Pittsburgh Steelers: Draft Grades and Recap


During the NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers built up assets to help construct the future of their franchise.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have had an awkward offseason, losing their two most talented offensive weapons while signing elderly (by football terms) quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to an extension.

Throughout the draft, Pittsburgh attempted to reconstruct their team following a third-place finish in the AFC North last season.

Round 1, Selection 10

Devin Bush, Linebacker, Michigan

Grade: A-


The Steelers traded up to select Bush with the tenth overall pick, addressing their defensive needs before offense. Bush is a wise athlete who rarely takes a wrong step during the game. He also has patience and the ability to weave through opposing offenses to get where he is trying to go. He is below average size and does not have the reaction time of your usual first-round pick, and also misses out on tackles sometimes due to lack of length or coming in too steep. Bush is a good fit and an overall good player.

Round 2, Selection 66

Diontae Johnson, Wide Receiver, Toledo

Grade: B-


Johnson, a 5-foot-10 speedster who boasted a 4.53 40-yard dash, was projected to be a third round selection (some macks even had him going Day Three), but he found himself landing in Pittsburgh in the second round. He is a big-time playmaker as showcased by his 80-yard touchdown reception, 83-yard punt return touchdown, and 98-yard kick return touchdown last season with Toledo. Johnson can often get distracted while running his routes and branches off to a route he creates; he also lacks size to haul in jump balls. While some executives question whether or not his skills will translate into the NFL, it is a good selection with high potential nonetheless.


Round 2, Selection 83

Justin Layne, Cornerback, Michigan State

Grade: A+

Layne is a 6-foot-2 defensive back with legitimate potential to become an immediate starter in the right situation. He ran a 4.5 40-yard dash which comes from when he was a wide receiver. He has an above-average football IQ and is quick to read routes to catch up to opponents. He is also calm when he has the back to the ball, yet is quick to pick up throws aimed at whoever he is covering. Layne has been cited for being conservative when tracking receivers, and can also settle for pass breakups rather than interceptions. Overall, though, he is a talented athlete who should have an immediate impact in Pittsburgh.

Round 4, Selection 122

Benny Snell Jr., Running Back, Kentucky

Grade: B

Snell has the potential to serve a significant depth role in Pittsburgh following Le’Veon Bell’s departure if he impresses this summer. He is also expected to have a large impact on the special teams unit. Snell is patient in letting blocks develop and has an effective jump-cut, however he has no breakaway speed and is unable to squeeze through crevices. Hopefully Snell works out for the Steelers.

Round 5, Selection 141

Zach Gentry, Tight End, Michigan

Grade: C+

Gentry is a tall, 6-foot-8 tight end with good hands and positive field awareness. At the same time, he needs more development in his upper body and lacks drive power for double teams. Gentry, whose player comparison is Matt Lengel, was expected to land somewhere in the first wave of undrafted free agents, so taking him in the fifth round shows how the Steelers feel about him.

Round 6, Selection 175

Sutton Smith, Linebacker, Northern Illinois

Grade: B-

Smith is a promising linebacker who checks in at 6-feet tall and 233 pounds. He ran a 4.69 40-yard dash and was projected to go undrafted, so snagging him in the sixth round is a slight reach. He is good at slipping blocks but can sometimes be found looking out of place. He is a longshot to be a starter but should make the regular season roster.

Round 6, Selection 192

Isaiah Buggs, Defensive Tackle, Alabama

Grade: A-

Buggs is a 6-foot-3 defensive tackle checking in at more than 300 pounds. He seems like a likely candidate to make the opening roster. He was projected to go in the fourth or fifth round, so the Steelers should feel fairly fortunate that Buggs slid to the sixth round. He is quick to find the neutral zone first, but his short arms do him no favors as he loses frame to longer-armed tackles. It’s a low-risk, high-potential move for the Steelers with their third to final selection.

Round 6, Selection 207

Ulysees Gilbert III, Linebacker, Akron

Grade: B-

With their second to last pick, the Steelers took another linebacker by drafting the 6-foot,  224-pound Akron product. He didn’t make an appearance in the combine drills, so his college performance stood out against others during evaluations. He is instinctive with a high football IQ, but his size allows him to take too much punishment from opposing offenses. He should make the roster but won’t be a starter for a little while.

Round 7, Selection 219

Derwin Gray, Offensive Tackle, Maryland

Grade: A+

Gray, a 6-foot-4, 320-pound offensive lineman from Maryland, ran a 5.26 40-yard dash and boasted 26 reps on the bench press while soaring for a 90-inch broad jump. Gray has been likened to Tampa Bay’s Donovan Smith, and massive size which amounts to massive power. His football IQ isn’t as impressive, but what he lacks in knowledge is easily made up with power and size, so this is a very solid pick for Pittsburgh.

The Steelers, who aim to bounce back in the AFC North next season, look poised to be headed in the right direction after losing talent to other squads.



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