The Pittsburgh Steelers received a generational linebacker in the first round, with plenty of depth throughout the rest of the 2019 NFL Draft.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a 9-6-1 season, which caused them to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2013. The season was filled with drama, as it had an obvious effect on how the team performed on Sundays.
With the drama gone, the Steelers look different this year. They seem more focused and motivated than we’ve seen in some time. A draft that added a lot of depth, in addition to one of the better defensive players, will only make the team better.
Let’s check out some analysis for this year’s Pittsburgh Steelers’ draft class:
Round 1, Pick 10
LB Devin Bush
There’s absolutely nothing to hate about this pick. The Steelers had a glaring need at inside linebacker during the 2018 draft, but passed on that position for value picks instead. They made up for the wait in this year’s draft, and went against their normal passive approach in the draft, to move up 10 spots for Devin Bush. Now tasked with replacing Ryan Shazier, Bush has had a strong training camp and will have high expectations his rookie year.
Round 3, Pick 66
WR Diontae Johnson
With no pick in the second round due to the trade up, the Steelers did as they like to do in drafting a receiver early in the draft. With Antonio Brown out of the picture, Roethlisberger will need all the targets possible. In fact, the Steelers used the very same pick they received in the Brown trade to draft Johnson. His natural ability as a pass-catcher, and ability to play anywhere on the field, will help Big Ben’s offense. With the type of training camp he has had thus far, he will likely get a lot of preseason action.
Round 3, Pick 83
CB Justin Layne
Another third-round pick made up for none in the second round. Again, the Steelers are never shy about drafting defensive back help and they did just that with Justin Layne. Many expected Layne to be taken in the second round, which is why Pittsburgh as shocked he was still on the board at pick No. 83. Layne has the size to be very effective and versatile in the NFL. Being passed on by all teams has given Layne some extra motivation. He might do most of his damage on special teams early on, but he’s the type of player that will take advantage of his opportunity when it comes.
Round 4, Pick 122
RB Benny Snell Jr.
I personally really love this pick. The Steelers love hard-nosed backs that aren’t afraid to run through the defense. Snell Jr. had a lot of success doing so at Kentucky, leaving as the school’s all-time leading rusher, despite an average 40-yard dash. Snell will most definitely split snaps with Jaylen Samuels behind James Conner, and will likely make a strong case to be named the full-time No. 2 back in the Steelers’ offense.
Round 5, Pick 141
TE Zach Gentry
The Steelers have their top-two tight ends on the roster in Vance McDonald and Xavier Grimble. Beyond that, the team hopes to find a third starter to assist with blocking and situational football. Gentry could be that guy, and with his size should be an intriguing addition to the offense, but he has struggled with blocking and route running. He will have an uphill battle to make the game-day roster, but would be a big-body if he can make improvements.
Round 6, Pick 175
LB Sutton Smith
Sutton Smith brings some versatility to the Steelers, in the form of defense and offense. With experience at linebacker and fullback, Smith’s ability to move around the roster will likely keep him on the team — or at least on practice squad. Smith showed a lot of promise as a running back in high school, but due to limited scholarships was asked to play defense. That’s where he really started to shine, setting a school record with 29.5 tackles for loss. Smith will be an interesting name to keep an eye on.
Round 6, Pick 192
DT Isaiah Buggs
Despite playing his college ball at Alabama, which usually means they are more NFL-ready than most rookies, Buggs will be a bit of a project defensive lineman for Pittsburgh. He played some defensive end with Alabama, but he will likely find his niche in the NFL at defensive tackle due to his 6-foot-3, 306 lb. frame. The Steelers currently have him as the 3rd defensive tackle behind Lavon Hooks and the obvious starter Cameron Heyward. That will likely continue, as he hasn’t stood out in training camp thus far — positive or negative.
Round 6, Pick 207
LB Ulysees Gilbert
The Steelers have been wanting to build up their linebacker corps ever since the Ryan Shazier injury. They took care of that with the first-round trade that brought Bush to the team. Drafting Gilbert with their third pick in the sixth round shows that they would still like some depth at the position. Expect Gilbert to fight more for special teams play out of the gate, but will have an opportunity to find time on defense if he sticks around.
Round 7, Pick 219
T Derwin Gray
You can never have enough offensive lineman, and I think the Steelers did well selecting Derwin Gray. My philosophy will always be, if you’re drafting an offensive lineman — especially in the later rounds — make sure they’re versatile. Gray played most of his college ball at left tackle, the Steelers have been using him more at guard and will likely keep him as a swing player on the O-line. If he can show that he belongs, at least as a backup, he could crack the 53-man roster with his versatility.
The Pittsburgh Steelers certainly have a lot of young talent on their roster, most of whom made it to the team through recent drafts. If they can continue to show improvement, it could set the Steelers up for quite a bright future.
What do you think of the way the Pittsburgh Steelers have been drafting recently? Feel free to leave your comments below!