I don’t hate the Steelers draft. Not yet.
In that vein, it’s certainly a draft that leaves itself wide open to future criticism. The Steelers went for quirky, not safe.
Third-round pick Alex Highsmith (edge rusher) is a walk-on from Charlotte, a C-USA school. Only two NFL teams talked to him before the draft.
Fourth-round pick Kevin Dotson (guard) wasn’t considered good enough to be invited to the NFL scouting combine. But he did start four years at Louisiana, a Sun Belt Conference school. Dotson is more game-ready than a lot of rookies.
The Steelers took two players from Maryland, which hasn’t had a winning season since 2014 or a winning year in conference play since 2010. (Fourteen of the draft’s first-round picks were from Alabama, Clemson, LSU and Ohio State. Football factories.)
Trading their first-round pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick last season doesn’t factor into this year’s draft. Nor does trading their third-round choice by way of moving up to pick Devin Bush tenth overall in 2019. Your “draft class” is the players you draft.
Gerry Dulac of the Post-Gazette loves the Steelers’ draft. He gave their first two picks an “A,” their next two picks a “B” and “B+”. National experts aren’t as excited.
One of those experts, Andy Benoit of Sports Illustrated, posted a series of tweets that highlight the draft for what it is: A crapshoot.
When he was a Penguins exec, current Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin responded to me saying that a first-round pick was a bust by saying, “Well, a lot of them are.”
Mel Kiper Jr. got five out of 32 picks correct in the draft’s first round. He’s nonetheless considered a draft “expert.” He doesn’t know. Nobody knows.
But the Steelers didn’t make safe picks. That’s certain. If this draft “fails,” the Steelers will be open to criticism, deservedly so or not.
I’d have taken a running back at No. 49 overall instead of Notre Dame wide receiver Chase Claypool. Backs are infinitely more disposable. But I don’t trust James Conner to stay healthy or perform like a No. 1 back, and his backups mostly stink. J.K. Dobbins of Ohio State and Cam Akers of Florida State were both available.
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