Are The Steelers Headed For Another First Round Underclassman In 2015?

Like many of you, I’m still hard at work trying to figure out who the Pittsburgh Steelers will ultimately draft in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. I should note, however, that even after watching hours of tape on several players, I still find myself paying close attention to the Steelers draft history when it comes to first-round selections since Kevin Colbert took over in 2000.

The thing that sticks out the most when it comes to Steelers first-round selections is their seemingly love for underclassmen that have experience. In fact, only six times have the Steelers drafted a senior in the first round of a draft since Colbert took over in 2000 and in three of those instances the selection was the 30th overall or later. (Cameron Heyward, Ziggy Hood, Kendall Simmons)

If you want to drill back to just the Mike Tomlin era, only twice have Steelers drafted a senior in the first round since 2007 and in both of those instances the pick was very late in that round.

Colbert and company seem to have criteria for their first-round underclassmen selections, however, and that includes plenty of playing time and production during their college years. In addition to that, the selections seemingly had great character traits at the time they were drafted and most of them served as captains on their college teams.

Should the Steelers wind up selecting an underclassman this year in the first round, it will mark the fourth year in a row that has happened. One would think that player will not only be brought in for a pre draft visit, but have his pro day attended by Colbert as well.

Below is a list of the 2015 underclassmen that many feel have a good shot at being drafted in the first round. Assuming the Steelers stay put with their 22nd overall selection, several of these players will be long gone by the time their pick rolls around.

If you’re hoping that the Steelers will draft an underclassman cornerback next month, one would think that those odds are slim. For starters, many believe that Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes will be gone in the first 20 picks of the draft. While there’s a good chance that Marcus Peters will still be available come time for the Steelers pick, his character issues really need to be explored closely. He also only started 28 games during his career at Washington. Jalen Collins is another underclassman cornerback, but he only started 10 games during his career at LSU and one would think that’s not enough tape for the Steelers to warrant investing a first-round draft pick in. If you consider Florida State cornerback P.J. Williams to be first-round worthy, it should be noted that he only started 24 games during his college career.

I have excluded Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota from the list below for obvious reasons, so if the Steelers do indeed go with an underclassman again in the first round this year, who do you think will be the selection based on the remaining names. Am I missing anybody?

Steelers First Round Draft Picks 2007-2014

YEARRNDPICKPLAYERCOLLEGEPOSCOL YEARGAMESSTARTSCAPTGM PRO DAYVISIT
2014115Ryan ShazierOhio StateLBJR3929YYY
2013117Jarvis JonesGeorgiaLBJR3426YYY
2012124David DeCastroStanfordGJR3939NYN
2011131Cameron HeywardOhio StateDESR5246YY?
2010118Maurkice PounceyFloridaCJR4139NYY
2009132Ziggy HoodMissouriDESR5035Y??
2008123Rashard MendenhallIllinoisRBJR3514Y??
2007115Lawrence TimmonsFlorida StateLBJR3813NYY

2015 Underclassmen That Could Be Drafted In First Round
Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon
Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
Jalen Collins, CB, LSU
Landon Collins, S, Alabama
Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Ereck Flowers, T, Miami
Dante Fowler, OLB, Florida
Eddie Goldman, DT, FloridaState
Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma
Randy Gregory, OLB/DE, Nebraska
Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
Eli Harold, OLB, Virginia
Andrus Peat, T, Stanford
Breshad Perriman, WR, Central Florida
Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma
Shane Ray, OLB, Missouri
Jaelen Strong, WR, ArizonaState
Shaq Thompson, S/LB, Washington
Trae Waynes, CB, MichiganState
Leonard Williams, DE/DT, USC
Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota
P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State

  • Kenneth Wilt

    Can you maybe bold the guys above who were captains?

  • Kenneth Wilt

    If you eliminate RB and WR, you get only 18 guys, but with us drafting # 22, someone on this list will probably be ours.

  • questeelers

    I honestly forgot about Ziggy Hood

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  • The Fighting Ingies

    Landon Collins stands out on this list for me given the criteria for a Jr with experience and someone who could be available at 22.

  • Vinhuddle

    Kendall Simmons was the one for me.

  • SteelBuckeye

    Eli Harold fills a need and may be BPA when we pick.

  • Devon Day

    ‘Trai’ Wayne’s. Lol’ed at that one. If anything though, Pittsburgh may pick Collins (LSU) or Kevin Johnson.

  • grw1960

    Probably 10 of those will already be off the board by pick 22. That leaves maybe 4 of the DBs ,Armstead, Flowers and Harold that stand out to me.
    But wouldn’t mind the picking a senior if their names were La’el Collins , Owa O. or Parker

  • JesusChristTheGodMan .

