The first round of the NFL draft is only a few days away! Many NFL fans will tune in to the primetime spectacle on both Thursday and Friday to see what players are taken to help shape their favorite team for the 2019 season. But many times it’s the players taken on the third day in rounds four through seven that can really affect the teams immediate depth.
For example, only four draft picks over the last three seasons for the Pittsburgh Steelers are not still currently on the roster. Beyond those years (2015 and earlier), the Steelers have no more than two players from any draft who are available for them going into 2019 (since Ryan Shazier announced he will not be able to return next season). To put it in numbers, 82% of the players drafted by the Steelers the last three seasons (2016-2018) are still under contract while only 23% of the Steelers draft picks from 2013–2015 are still in black and gold. So the 2019 selections are all important to the Steelers regardless of round.
Even though many fans tune out of the final round of the draft, it is the diamonds in the rough from the late rounds who can really make a difference on the team. Here are some of the most notable picks in rounds four through seven since Mike Tomlin has taken over as head coach of the Steelers in 2007. Rather than just outline all the hits, each round will consist of a high value pick, a good value pick, and a low value pick (a much nicer way to say “bust”).
High Value: Martavis Bryant (2014)
Although he had his troubles and missed many games due to multiple suspensions, Bryant did have great numbers for a fourth round pick. In 36 games, Bryant had 17 receiving touchdowns on 126 receptions for 1917 yards. Surprisingly, the fourth round of the draft has produced the least amount of high value players for the Steelers over the last 12 seasons.
Good Value: Landry Jones (2013)
Although the value Landry Jones brought the Steelers was highly debatable within Steelers Nation, he spent five seasons with the team with three of them serving as the back-up quarterback. In that time, Jones started five games and had a 3–2 record with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Low Value: Thaddeus Gibson (2010)
Gibson made the 53-man roster for the Steelers after being drafted in the fourth round out of Ohio State in 2010. Inactive for the first six weeks of the season, Gibson was released in order to make room for another defensive lineman (Steve McClendon) due to the injury of Aaron Smith. The Steelers were not able to get Gibson on to the practice squad as he was claimed off waivers by the San Francisco 49ers, but only appeared in two games.
High Value: William Gay (2007)
Although he spent one season with the Arizona Cardinals in the middle of his career, Gay had two different five-year stretches with the Steelers. He appeared in all 116 regular season games in which he was under contract with the Steelers, ranking him 29th all time in franchise history. His 5 interceptions returned for touchdowns as a Steeler is tied with Rod Woodson for the all-time mark.
Good Value: Jesse James (2015)
I personally think James is close to the high value range. Out of Penn State, James appeared in 56 games for the Steelers as their number two tight end. James turned his 120 receptions for 1,189 yards and nine touchdowns into a very lucrative deal with the Detroit Lions for the 2019 season.
Low Value: Cameron Stephenson (2007)
Drafted in the fifth round out of Rutgers, Stevenson failed to make the 53-man roster and landed on the Packers practice squad.After dealing with an injury, he spent three seasons bouncing around on the practice squad of several NFL teams before going on to play in the UFL and AFL.
High Value: Antonio Brown (2010), Vince Williams (2013)
Of course Antonio Brown is one of the best six round picks in NFL history with seven Pro Bowls and four All Pro selections. But Vince Williams has also been a great value pick for a sixth-rounder. Appearing in all but three games since he was drafted, Williams has started 47 games and has over 300 tackles.
Good Value: Ryan Mundy (2008)
In his four years with Pittsburgh, Mundy was a core special team player and spot starter. With one interception and two fumble recoveries while in Pittsburgh, Mundy did go on to have a successful year in Chicago with four INT‘s, a touchdown, and over a hundred tackles.
Low Value: Colin Holba (2017)
While many Steeler fans were puzzled at selecting a long snapper during the draft, it appeared that the team had a plan in place when Greg Warren was forced to retire due to injury. But Holba couldn’t win the job in camp, and now is only known for winning the team’s home run derby in Latrobe.
High Value: Kelvin Beachum (2012)
At pick 248 in the NFL draft, Kelvin Beachum is tied with Keon Adams (2017) as the lowest draft pick the Steelers have taken since 1992. Considered a project out of SMU, Beachum started the last 5 games of his rookie season. He went on to start 39 total games for the Steelers before injuring his knee part way through the 2015 season. Since departing from Pittsburgh after the emergence of Alejandro Villanueva, Beachum has been a full-time starter for the last three seasons for both the Jaguars and Jets.
Good Value: Tyler Matakevich (2016)
Like him or not, Matakevich is exactly what a team would hope to get out of a seventh round draft pick. Locked into the back-up linebacker roll, Dirty Red is a core special teams player who has only been inactive for one game in his three-year career.
Low Value: Joshua Frazier (2018)
The first player the Steelers have drafted out of Alabama since to Deshae Townsend in 1998, Frazier was a player the Steelers hoped could take the back-up nose tackle job from Daniel McCullers. It also helped that his college position coach had just come on board with the Steelers. Unfortunately, Frazier didn’t even impress enough to make the practice squad.