The Pittsburgh Steelers are 2-4 heading into their Week 8 game vs. the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football, but the bye week is a great time to take a look at the team’s 2019 NFL Draft class and see how the players are doing thus far.
Granted, this is a tiny sample size, six games, but still large enough where you can get a feel for what kind of player the team has, in terms of potential.
Let’s take a look going by the round and order in which they were drafted:
Round 1: Devin Bush
The Steelers made an aggressive play in the first round to trade up and select Bush with the 10th overall pick. I’d say the trade has panned out for the black-and-gold as Bush is certainly in the discussion for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors at season’s end. Every week you see Bush getting more comfortable, and this equates to more plays being made. His athleticism is showing up in a big way, and at big times for this opportunistic Steelers defense. Of their 15 takeaways, Bush has been involved in six of those.
Round 3: Diontae Johnson
In my opinion, Johnson has been the surprise of the draft class so far. Everyone expected Johnson to take some time, like James Washington before him, but the reality is Johnson has looked comfortable very early in his rookie campaign. He has already caught two touchdown passes, and is developing a very good rapport with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges. I expect Johnson to be a more integral part of the offense moving forward.
Round 3: Justin Layne
The Michigan State cornerback has been nothing more than a special teams player, but this was expected. Layne is a project, but fans haven’t gotten to see him as a defender to date.
Round 4: Benny Snell Jr.
Benny Snell Football...before the season everyone wondered what that even meant. We are starting to at least get a glimpse of what Snell can bring to the team. While he has plenty of room to improve, since Jaylen Samuels’ injury Snell has shown he isn’t a liability in the backfield. I get the feeling he will only get better in Year 2 when he learns the NFL isn’t about size, but speed and agility.
Round 5: Zach Gentry
Like Layne, most viewed Gentry as a project. He is a giant of a man, but definitely has work to do to improve his game both blocking and receiving. Gentry did see time early in the season, and didn’t do horribly when called into action. Gentry will get valuable experience this year, but his impact won’t come likely until earliest Year 2.
Round 6: Sutton Smith
Did not make the roster.
Round 6: Isaiah Buggs
Buggs has been a player who has bounced between being a game day inactive, to seeing the field sparingly on special teams. However, the fact Buggs made the team, and is getting a helmet sometimes, shows some promise. He could get an opportunity to showcase his skills with Stephon Tuitt lost for the year with a torn pectoral muscle.
Round 6: Ulysees Gilbert III
Gilbert flashed in a big way this preseason, and made the team because of it. With Tyler Matakevich’s contract set to expire after this season, Gilbert might be the insurance policy at inside linebacker if/when Matakevich leaves via free agency. In the meantime, Gilbert has been a very good special teams player and gaining valuable experience throughout his rookie year. His athleticism combined with Devin Bush makes for a tantalizing duo at ILB in the future.
Round 7: Derwin Gray
Did not make the roster.