It takes time to accurately evaluate an NFL Draft class, all of the instant draft grades notwithstanding. But the Steelers 2019 Draft class can already be described with one word: Bold.
- To say that the Steelers are conservative when it comes to the NFL Draft is an understatement.
On Steelers.com Bob Labriola annually reminds readers that the Steelers objective is not to “win” the NFL Draft anymore than they attempt to “win” free agency.
And yet here was Kevin Colbert trading away the Steelers 2nd round pick from 2019 and its third round pick from 2020 to move up into the top ten. The Steelers haven’t sniffed the top ten since 2000, when they got Plaxico Burress.
Suddenly, motives behind events of the last few weeks and months now come into focus.
- The Steelers were unusually aggressive in free agency.
- Then, one day before the 2019 NFL Draft, the Steelers extended Ben Roethlisberger’s contract.
- They followed with the biggest draft day trade in franchise history.
The motive is simple. Art Rooney II, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin know that Ben Roethlisberger’s time is limited. At age 37, he’s show few, if any, signs of losing the footrace with Father Time. But lose he will. The potential for a strike or lockout after the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in 2021 adds additional urgency.
That urgency translated directly to the way the Steelers put together their 2019 draft class
1st Round – Devin Bush, Inside Linebacker, Michigan
2nd Round – Pick traded to Denver
3rd Round A – Diontae Johnson, Wide Receiver, Toledo
3rd Round B – Justin Layne, Cornerback, Michigan State
4th Round – Benny Snell, Jr., Running Back, Kentucky
5th Round – Zach Gentry, Tight End, Michigan
6th Round A – Sutton Smith, Outside Linebacker, Northern Illinois
6th Round B – Isaiah Buggs, Defensive tackle, Alabama
6th Round C – Ulysees Gilbert III, Inside Linebacker, University of Akron
7th Round – Derwin Grey, offensive lineman, University of Maryland
A year ago, everyone expected the Steelers to go heavy on defense in the 2018 NFL Draft, and the team turned around and drafted a safety no one expected them to, and then concentrated the bulk of the rest of their picks on offense.
- This year the Steelers stuck to the script, using each of their premium picks to double down on roster moves they’d made in free agency.
When asked if he felt the Steelers had accomplished their objectives in the 2019 NFL Draft, Mike Tomlin deadpanned, “Yes, but we always do” accompanied by a mischievous grin.
Kevin Colbert said with Mike Tomlin had implied when asked if he was satisfied by picking Devin Bush, “Only time will tell. As I said the other day, if he helps us win a Super Bowl then it was a good pick.”
Whether or not a Steelers draft class can help bring a Lombardi Trophy back to Pittsburgh has been the key evaluation criteria for the past several years.
- The Standard remains the Standard with the Steelers 2019 draft class.
Only this time it carries greater urgency, because Big Ben really has reached the 11th hour of his career.