Steelers interestingly give up on a pair of fourth-round picks

Buddy Johnson #51 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Buddy Johnson #51 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Steelers finalized their 53-man roster recently, and here’s why they were willing to give up on a pair of young draft selections. 

After the August 30th cut-down deadline, the Pittsburgh Steelers now have the 53 players they intend to enter the 2022 season with. While a few changes could be made here and there, the front office made the difficult decision to part with over two dozen players in a 24-hour period. Some of the names who didn’t make the cut were former draft choices.

I’m not necessarily surprised by some of the roster decisions that Mike Tomlin and Omar Khan made, but I do find them interesting. Some of the most peculiar choices that the team made was deciding to part ways with former fourth-round draft choices, Anthony McFarland and Buddy Johnson.

In the NFL, your opportunities are largely tied to your draft position, so I was a bit puzzled as to why the Steelers decided to give up on these players so early in their careers.

In 2021, Anthony McFarland dealt with minor injuries and he rarely saw the field for extensive action. On 108 offensive snaps, the Steelers gave McFarland just 3 carries. It’s hard to prove yourself as a running back when you aren’t afforded the opportunity to touch the ball.

This year, I thought McFarland had an excellent summer. The game seemed to slow down a bit for him and he impressed as both a runner and a receiver. In the first preseason game against the Seahawks, he rushed for 8.0 yards per carry and did nothing to hurt his odds of making the team. However, at the end of the day, McFarland was the odd man out as Benny Snell and Jaylen Warren ended up rounding out the RB corps.

Buddy Johnson also seemed like he stood a pretty good shot at making the team. Though he rarely saw the field as a rookie last season, Johnson possessed plus athletic traits that theoretically could have helped out on special teams and he had the tools to develop into a decent linebacker somewhere down the road. However, before his second season even started, the Steelers decided they had seen enough.

Steelers are missing on too many mid-round picks

It wasn’t that the Pittsburgh Steelers had just a plethora of talent ahead of both McFarland and Johnson on the roster. Despite their mid-round draft statuses, McFarland couldn’t beat out Benny Snell yet again and Johnson’s linebacker role looks like it’s going to get replaced by Marcus Allen once Damontae Kazee is officially placed on IR to start the season.

These are just two more examples of draft choices that have not panned out for the Steelers. Sadly, this is something that is happening far too often.

Kendrick Green — Pittsburgh’s third-round pick from 2021 — was one of the most difficult players to watch during the preseason as he was routinely beaten by defensive linemen at the point of attack. Many fans were calling for his release from the team during the final wave of roster cuts. Last year, the team cut EDGE Quincy Roche and S Antoine Brooks before either player had a chance to make an impact.

Some of this comes down to an issue in evaluating talent, while some can be blamed on not giving young players enough opportunity. As Steelers fans, we know that nothing means more to the organization than winning in the present; it’s never about building for the future.

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Whatever the issues are, the Pittsburgh Steelers need to find a way to start hitting more often on their mid-round draft choices. These are picks that should be able to have roles on an NFL football team, and if they keep missing, the lack of talent and depth around the roster is going to catch up with them.