Pro Football Focus has been working on an ongoing project over the past week, regrading recent drafts in a self-scouting effort to assess how they graded draft classes at the time versus how they see those classes at this point in time. Having already gone through the 2020 and 2019 classes, the Pittsburgh Steelers fared well, their 2020 class in particular, jumping from a B- grade to an A.
The outlet was less impressed with the team’s 2018 haul. They were not high on it even at the time, classing it ‘Average’, but they have now shifted their evaluation to ‘Below Average’, with Michael Renner writing the following blurb about the class:
Terrell Edmunds is still one of the biggest first-round reaches we’ve ever seen compared to the PFF draft board — we had him 196th overall. So far, we think we’ve been a tad closer. However, we were off on James Washington and Mason Rudolph — two players higher on the PFF draft board than where they were selected. Neither has shown anything too promising through three seasons, unfortunately.
The Steelers do project to have two players in the starting lineup this year from that class, with Edmunds, their first-round safety, having been there from the get-go. He will likely be joined by third-round tackle Chukwuma Okorafor, who is moving to left tackle, as long as he can hold off potential challengers in free agent pickup Joe Haeg and rookie fourth-round pick Dan Moore, Jr.
James Washington is a fine wide receiver, but the reality is there is no position in which the team has invested more. Between the 2017 and 2020 draft classes, they drafted four wide receivers between selections 49 and 66, starting with JuJu Smith-Schuster in 2017. The latest is Chase Claypool, who looks like he may be a homerun.
It is worth noting that of the seven-man draft class, the only player who is not still on the 53-man roster three years into their career is seventh-round defensive tackle Josh Frazier. He never made the roster to begin with, or even the practice squad.
But fifth-round pick Marcus Allen is still here, though now a linebacker rather than a safety. Jaylen Samuels, the running back, has been consistently employed, though he will have a battle to hold onto his job this year.
As for Mason Rudolph, the Steelers did extend him recently through the 2022 season. There is the possibility that they move on from Ben Roethlisberger after 2021 and he gets a chance to start that year, and well, you never know. But you could do worse with a third-round quarterback, even if they viewed him as a first-round talent.