Pro Football Focus is preparing for the upcoming draft by revisiting recent drafts from 2009 to 2011 on a team-by-team basis and seeing how those draft picks turned out a few years down the road, assigning a number grade based on performance and draft value.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were on deck yesterday, and as one would imagine, there’s some good and some bad, and plenty to either agree or disagree with.
While the Steelers didn’t come away with any +2.0 ratings, which PFF describes as a Tom Brady-esque combination of success and value, they did manage a +1.5 in Antonio Brown, who as a sixth-round draft pick has made it to two Pro Bowls and one second-team All-Pro team through his first four seasons. He’s still young and growing. Perhaps in time he may wind up being a +2.0 when he hangs it up.
Pittsburgh’s next-best combination of success and value goes back to the wide receiver position again, and needless to say belongs to Mike Wallace, who signed massive contract with the Dolphins in the last free agency period. Wallace was highly prolific during his first three seasons, but struggled a bit in year four. Still, he consistently put up touchdowns while slowly climbing up the depth chart. He was always a big play waiting to happen.
There was a quintet of players given a value of +0.5, but perhaps the most controversial of those five would be tackle Marcus Gilbert, who has started 34 games at right tackle in his first three seasons, including every game last year. As a (late) second-round pick, his play has been highly scrutinized, perhaps to unrealistic degrees. Nevertheless, the Steelers have three tackles and they need to find out which two are the future this year.
A pair of cornerbacks is also in the +0.5 range with Keenan Lewis and Cortez Allen getting the nods. Lewis was a late bloomer who contributed next to nothing in his first two seasons before doing a solid job in sub-packages in year three and then emerging as a quality starter in his final year with the team. Had he played last year with the Steelers, perhaps the site would have given him a higher grade, as he excelled in New Orleans last year with four interceptions.
Allen is also in position to ascend higher in the site’s rankings, which describes him as “a starter who has looked the part of a good No. 2 corner at the very least”. He greatly exceeded expectations during his first two years with the team, but somewhat underwhelmed last year when given the starting job, in part because he was hampered by injuries. Year four is the year for him to prove that he can be a reliable mainstay in this defense for years to come.
Among the many even 0.0 grades are two interesting names in former high draft picks, Jason Worilds and Cameron Heyward. Both are players that were kept back by talent ahead of them on the depth chart and who only got their breaks last season. They both appear to be on the ascent.
There are also a slew of -0.5 grades, mostly full of late-round picks who only stuck around for training camp or one season, but the name that sticks out like a sore thumb is Maurkice Pouncey. It’s no secret that PFF is down on Pouncey perhaps more than anybody that isn’t a Steelers’ fan who doesn’t want to pay him big money. And a top-20 pick is certainly not disproportionate value. But a negative grade for Pouncey just seems silly. No matter how overrated you might find him to be, he has to be an even grade at worst.
Ziggy Hood is the big name that stands out among the -1.0 grades, the lowest given to any of the team’s picks. The site writes that “he was the opposite of an impact player”, and frankly it’s hard to disagree with that. Certainly he’s been the least impactful starting defensive end the team has had in a while, and it’s not a surprise to see him gone.
Another -1.0 grade that they gave the Steelers was for guard Kraig Urbik, which needs to be qualified. Urbik as a draft pick was a perfectly fine choice. He has grown into a solid, if not above average starter with the Bills. The Steelers gave up on him too soon, instead choosing to hold on to Doug Legursky. The pick itself wasn’t the issue.