After making just six selections a year ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers finished this year’s draft adding nine players, which included their trading into the fifth round by dealing away a 2022 fourth-round draft pick. They addressed major offensive needs early before rounding out the day plugging defensive holes, with a punter as a capper.
All in all, it spells out the letter C, at least according to Pro Football Focus, as that is the instant-reaction grade the outlet has given the Steelers’ draft class — notably the worst of the AFC North. The Baltimore Ravens got a B+, while the Cincinnati Bengals got a solid B, and the Cleveland Browns, a home run A+.
No doubt much of their reasoning for the Steelers’ draft is their opposition to drafting a running back in the first round, no matter who it is. Even Najee Harris, the top back in the class. “Any running back in Round 1 is a reach,” they spell out plainly in their day one analysis.
Likewise, they did not offer an overly glowing review of second-round tight end Pat Freiermuth, largely noting that they “snag the 55th-ranked player on the PFF Big Board at Pick 55.” However, they did like the third-round selection of center Kendrick Green, calling him “one of the most physically gifted guards to come into the NFL in the last few years.”
Pittsburgh, of course, added six more players on the final day of the draft. Pro Football Focus only spared comment for one of them, that being the selection in the sixth round of edge rusher Quincy Roche, who himself believed he should have been taken higher.
“Roche is arguably the best value Pittsburgh has gotten all draft,” the piece reads. “Roche isn’t an elite athlete on the edge, but he is adept at reading and reacting to the tackles he goes up against, which is one of the reasons why he posted PFF pass-rushing grades above 85.0 in each of the past two seasons. Roche will have an opportunity to carve out a role behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith in Pittsburgh.”
Of course, Pro Football Focus thought that Justin Layne was one of the steals of the 2019, noting that immediately after the draft, and following with a summer piece calling him the possible “answer to Pittsburgh’s outside cornerback problem.” It’s not definite that he won’t be, but his first two years in the NFL could have gone better, and they viewed him as an immediate contributor.
That’s not to take a shot at PFF in particular, but really a reminder about just how much of a crapshoot this really can be. We all have our hits and misses over the years. If we’re being honest with ourselves, we tend to remember our hits better than our misses — and the misses of others better than their hits. Ultimately, no grade that is published within 24 hours, or even 24 weeks, arguably even 24 months, is going to mean very much. But they’ll still come out, and they’ll still be discussed.