Numbers Crunch: Recent History Of Steelers Draft Picks Making The Roster

By Alex Kozora

At our eternally optimistic core, every Pittsburgh Steelers’ fan believes their yearly group of draft picks can be successful. That even late rounders could become the “diamond in the rough”, their selection lauded about for years to come.

But of course, that isn’t always the case. There are only 53 spots on a 90 man squad entering camp, meaning tough decisions will inevitably be made. We’ll take a look at where the Mike Tomlin-era draft picks have landed after their first training camp.

For those that have followed me prior to my time here, (hi mom!) I’ve done a similar study before. But I’ve expanded on this one to really show the odds late round picks like Jordan Zumwalt, Daniel McCullers, and Rob Blanchflower are facing as they enter their first training camp.

The data is listed below, defaultly sorted by year. It’s broken up into four different categories: those who made the 53 man roster, those who landed on injured reserve, those who were cut, and of those players who were cut and immediately placed on the practice squad.


We’ll go through each year in slightly more detail beginning with 2007.

It was arguably the worst initial year for a draft class with 62.5% of the rookies making the 53 man roster, the worst percentage under Tomlin. Injuries didn’t play a role either, just a lack of talent. Fifth round pick Cameron Stephenson couldn’t even find a home on the practice squad. Ryan McBean and Dallas Baker also got pink slips but were quickly signed to the taxi squad.

The injury bug bit two late round picks in 2008. Ryan Mundy injured an ankle that led him to be released with an injury settlement. Of course, he would eventually re-sign with the team. Trivia-question answer Mike Humpal landed on IR with an apparent stinger, never playing a down in the league. The other five made the roster out of camp. It was the only season under Tomlin a draft pick wasn’t cut. Ironic enough considering this was arguably the worst class.

A.Q. Shipley and Ra’shon Harris were forced to turn in their playbooks in 2009 though Shipley quickly received his back after being signed to the practice squad. Harris wound up in Carolina. The other seven draft picks made the team.

2010 was a successful season for the Steelers’ rookies. Nine of the ten made the 53, none wound up on IR, and the one player that did get cut – Doug Worthington – was placed on the practice squad. The 90% clip was the highest figure under Tomlin’s tenure.

Sixth rounder Keith Williams was cut outright in 2011. Baron Batch tore an ACL and spent his rookie year on IR. The remaining six made the squad.

Three of the ten draft picks in 2012 didn’t appear on the opening-day roster. Toney Clemons landed on the practice squad, Sean Spence on injured reserve, and Terrence Frederick on the streets.

And last season, another trio failed to make it. Nick Williams’ season was lost to a knee. Justin Brown failed to beat out Derek Moye, spending the season on the practice squad. Terry Hawthorne failed to do even that and flunked out of the CFL a few months ago.

Under Tomlin, one fourth rounder (McBean) and two fifth rounders (Stephenson, Hawthorne) couldn’t make the 53. So while it’s likely a guy like Shaquille Richardson does carve out a role, it isn’t guaranteed.

Excluding players that got hurt, five of eight 7th  rounders have made the 53 out of Latrobe. An encouraging number for a guy like Rob Blanchflower.

To tie a bow on it, it’s obvious not all nine of the 2014 class will make the team. Be it injuries or a talent-deficiency, history says it’s likely at least two picks won’t make the 53.

Of course, history is not always predictive and as usual, this data should be used as just one tool when formulating the team’s Week One roster.

Leave in the comments the two draft picks with the worst chance of making the team.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • Steelers12328882

    Easy. Zumwalt and McCullers.

  • steeltown

    Very cool breakdown

    Sort of shows why a lot of people are not holding their breath over Shaq
    Richardson, between Butler, Burnett, Fredericks and Hawthorne I think we’re used to mid-late Rd CBs not making the cut in recent yrs. I personally think Richardson will break that trend.

    I think its going to be tough for McCullers and Zumwalt to make the 53man, I could however see them both signed to the PS, but as we sit here today those two levels of Defense have a lot of competition

  • Bill Sechrengost

    I agree that McCullers is the most likely not to make the team. I’m not even sure he will make the practice squad. I see either Josh Mauro or Ethan Hemer making the practice squad instead of McCullers for defensive linemen. I would think the second guy who may get cut is Zumwalt, only because of the great depth at ILB. I think Wesley Johnson will make the team, but he is the last candidate I could see getting cut, if he doesn’t produce in preseason. Obviously, injury could play a part in the final decisions.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Zumwalt would have to be a beast at ILB and ST and show OLB potential to make it, barring injuries to a couple of guys ahead of him. He is the cut candidate.

    McCullers and Richardson might be practice squad types. Let’s hope they show enough promise to still be around next year.

    I hope Blanchflower can push others off the team. Injuries will always happen a 1 of these may benefit and actually make the 53.

  • Lil Smitty

    My first response was Zumwalt and McCullers going to the practice squad. However, Zumwalt might be saved from squad by special teams play. Steelers need bigger bodies that can run down the field. Most of the tackles seem to made by the gunners. If Zumwalt sticks than I am guessing Johnson will be cut as opposed to Richardson.

  • treeher

    I think there’s more chance this year of players making the squad due to the turnover necessary after back to back 8-8 seasons.

  • walter mason

    Id like to see a chart of drafted players that lasted to the 2nd year or the 3rd.

  • Steve

    With the Steelers keeping Ziggy around so long, I can see Coach Mitchell keeping McCullers around and he may beat out Fangpo, who has done nothing in the past couple of years. From the tape I have watched on McCullers, he is slow coming off the ball but can contain 2 blockers. If the coaches can get his initial burst to be quicker, they could have a Nose Tackle to clog up the middle.

  • As a fan that is so used to later round CBs not working out that it’s getting frustrating, I agree with the optimism on Richardson. I believe Zumwalt, McCullers, and Wesley Johnson are candidates for the practice squad. One of those three might get lucky and make the roster though.