Steelers ’10 former 1st round picks on defense’ is very misleading

Tommy Jaggi
Tyson Alualu #94 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Tyson Alualu #94 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Steelers may have ten former 1st round draft picks on the defensive side of the ball, but here’s why that statistic doesn’t matter.

With the acquisition of former 11th overall pick, Minkah Fitzpatrick, everyone is boasting about how the Steelers have 10 former first-round draft choices on defense. While it’s admittedly an intriguing number that not many teams can claim they have, it really doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.

Technically, the Steelers have 10 former first-round picks on their team. However, all that really matters is what they are worth in reality.

I decided to put these players into a chart that shows where they were drafted in the first round as opposed to what round they should have been drafted in. Here’s what I came up with:

PlayerOverall pickWorth
Joe Haden7th1st round
Mark Barron7th3rd round
Tyson Alualu10th3rd round
Devin Bush10thTBD
Minkah Fitzpatrick11thTBD
Bud Dupree22nd3rd round
Artie Burns25th5th round
Terrell Edmunds28thTBD
T.J. Watt30th1st round
Cameron Heyward31st1st round

Everyone is talking about how the Steelers have stocked their defense with 10 first-round picks; when in actuality, there are really just a handful of guys that were worth their high selection to begin with.

T.J. Watt is shaping out to be a fantastic player for Pittsburgh and is perhaps the single most valuable asset the Steelers have on their team when you factor in age. Cam Heyward is also a stud – as evidenced by his First-Team All-Pro selection in 2017.

Cornerback Joe Haden has had more of an up-and-down career but has also had a few very good years in Cleveland in addition to being a solid player for Pittsburgh. He would likely still be a first-round pick in a redraft.

Outside of the three players I just mentioned, it gets dicey. Devin Bush, Terrell Edmunds, and Minkah Fitzpatrick have not been given ample time in the NFL to properly assess them.

The majority of these 10 first-round picks, however, have proved by now that they were never worth a high selection. Mark Barron has never had a season with an overall grade higher than 67.0 in his 7 full NFL seasons, according to Pro Football Focus. As a former 7th overall draft choice, you should expect much bigger things than the lackluster career he has had so far.

Tyson Alualu is just the same. The former 10th overall selection hasn’t had a season with a PFF grade over 66.5 in his first 9 years in the league, and he’s never topped 4.0 sacks in a single season.

Artie Burns and Bud Dupree have collectively been perhaps the most disappointing of the first round picks currently on the team. To the surprise of many, the Steelers elected to give Dupree the $9.2 million price tag of the fifth-year option. However, Dupree never turned out to be the player Tomlin and Colbert thought he would when they drafted him in the first round.

Burns was probably the worst of all. He had a respectable rookie season but has since taken a turn in the wrong direction. Artie Burns is now a bottom-of-the-roster player for Pittsburgh and doesn’t play a factor on defense anymore.

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People can spin it any way they want it, but I like to shoot straight. Yes, the Steelers have 10 former 1st round picks on their defense. But there are just a few of them who have performed up to their draft status. It’s important not to get that confused.