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 in 2019 to the Dolphins 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 by them in the later rounds of the draft to develop into bigger contributors as well.
Player: Corliss Waitman
Draft Status: Undrafted
Starts: 0 (0 starts)
While the Steelers only had six selections in the 2020 NFL Draft, they still used up 10 roster spots to sign college free agents to contracts. Of those original 10, four spent some amount of time with the team during the regular season last year, primarily on the practice squad.
Three of them still remain on Pittsburgh’s 2021 offseason roster, including Corliss Waitman, who had the most uninterrupted tenure of the group short of Florida Atlantic cornerback James Pierre, who not only made the 53-man roster but played in every game.
Of course, had this been basically any other year, Waitman likely spends zero meaningful time with the team. But because of the Covid-19 pandemic and expanded practice squads, a lot of teams were carrying extra specialists on the practice squad, which was somewhat rare previously.
Given his ability to also do kickoffs and do a bit of field goal kicking, Waitman was seen as particularly valuable as a practice squad option in the even that something might happen to punter Dustin Colquitt (who was later released in favor of Jordan Berry) or kicker Chris Boswell.
The Steelers did, however, decide to bring back Berry when they turned away from Colquitt. And when Boswell missed time, they signed Matthew Wright to kick field goals, who had never been on a roster before.
Still, Berry performed serviceably when he was brought back, and Wright made all of his kicks, and is now on the Detroit Lions with a chance to compete for a job this offseason. Waitman is still on the roster and could potentially compete with Berry for the punter job.