Evaluating Pittsburgh Steelers draft classes from 2013 to 2018

The Steelers have been hit or miss in the NFL Draft from 2013 to 2018. Here’s a detailed breakdown of each pick they made over a six-year span.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the league’s most established franchises. When it comes to the NFL Draft, they have a solid reputation for landing talented football players. Kevin Colbert is widely regarded as one of the NFL’s premier general managers for his work in Pittsburgh over the year. But not everything has gone to plan.

Since 2013, the Steelers have had plenty of rough patches along the way when it comes to the draft – beginning with busting on edge defender, Jarvis Jones. I recently took the time to come up with a color-coding chart and grading scale for each draft pick the Steelers have made from 203-2018. Here’s what I came up with:

While there are a few players who could fall into multiple categories here, the chart is pretty straightforward. Let’s take a look at each Steelers draft class individually.

2013

Though Le’Veon Bell was an All-Pro running back from Pittsburgh’s 2013 draft class, this one will always leave a bitter taste in the mouths of Steelers fans because of Jarvis Jones. The former first-round pick was completely irrelevant on defense, and will go down as one of the worst draft picks in recent Pittsburgh history.

Markus Wheaton was a serviceable (albeit, replaceable) starter for the Steelers, and Landry Jones was a capable backup. Though they didn’t have much success in the back-half of the draft, Vince Williams has been a huge success as a former 6th-round draft choice.

2014

The 2014 draft had a chance to be really special. Ryan Shazier was a budding star and Stephon Tuitt showed a ton of promise as a long-time NFL starter. On top of that, Martavis Bryant was once one of the best deep threats in the league. However, Bryant’s career was derailed thanks to multiple suspensions, and Shazier’s Pro Bowl career was cut short with a life-altering spinal injury.

There were no special players in the last five picks of the 2014 draft, and Dan McCullers is the only player that has stuck around. Overall, it was a front-loaded draft that had the potential to be among the best in the league, but injuries and suspensions took over.

2015

This class could have been much worse had Bud Dupree not taken a step forward in 2019. Second-round pick Senquez Golson never suited up a game for the Steelers, while Sammie Coates and Doran Grant were bad picks.

The back-half of the draft was better, per value. The Steelers got a serviceable starter at great value in Jesse James, and a decent rotational backup edge defender in Anthony Chickillo. Even  L.T. Walton was able to prove depth as a rotational defensive tackle over the course of four years.

2016

Apart from taking Javon Hargrave in the third round, this draft would have been among the worst Steelers classes in my lifetime. Artie Burns was one of the biggest busts in recent memory, while Sean Davis never proved to be more than a below-average starter for Pittsburgh.

The second half of the draft wasn’t much better, as the Steelers missed on Jerald Hawkins, Travis Feeney, and Demarcus Ayers. Former 7th-round compensatory pick and special teams standout Tyler Matakevich is now the second-highest-paid player from this draft class. That tells you just how poor it was.

2017

As bad as the 2016 draft class was for Pittsburgh, 2017 was just the opposite. The Steelers struck gold with T.J. Watt in the first round. Watt was an All-Pro in 2019 and a runner up for Defensive Player of the Year. JuJu Smith-Schuster had a down year last season, but he and James Conner were still Pro Bowlers in 2018.

On day three, the Steelers landed a capable backup quarterback in Josh Dobbs – who was later traded to the Jaguars. Their last three picks were non-factors, however, in Brian Allen, Colin Holba, and Keion Adams.

2018

The 2018 draft is still relatively new, so the jury is still out on some of these players. Terrell Edmunds has been underwhelming as a former first-round pick and has graded out as a below-average state in his first two seasons, according to Pro Football Focus. James Washington took a step forward in his second season and has a chance to be the best pick in this draft class.

Mason Rudolph did not perform well as a starter in 2019, but he has potential as an NFL backup who could stick around for a while. Meanwhile, Chukwuma Okorafor and Jaylen Samuels are developing backups who have a chance to do more with this team. Marcus Allen and Joshua Frazier were bad picks on day three.

Next: Blockbuster trades Steelers could pursue before draft day

Things can still change with some of the more recent drafts, but as of now, this is how I evaluated each player the Steelers drafted from 2013-2018. When it comes down to it, the Steelers have been hit or miss in recent years.

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