Feeney, a senior from the University of Washington, earned all-Pac-12 second-team honors in 2015, racking up a team-high eight sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss. The rangy linebacker was the first Washington player taken in this year's draft, after the program saw three defensive players drafted in the first round last year (Danny Shelton, Marcus Peters, Shaq Thompson).
Without a fifth-round pick, the Steelers had to wait 97 spots between their fourth and sixth round picks, and were pleasantly surprised to find Feeney still on the board.
At 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, Feeney is a physical specimen. After running a 4.5-second 40-yard dash, and posting a 40-inch vertical to go along with a 130-inch broad jump at the NFL Combine, many thought he'd be taken anywhere between the second and fifth rounds. But, as luck would have it, he fell right into Pittsburgh's lap at No. 220 overall.
40-yard dash: 4.50 seconds
Vertical Jump: 40 inches
Broad Jump: 130 inches
3-cone drill: 7.20 seconds
20-yard shuttle: 4.42 seconds
60-yard shuttle: 11.71 seconds
A former safety, Feeney looks natural dropping into coverage and running sideline to sideline in pursuit. He uses a quick first step and his long arms (33 3/8") to keep blockers at a distance and beat them around the edge. Having played four years on the special teams unit at Washington, Feeney is a willing and able tackler, and plays with a fiery aggression. He was voted Special Teams Player of the Year by his teammates during his junior season.
Most scouts projected Feeney as a 4-3 WILL linebacker at the next level, but the Steelers plan to use him on the edge as a situational pass rusher, and on the special teams coverage units. Eventually, given his versatile skill set, Feeney could also be used as a chess piece in sub packages.
"He has good body control, really good body lean in the pass rush," Steelers' outside linebackers coach Joey Porter said of Feeney in a press conference following the selection.
"It's not new to him. He has had success at rushing the passer. That's always a good sign when you have someone who comes in and adds a little bit of that in their game. You can always add more. But what he has right now, I think is good enough. We will add to it."
At just 230 pounds, Feeney will have trouble setting the edge with his wiry frame against 300-plus pound offensive tackles. He'll need to add some upper body strength, and improve his pad level if he hopes to become more than a situational pass rusher and special teams player for the Steelers.
There are also health concerns. Feeney had multiple shoulder surgeries in college, and recently had surgery to repair a sports hernia, which prevented him from working out at his pro day.
But Freeney also brings the speed, length and athleticism that the Steelers have been lacking at the outside linebacker position in recent years. His skill set stands in stark contrast to a player like 2013 first-rounder Jarvis Jones, who tested poorly at the combine, and has just five sacks through three NFL seasons.
Ultimately, however, Feeney's path to the 53-man roster will hinge on his ability to contribute on special teams during training camp and in the preseason.