Waiting On Steelers’ Next Great Late-Round Draft Pick

The Pittsburgh Steelers are well-regarded, and rightfully so, for the quality work that they have done in the draft, particularly in the 1970s, but also in recent years. There was even a recent study of draft success that labeled them as the most successful franchise in doing so over the course of the past decade, or whatever timeframe it might have been.

Yet I’m still kind of waiting for them to find the next great late-round pick. Sure, they have been able to add some players since hitting a grand-slam home run with wide receiver Antonio Brown in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft, an all-time great late-round pick, but who else can we speak of since then?

Defining ‘late-round’ as the fifth or later, Brown was the fifth of six late-round picks in that draft, and the only one aside from him to even come close to making anything of himself was running back Jonathan Dwyer, who turned in one of the poorest starting seasons for a running back in recent Steelers history.

The next season saw the likes of Chris Carter and Baron Batch join the team in the fifth and seventh rounds, respectively, and the greatest accomplishment of either combined has proven to be…salsa. Literally. Google it if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

Now, things get more interesting in 2012. With their fourth of four seventh-round picks, the 248th overall, the Steelers drafted Kelvin Beachum, a college tackle they wanted to convert to guard. But as their second-round tackle Mike Adams continued to struggle in 2013, he was benched and replaced by Beachum.

The 6’3” lineman grew—figuratively—over the course of the next two seasons and looked to show signs of being a viable long-term option, but in 2014, he did not look to have picked up where he left off, and five or six games into the year, he suffered a torn ACL.

Beachum left in free agency and had a mediocre season in Jacksonville last year. Another year removed from the injury, he is looking to resume his ascent into becoming a quality starter, who uses his intelligence and athleticism to compensate for his diminutive stature.

The other late-round picks from that draft? Chris Rainey, Toney Clemons, David Paulson, and Terrence Frederick.

In 2013, the Steelers landed Vince Williams, who is entering the starting lineup this season after Lawrence Timmons left in free agency. It is, therefore, a job that he is inheriting rather than earning, and he has yet to prove that he is capable of handling the job.

Meanwhile, Terry Hawthorne didn’t even make the practice squad, Justin Brown never lived up to training camp hype in his second year, and Nick Williams is scraping and clawing for rotational snaps somewhere else in the league.

Shaquille Ricardson…another fifth-round cornerback who didn’t make the roster. Jordan Zumwalt was never even healthy. Daniel McCullers will never be a starter on a good team without an obvious injury situation. I don’t think Rob Blanchflower is anywhere.

Yet Wesley Johnson is going to get the chance to start at center for the Jets this year…a year in which they seem to be selling out.

The past two drafts have yielded some encouraging depth players in L.T. Walton, Anthony Chickillo, Demarcus Ayers, and Tyler Matakevich, but none seem clearly marked for a starting role in the future. Jesse James, of course, is the best of an underwhelming bunch at tight end right now.

The Steelers may have cheated this year in drafting a long snapper, but Brian Allen, a raw 6’3” cornerback, and Keion Adams, an outside linebacker, are the latest late-rounders the team hopes to have at least hit a strong double with.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Big White

    Matakevich would be my pick long term, but the Allen one-handed pick on the run was a wow moment.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    AB may be the upper echelon of late round picks! Of course Tom Brady as well, but in a world of over six foot receivers, AB imo is the best!

  • H.K. northern cali

    Allen. Arrow pointing up in the secondary.

  • joe triplehorns

    Dirty Red will start some time. But it might be another team. Dude is brilliant on the field always being in the right place at the right time.

  • Steelers12

    wow those 5th round picks were wasted

  • CP72

    Interesting they’ve had quite a few misses in the later rounds, but have done quite well with UDFA guys.

    Foster, Finney, Walton, Maxey, Nix. Hubbard, Grimble, Rogers,….if any of those guys were a 5-7 round pick you have to call it a success.

  • Brendon Glad

    It’s intriguing why the Steelers drafts flow the way they do.
    Kevin Colbert is the greatest 1st round drafter in the history of the NFL….that’s subjective, of course…but it would be a tough argument against him.
    His 2nd-4th could be called below average.
    His 5th thru 7th…are below average…, if not horrible…yet on the flipside, I would assume that his URFA record is probably more near HOF standard….than poor. Strange, no?
    It’s kind of weird. Maybe a fluke. But he’s been a Steeler GM for nearly 20 years. Why does this happen? Any theories?

  • pittfan

    Not sure where I saw it but there was an analysis of team draft picks by round compared against career achievements. IOW, where was a guy drafted and what had he done in his career. AB and Brady were stand outs on the review. I’ll see if I can find it and post.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    It makes you wonder why the Steelers don’t trade more often to get him two 1st round picks?

    Like trade this year’s 2nd rounder for another team’s 1st rounder (in two years)? Or trade our 2nd + 3rd + 4th to get another late 1st rounder? Or a player plus a couple picks for another team’s 1st rounder?

