing, stemming from their decision to trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick last year. They also had no fifth-round pick after trading for Nick Vannett.
But that hasn’t prevented the Steelers from getting production out of their rookie class. In fact, they have already had multiple rookies make multiple starts. Second-round pick Chase Claypool wasted little time emerging as a starter, and he leads the team in receiving yards and touchdowns, now with seven on the season.
Fourth-round offensive lineman Kevin Dotson has already started two games this year in place of the injured David DeCastro, and played in others, for a total of 190 snaps. He rated very highly in pass protection, although his tape shows that he does have work to do to translate his work in the run game to the NFL level.
Though not starting, third-round outside linebacker Alex Highsmith has also played a valuable role that appears to be expanding. Last week, the coaches introduced a new sub-package featuring Highsmith on the field at the same time as T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree. They played 19 snaps in that package—including the rookie intercepting a key pass, leading to the Steelers’ comeback.
Outside of these three players, they have not gotten a lot of production yet. Fourth-round running back Anthony McFarland was in the discussion to be their kick returner, but Ray-Ray McCloud has locked down that job. McFarland has gotten a bit of work, but there is still a long way to go.
While sixth-round safety Antoine Brooks is actually on the practice squad, he was elevated for last week’s game with Jordan Dangerfield out. Although he dressed for the game, he did not play a snap, even on special teams. However, he is elevated again for today’s game, so he could see his first snaps in Dallas.
And then there is Carlos Davis. The seventh-round pick has been on the 53-man roster for the entire season, but a healthy scratch for all seven games so far. With Alualu sidelined, however, and Chris Wormley on injured reserve, he would be the fifth defensive lineman, so it’s very likely that he does dress.
I have done some digging through Pro Football Reference, and as best as I can tell, the Steelers have never had a draft class actually play for them. And I don’t just mean play for them during the rookie season. I mean ever. It’s not even clear to me that they have ever had an entire draft class make the team, let alone play in a game.