How many former draft picks are currently on the Steelers roster?

Steelers, Cameron Heyward
Steelers, Cameron Heyward / Justin Berl/GettyImages

Draft success is essential when building a roster that can compete for a Super Bowl. Too many teams miss far too often in the NFL Draft or elect not to keep draftees following their rookie deals. This leads to an immense amount of roster turnover and forces teams to lay the groundwork yet again before they can be truly competitive.

While the Pittsburgh Steelers have had excellent stretches of finding talent in the NFL Draft, they showed that they weren't immune to misses. Over the final five seasons of Kevin Colbert's tenure as general manager, the Steelers swung and missed on draft picks like James Washington, Devin Bush, and Buddy Johnson, while selecting unspectacular players early like Terrell Edmunds and Chase Claypool.

Even before that unspectacular stretch, Colbert flat-out missed on players like Jarvis Jones, Artie Burns, Sean Davis, and Senquez Golson in the first two rounds. So how many former Pittsburgh draft picks are currently on the Steelers roster as we head into the 2023 season?

Steelers remaining draft picks entering 2023 season

The Pittsburgh Steelers had more roster turnover in recent years than we are used to seeing. Though this team has still been competitive enough to avoid a losing-record season under head coach Mike Tomlin, they haven't threatened anybody as legitimate contenders in quite some time.

As we prepare to enter the 2023 season, the Steelers have 31 players on their roster who were former draft picks (this includes the first-round trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick in 2019, otherwise rounding out the total at 30). Here's a breakdown by position:

The Steelers struck gold on Minkah Fitzpatrick with their pick that otherwise would have been their first-rounder in 2020, so I included this as a player who is still on their roster from that selection (though Minkah was technically drafted by the Dolphins and played one year in Miami). Their first-round hit rate has been decent compared to other NFL teams, and if not for a few busts, we would have seen more remaining in Pittsburgh.

The second round is where the Steelers have been unspectacular. Of the four former second-rounders currently on the roster, two haven't even played an NFL snap yet as they are from the recent 2023 draft (Joey Porter Jr. and Keeanu Benton). The other two are Pat Freiermuth and George Pickens, who were drafted in 2021 and 2022, respectively. The Steelers have had an issue retaining former second-rounders and some of them haven't been worth keeping on second contracts.

Surprisingly, the Steelers actually have more former third-rounders on their roster than players from any other particular round. There are seven former third-round picks in all who are on the team and these include Darnell Washington, DeMarvin Leal, Kendrick Green, Alex Highsmith, Diontae Johnson, Mason Rudolph, and Chukwuma Okorafor.

In the fourth and seventh rounds, the Steelers have five former picks from each of these two rounds still remaining on the team. Their worst hit rate has come in the fifth and sixth rounds, where the team has just a combined four players still with the team.

It's important to consider that there are a number of important variables here. For starters, the Pittsburgh Steelers didn't have an equal number of picks from each round. Oftentimes, the compensatory formula would play into this and they would wind up with more seventh-round picks than sixth-rounders, for example. It's also worth noting that the Steelers are a team that has been willing to trade away fifth and sixth-round picks over the years in order to acquire veterans they believe could help them right away.

Having 31 former draft picks on a 90-man summer roster doesn't seem like a lot, and it's possible that Pittsburgh could have a handful less when they finalize their 53-man roster in September.
Still, they could have done a lot worse. Though I haven't taken the time to dive into how many former draft picks are on every other team, the Steelers seem to be above average in terms of draft success when compared to every other team in the league.

If this team can start retaining a higher percentage of draft picks on their roster in the future under the direction of Omar Khan and Andy Weidl, it would probably be a pretty good sign that they aren't busting on as many picks.

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Cameron Heyward is the oldest remaining draft pick remaining on the team, followed by 28-year-old T.J. Watt. We need to start seeing more of these success stories in the future of players who are good enough to stick around with the team for the long haul.