The 2021 NFL Draft is drawing near, which is as fitting a time as any to take a look back at the rookie season of the Pittsburgh Steelers class from the 2020 NFL Draft. While draft analysis begins as soon as the pick is in, we now have a year’s worth of data on these players to gain more compelling insight.
Over the course of the next several days, I will be providing 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 J.C. Hassenauer and Henry Mondeaux, because while the 2020 season was their first to accrue, they were not true rookies, but rather first-year players.
The Steelers went into the 2020 NFL Draft with just six selections, including no first-round pick after dealing it to the Dolphins in 2019 for Minkah Fitzpatrick. They received a third-round compensatory pick for the loss of Le’Veon Bell. Their natural third-round pick was traded away the year before to move up for Devin Bush.
They swapped fifth and sixth-round picks with Miami for fourth and seventh-round picks, while they sent their previous fifth-round pick to the Seahawks for Nick Vannett. Their other fifth-round pick, which they dealt to Miami, came from the Jaguars in exchange for Joshua Dobbs.
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 in the later rounds of the draft to develop into bigger contributors, as well.
Player: James Lockhart
Position: Outside Linebacker
Draft Status: Undrafted
Starts: 0 (0 starts)
Unfortunately due to the restrictions in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 class of undrafted free agents was not nearly as interesting as they often are. With no spring in-person workouts, no preseason, and no access to training camp — not to mention reduced training camp rosters — we learned far less about college free agent rookies than we often do.
In spite of that, four of the 10 that they did sign ended up spending some time with the team during the regular season, and three of them even still remain. The other six did not make it out of training camp, but among the longest-lasting was outside linebacker James Lockhart, a college defensive end for the Baylor Bears before signing in Pittsburgh. He lasted until the end of August before being waived, the Steelers re-signing Saeed Blacknail with a need at wide receiver.
The San Francisco 49ers claimed Lockhart off waivers; however, he failed to show up to the team, and instead announced that he would be retiring. Thus ended his NFL career, perhaps a story he can tell the youngins’ when he’s a granpappy, of the time he was once a Pittsburgh Steeler for one training camp.