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.