Steeler Post Draft Analysis
Give me a 6 pack, half-hour of rest and lets go play them again – We can beat them. ~ Jack Lambert
The NFL draft is over and it’s time to take a look at what the Steelers did and how it should impact the upcoming season. Of course the roster is not completely set for camp, rookie mini-camp shook some things up and there still could be some other moves to come, although if history is any guide the roster is 99% set.
The NFL Draft
First let’s get the facts out of the way, the following is a list of the NFL draft day picks for the Steelers:
- No. 10: Devin Bush, ILB, Michigan
- No. 66: Diontae Johnson, WR, Toledo
- No. 83: Justin Layne, CB, Michigan State
- No. 122: Benny Snell, RB, Kentucky
- No. 141: Zach Gentry, TE, Michigan
- No. 175: Sutton Smith, OLB, Northern Illinois
- No. 192: Isaiah Buggs, DT, Alabama
- No. 207: Ulysees Gilbert, LB, Akron
- No. 219: Derwin Gray, T, Maryland
As I posted before the draft, I was content to see the Steelers wait til 20 in round 1. But I have to say I was really excited to see us move up and take Devin Bush at 10. This guy is a three-down inside linebacking speed machine with a good head for the game. He’s the inside linebacker replacement for Ryan Shazier that we’ve all been waiting for. The cost was effectively a 1st, 2nd and 3rd round pick, hopefully, and I expect it, to be worth it.
Diontae Johnson was not a surprise to me when I heard the analysts say one thing on draft day. One commentator stated that he thought Diontae Johnson may be the most complete route runner in the draft. The reason this made me think the Steelers would pick him was that last year Ben Roethlisberger’s biggest complaint about receivers coming out of college was that they didn’t know the complete route tree. Given this, I think there is a good chance we see Johnson on the field sooner than later.
Justin Layne was a great pick! Likely they had a first or second round rating on him and he’s got size, speed and talent, he could be Joe Haden’s future replacement and his presence ups the competition for the DB’s on the roster.
Big Benny Snell, in my pre-draft piece I said the Steelers should take him and I’m so happy they did. Snell will be a great addition to an already talented young running back room. I’m very excited for hopefully a renewed focus on the run game this year.
Ok, let’s face it the rest of the picks are depth picks, you hope that some of these guys develop well enough to provide depth and special teams support and maybe even develop eventually into a starter, but not a lot of reason to talk about them until we see what they do in the actual training camp.
The Undrafted Free Agents
So here is the list of the Pittsburgh Steeler undrafted free agents
- Jay Hayes, DE, Georgia
- Chris Nelson, DL, Texas
- Travon McMillian, RB, Colorado
- Alex Myers, DB, Houston
- Dravon Askew-Henry, S, West Virginia
- Ian Berryman, P, Western Carolina
- Matthew Wright, K, Central Florida
- Trevor Wood, TE/LS, Texas A&M
- Garrett Brumfield, G, LSU
- Fred Johnson, G, Florida
The same thing applies to this list as the late round draft picks, not much of a reason discussing them until we see what happens in camp.
Pre Training Camp Roster Analysis
So an active year for the Steelers, some high profile departures in Bell and Brown and some free agent moves (Barron, Montcrief and Nelson). I personally believe the organization did a good job of putting together a solid roster for the upcoming camp and season.
The “expert” NFL talking heads of course disagree, the Steelers are broadly being panned as done, the third best team in the AFC North with the Browns winning the division and by Peter King today as the 18th best team in the NFL. My favorite is the discussion of how the Browns are the new AFC dynasty, not Patriot level, but the next AFC dynasty. Google, Browns NFL dynasty, you’ll be shocked at how many people are writing about this. Of course keep in mind these folks are paid to get clicks not necessarily be right. But c’mon, a dynasty with a second year quarterback, a head coach with 2 months of in-season experience and absolutely no defensive depth. Sure, lots of talent, but an injury or two on defense and this team will need to score 35 points a game to win. As for the Ravens, well Jackson is the solution to all of the Raven’s ills, the only question I have is can he play inside linebacker? The Ravens have revamped the defense after some free-agent losses and are really depending on some young receivers to take the target off of Jackson. I think, after now having some tape on Jackson, he’ll still be good, but not quite the weapon he was last year. As for the Bungles, well, basically every writer just bags on Andy Dalton, calls them the Bungles and moves on, hard to disagree.
Cleveland Brown dynasty aside, I think the Steelers will win the AFC North this year. Why?
Well, first there will be less drama, secondly, we’re not replacing Bell and Brown. We replaced Bell last year and yes, there is a whole lot of AB production to be replaced. However, some of that production can be replaced in the running game. Also, we don’t need someone to make 115 catches this year to replace AB. We need more emphasis on the run, and then for MacDonald to up his production and for Washington, Johnson and Montcrief or a subset of them to have really solid year. Then of course just let JuJu be JuJu.
Secondly, we should have a much better defense this year. We’re better in the middle, we’re better at corner and have depth at both. Barring injuries, this should be a very good defense this year. I agree with the over/under of 9 wins for the season, it’s a solid prediction. And then, a guy like Bush, when he starts flying around, much like Shazier did, can energize a defense. That of course would mean the offense needs to put up less points to win. Most importantly, when you have a future hall of fame quarterback you’re never out of a game.
If a few things happen, a lack of significant serious injuries, Bush playing as advertised, Washington making a good second year leap and Neslon being a solid starting corner on the outside, then this could be a Super Bowl team. And a Super Bowl team that looks a lot more like the Steelers of old, more of a pounding running game and a voracious defense. Let’s hope so.