    You may give up an occasional solid player from the 2-4 round range (like Sean Davis or Stephon Tuitt) but you also avoid the busts like (Mike Adams or Limas Sweed) and get a “star” player instead. So you’re not really “losing” your 2nd rounder. You’re upgrading him a lot of the time.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I’m guessing it was this Washington Post study. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/sports/nfl-draft-history/#PIT

  • Matthew Marczi

    Right you are, but it’s also the case that it could be easier to find undrafted success simply because you have 7-15 undrafted players a year compared to 3-5 late-rounders a year. Still, credit where it’s due for their undrafted successes. James Harrison is the poster child, but Ramon Foster is well up there as well. You’ll have to switch out Walton for Golden though. Walton was a sixth-rounder.

  • pittfan

    Thanks Matthew, WaPo would’nt let me access the article without signing up (which I’m not interested in doing). The one I posted earlier was more convoluted than the one I saw here some time ago. What is the policy regarding posting outside web sources BTW?

  • Matthew Marczi

    WordPress has a ton of filters set up that automatically sends posts with links to a moderation queue (you wouldn’t believe the number of spam bots we get), so it’s best when trying to post a link to replace periods by writing “dot”. Requires extra work for those looking to follow the link but at least it should go through without depending upon a moderator to happen to be behind the scenes and see it.

  • Brendon Glad

    Here’s my take on it….I think Colbert gets into the “best player available” mantra too much…after round 1…
    And what this creates is an opportunity for the obvious weak links on the team to be filled by URFA’s.
    It’s a worthwhile argument to say whether this is good or bad…Colbert’s record as a GM cannot be questioned, as a body of work. It is beautiful, and I respect him greatly for it.
    Could he do better in the draft day 2 and 3? I think so. I think the Steelers are nearly perfect in evaluating their players once they have them under their watch…but their drafting deserves a little scrutiny.

  • Brendon Glad

    But I DO get torn on it….part of me sees how easy it is for the NEP among others, to get open against the Steelers…even when the Steelers are playing coverage…and wish the Steelers would overload their drafts towards the secondary….
    But the other part says: “What suggests that the Steeler ‘s know how to draft DB’s in the Colbert era?” So maybe it would be wasted picks. I’m torn.
    Great DB draft in 2003. Troy P and Ike. After that…Awful. I’m flummoxed. I hope Colbert has figured it out.
    I know this…Tom Brady ain’t worried about the Steelers. Until they prove they can cover for 2.0 seconds across the board. 2.8 sec.s would be a plus.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    Dwyer was a real disappointment. I thought that all the tools were there. He was even the top rated rb prospect in at least one prominent draft guide. I just don’t understand a guy who gets that far and won’t put in the work to get in shape and learn the playbook. Hope he’s happy flipping burgers wherever he is.

  • Lee Foo Young

    14% of draft picks from round 4-7 become starters (for at least one year).

    I saw a stat somewhere that we are around that or slightly above in the Colbert era.

  • DAWAARE

    To be fair, RB’s success mostly depends on Oline and when dwyer was given chance, our o-line was mediocre at best.
    There is no doubt that bell is elite but he and ezekiel elliot also have the best o-line crew in the NFL and great qbs… .

  • Brenton deed

    Don’t forget Lloyd.

  • Brenton deed

    Also Barry Foster

  • LucasY59

    at least they are getting decent depth from their recent late picks, VW is my current fav (other than AB of course) there are also a lot of UDFA contributors to the team, and AV is my guy from that group players, I really hope Allen can be a guy that really stands out as a 5th rd pick (the team REALLY needs a late rd CB to work out , since they have failed in that area pretty badly over more than a few yrs)

  • Conserv_58

    Glad you posted this because I was going to. Lloyd doesn’t get enough recognition for being one of the Steelers all time best late round picks. He was a sixth round pick because he was considered too slow and too small to play OLB in the NFL. I still remember the game against the Colts where he knocked Colts’ QB, Jim Harbaugh’s front teeth out. Harbaugh went on to say that Greg Lloyd was the only defensive player in the league that scared the heck out of him.

  • Conserv_58

    How could you forget to mention Deebo on that list? Ramon Foster needs to be on that list too.

  • Conserv_58

    The Steelers have had their fare share of late round duds, but if anyone was paying attention to what Kevin Colbert said a few years ago then you would understand that he thinks that coming away from the draft with two or three good players is a good draft. He thought of late round picks as guys that most likely won’t make the team, but had some potential worthy of taking a look at.

    For me, it’s some of Colbert’s mid round misses that were big time head scratchers. Anyone remember WR, Fred Gibson from Georgia that was Colbert’s forth round pick in 2005? He was so bad that he never made the final cuts in his rookie season.

  • Conserv_58

    From the neck up, Tyler has everything a coach could ask for in a player. Everything. It’s his physical limitations that prevented him from being a day one pick.

  • Steve Johnson

    You can say that again! But, I’m pulling for (CB) Brian Allen and (OLB) Keion Adams.

  • Steelers12

    me as well

  • Terrible Towlie

    Allen, Adams, and Odom

  • Terrible Towlie

    Avoid the Lloyd
    he was a dominate force,, borderline HoF

  • Terrible Towlie

    2 wasted picks(thomas)

  • Steve Johnson

    I would have to agree, but why is it that Colbert has had so many misses Rds 4-7? Just because he has done a good job with UDFA’s, he shouldn’t get a pass for how poorly he has drafted in the middle of the Rds. I often hear the analysts say that is where Championship Teams are built.