Initial grades for the Steelers widely praised 2024 draft class

While time will tell just how good this draft class was, here are my initial grades for the Steelers 2024 haul of rookies
Michigan wide receiver Roman Wilson (WO39)
Michigan wide receiver Roman Wilson (WO39) / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers draft saw another value-focused effort from Omar Khan and company. The team stuck to its guns and addressed some of the bigger needs on the team, and you have to be pleased with the overall class.

While players will take a few seasons to truly hit their potential, I want to provide my instant grades for this class. These grades will stem from the prospect as a whole as well as their fit with the team and the value they presented on draft day. Here are my initial grades for the Steelers 2024 draft class.

Steelers round one selection: Troy Fautanu, OT, Washington

Grade: B+

The selection of Troy Fautanu is a double-edged sword for this team. On one hand, Fautanu is a great prospect on tape. He has the elite traits that you want in a tackle and is sound with his technique. Given the need at the position and the talent he showed on tape, you have a strong pick here.

The issue comes down to his height and his natural position. While his length is better than average, his height is far too short. Typically, tackles in the first round are 6’4 or taller, but Fautanu comes in at 6’3 and some change. Add in the fact that he has predominantly played left tackle in school and that opens some questions with Broderick Jones and who will play where.

I like the player on the surface, and I believe Fautanu should be given every opportunity to start at tackle. I fear that you are capping his potential though by keeping him at tackle, as he could become an elite interior player. The questions about his fit are keeping this grade back, but this is a really good pick overall.

Steelers round two selection: Zach Frazier, IOL, West Virginia

Grade: A

I’ll do a small victory lap here. Everyone seemed convinced that the Steelers wouldn’t be able to land a center in round two, but as is usual with the position, the options fell on draft day. As a selection, it is hard to find much fault with Zach Frazier.

While he lacks the ceiling of the options that went before him, he has the highest floor. He is extremely experienced, explosive off the snap, and can hold his own in pass blocking. You aren’t getting the next elite center in Frazier, but instead, a steady and consistent option that you can depend on as a starter. In the second round, that deserves an A grade to me.

Steelers round three selection: Roman Wilson, WR, Michigan

Grade: A+

I think this goes down as my initial favorite pick in this draft class. You could have drafted Roman Wilson in the second round and most people wouldn’t have blinked. In terms of what this offense needs, Wilson fits the bill. While he can win vertically, he is also potent in getting separation in the short and middle game.

He is also coming from Michigan’s run-heavy scheme, and most have already heard his “no block, no rock mantra” get thrown around. Even though he lacks the size to be dominant there, effort will never be the issue. He may have to play more in the slot, but he fits what this team needs. Even if the need isn’t completely filled, the value and talent of Wilson is great in this frame.

Steelers round three selection: Payton Wilson, LB, NC State

Grade: A-

This seems to be a somewhat mixed bag of a pick by fans. On one hand, Payton Wilson was an extremely productive player and many would argue that, based on traits and tape, he was the top linebacker in this class. On the other hand, his knees are worse than mine, and general injury concerns beyond that have many thinking that he will struggle to stay on the field long-term.

To be clear, Pittsburgh passed him medically, so there is no reason to think he can’t immediately play. That said, he may not be around for the long-term because of his injuries. For a late third-round pick though, I can live with just a few seasons of top-level play even if he isn’t a 10-year starter. To me, this was a great value pick for a talented player.

Steelers round four selection: Mason McCormick, IOL, South Dakota State

Grade: C+

What had to be the most shocking pick of the draft, the Steelers triple-dipped along the offensive line and drafted Mason McCormick in the fourth round. The reasoning doesn’t seem to be that clear. McCormick is a fun interior prospect with a lot of experience and good size, but both guards are set and there is a lot of interior depth on the line.

If I had to guess, this draft was relatively top-heavy, and day three was seen as a shallower option for players. Instead of reaching and trying to fill a need at a position of need, this team used their fourth-round pick to take the top player on their board in McCormick. I don’t hate it, but the fit is weird considering the depth this team now has along the interior.

Steelers round six selection: Logan Lee, DL, Iowa

Grade: C-

You only have to look back a couple of years to find a similar type of draft selection. The Steelers have a type when it comes to linemen (long, heavy, and tall), and most of their ideal candidates went off the board earlier than expected. Logan Lee has the tall part and can add weight, but his length is a different story. His look and play style are eerily similar to Isaiahh Loudermilk.

Like Loudermilk, Lee’s ceiling is relatively low. He should become a fine fourth option to rotate in on defense, and ideally, he can progress enough as a pass rusher to become a core backup. That said, he isn’t going to be replacing Cam Heyward anytime soon. This is a very average pick, and given the logjam of middling defensive line options, I feel like this pick could have been spent better elsewhere.

Steelers round six selection: Ryan Watts, DB, Texas

Grade: B

Like the pick before, the Ryan Watts selection has a similar vibe to Cory Trice last year. A long and tall cornerback with ok athleticism. Watts has been healthier while Trice has better tape at outside cornerback.

My concern is that, while he tested ok as an athlete, he plays a lot slower on the field. I don’t think his best fit is as an outside cornerback, as he could become an oversized slot option and rotational safety. He has some questions to answer, but he may be able to wear a lot of hats and play special teams (at worst) so you can’t hate this selection.

Next. Troy Fautanu is a double-edged sword of a prospect for Steelers. Troy Fautanu is a double-edged sword of a prospect for Steelers. dark

This was another strong outing for the Steelers under the Khan tenure. While I am partial to 2023 as the better year, you are looking at four early-impact players and some serious upgrades to the offensive line. This roster still has holes, but I would deem this another successful draft for the team.