When all is said and done in the careers of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ draft picks, there’s a good chance that the 2017 NFL Draft haul by former GM Kevin Colbert might be one of his best drafts ever.
Five years removed from bringing in the likes of T.J. Watt, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, Cameron Sutton and Joshua Dobbs, the Steelers’ draft haul from the 2017 NFL Draft still stands up as one of the best in the NFL from that season, and one of the better ones in the Steelers’ 22-year run under Colbert.
According to Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton, the Steelers’ 2017 NFL Draft class received just one of four “A” grades in the five-year re-draft exercise Thursday, joining the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs and New Orleans Saints with “A” grades. The Los Angeles Rams were the only other team with an “A” grade, earning an A- from Moton.
Elsewhere in the AFC North, the Ravens received a B+, the Browns received a B and the Cincinnati Bengals earned a C-.
For Pittsburgh, getting a player the caliber of Watt at No. 30 overall makes the grade overall from Moton, much like the Chiefs and Bills landed franchise standouts in quarterbacks Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes in the top 10.
“The Pittsburgh Steelers selected four starters with their top four picks. Three of them had at least one Pro Bowl campaign with the team. Of that trio, one has become arguably the league’s best edge-rusher. Though JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner play for new teams, they both had a Pro Bowl year with the Steelers in 2018,” Moton writes regarding the Steelers’ 2017 draft haul. “Cameron Sutton hasn’t earned any notable accolades, but he signed a two-year extension last offseason. In 2021, the versatile inside-outside cornerback played a career-high 99 percent of the defensive snaps as a first-time full-time starter.
“The Steelers didn’t retain two of their playmakers from this class, but Sutton still has room to grow, and they have a star in Watt.”
Though Smith-Schuster and Conner are now on new teams, the Steelers hit on those two picks as Smith-Schuster went to a Pro Bowl in 2018 and finished his 5-year Steelers’ career with 323 receptions for 3,855 yards and 26 touchdowns, while Conner also went to the Pro Bowl in 2018 in the black and gold and put up 2,302 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns, along with 124 receptions for 963 yards and four touchdowns while with the Steelers.
Watt is the focal point of the draft class though, having earned three straight First Team All-Pro honors, four straight Pro Bowls, and three straight top three Defensive Player of the Year Award finishes, including a win in 2021. He also tied the NFL’s single season sacks record with 22.5 in 2021, and is already on a Hall of Fame pace just five years into his career.
Quite the haul at No. 30 overall.
As for Sutton, he’s developed nicely into a key piece in the Steelers’ rebuilt secondary, providing inside/outside versatility and leadership overall, becoming a vocal leader of a young group. Though the stats might not be there through five seasons with just five interceptions in 68 games, but he is coming off of a career year as a first-year starter in 2021 and is a real focal point in the secondary under head coach Mike Tomlin and first-year defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.
Five years later, the 2017 NFL Draft looks rather great overall for the Steelers, even with them drafting a long snapper in the sixth round, or selecting Dobbs in the fourth round and missing out on star tight end George Kittle a few picks later. You win some, you lose some.