    Johnson was a senior I believe and I think that he would probably be the pick of the CBs, especially since he has the most starting experience, I believe he has started since his freshman year. I just don’t see (other than Maxx Williams) any underclassmen that will be available at 22 of value

  • afrazier9

    The obvious pick has to be corner I want peters he has the swag we need at corner

  • Stephen M. Hollar

    Kevin Johnson should be the guy. Even though he doesn’t fit this criteria, and hasn’t played much press.

  • cp72

    He looks like a safe pIck. Kinda has a Colbert feel to him. Pick a solid guy from a power 5 school with solid credentials.

  • Devon Day

    Probably so. However, in the 2nd round, I would still take the chance on Danielle Hunter.

  • PittsburghSports

    You could probably add Ronald Darby to that list. He’s getting a lot of 1st rd play lately. I hope Steelers buck their recent trend and go for a Senior, like Kevin Johnson, Byron Jones or Bud Dupree. If I had to select a Junior from that list that I think would still be on the board it’d be Landon Collins. P.J would be my 2nd choice. Harold 3rd. Waynes, Ray and Peters were off the board and I don’t think Collins is worth a 1st rd pick either.

  • And so we come back to Maxx Williams…

    No, no, I’m not going there again. I still think he’d be a great pick, but I realize it’s a) highly unlikely, and b) somewhat unreasonable given the team’s desperate needs elsewhere.

    In any event, while the odds would suggest an underclassman, the last eight years show that there’s a 25% chance it’ll be otherwise. I’d say it’s roughly 50-50 this year, but I’d lean towards not.

  • cencalsteeler

    Your onto something. FO loves juniors and captains.

  • Matt Manzo

    I hate to say it, but of that list, I think it’s Harold. Unless Ray falls.
    They’ll definitely buck the system and take Kevin Johnson! A senior CB!

  • JesusChristTheGodMan .

    I would love Hunter in the 2nd, if we came away with KJ in the 1st and Danielle in the 2nd I’d say we were already having a successful draft. Get Ifo in the 3rd or Carter (or Justin Coleman, Jacoby Glenn later) and Kyle Emanuel in the 5th or 6th I’d be absolutely ecstatic lol

  • Devon Day

    Something tells me Pittsburgh may not receive Hunter by then. I suspect New Orleans, Atlanta, or even Minnesota draft him before they do.

  • Nolrog

    But rainy days and Mondays always get them down.

  • steeltown

    Seems like we’re due for a senior again. Underclassmen aside, my odds on favorites are Dupree, K.Johnson or Peters, I dont believe Scherff or La’el Collins will be available, next group would be Harold, Landon Collins, Maxx Williams

  • Thom

    Kevin Johnson is younger than Trae Waynes.

  • JesusChristTheGodMan .

    There’s no doubt about that, that’s why I would be blown away if they got him the 2nd much like Tuitt last year, because he shouldn’t be there. We shall see, as the draft never plays out as we expect and there are always shocks and twists and turns. I love the draft lol everyone thinks I’m weird because of the amount of attention and depth I give the NFL Draft but I’ve been so intrigued by the draft since I was a teenager. I actually will take work off to watch the whole draft if I have to, yep I’m that guy watching it from the 1st pick to Mr. Irrelevant lol

  • JesusChristTheGodMan .

    Or he’s Ryan Leaf at CB, because he has shown anger problems. But I’ll leave it up to the Steelers whether or not they feel comfortable with him, because there is no doubt the guy can play.

  • JesusChristTheGodMan .

    I think they really like Shane Ray, I remember reading something on BleacherReport I think where Tomlin told Ray at the combine if you run 4.6 or higher at your pro day I’ll come get you myself (don’t take my word for it lol grain of salt people). That first step of his is deadly, and not saying he is Harrison but Harrison won many battles around the edge because he was so fast off the snap so may times and the OT was already late to the edge and had to hold Harrison. I can see that being a main measurable they love on tape because you can’t miss that explosion.

  • JesusChristTheGodMan .

    I think Maxx Williams being the selection is more likely and possible than we like to think. He’s a RS Sophomore and only 20 which fits their criteria, and if their is no value at the desperate positions of need, Williams fits the bill of what they want from a first rounder and we’d have Heath’s replacement and could seemingly not miss a beat at the TE position for another decade. I could see that being highly valuable to the Steelers if the OLB and CB value is dry. I’d take him over Harold, Owa, Byron, PJ, Darby, and many of those 2nd tier guys as they’d be reaches at 22, but the number 1 TE in the draft who is very comparable to Heath as an all around TE who is 20 years old could easily be very high on their board and wouldn’t shock me if he were the 22nd pick. So I wouldn’t dismiss it as a possibility, the Steelers will always go with their BPA regardless of our opinion.

  • LucasY59

    I’d be happy with the top three and would be ok with any of the others

  • Shannon Stephenson

    In the 1st round the Steelers love underclassmen, good character and the #1 rated guys at their position. Normally that is what I look for when I draft the 1st round for the Steelers.