Grades. Winners. Losers. Jumps for Joy/Smashed Remotes (shameless article plug). You can’t have any sort of post-draft discussion without such things.
As it pertains to the recently-concluded 2020 NFL Draft, and the Steelers performance in it, I don’t know what grade you’d give them. I don’t know if they were losers.
But they certainly weren’t winners.
They were never going to be, not with only six picks, not without a first-round selection.
What criteria do people normally use to grade a team’s draft class? One way is by determining whether or not it addressed its most pressing needs. Another way is by determining whether or not a team got great draft value in as many rounds as possible. A third way could be based on the selection of a well-known name or three. A fourth way could be based on the number of draft picks it had at its disposal—a high quantity could help a team achieve all of the above.
The Steelers had needs at various positions, and determining which was the most pressing was a matter of opinion. As for draft value? Chase Claypool over (insert a name you think should have been selected here) in the second round? Alex Highsmith over (ditto) in the third round? The Steelers didn’t impress many people in that department. As far as well-known names, Claypool was certainly one, but so was Denzel Mims, receiver, Baylor, a player whose draft value was deemed to be higher by many.
And, of course, the lack of picks. People love those picks. People go nuts over lots of picks. Give the people quantity over the number one overall selection, they’ll sleep very well. When it came to that, the Steelers sent many folks to bed hungry—very, very hungry.
But I knew the Steelers weren’t going to satisfy many in the 2020 NFL Draft. I knew this for months. I knew this as far back as last September when Pittsburgh traded its 2020 first-round selection to the Dolphins in-exchange for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. Throw in the fifth-round choice for Seahawks tight end Nick Vannett, as well as the original 2020 third-round pick that went to the Broncos in the trade that allowed Pittsburgh to move up and select inside linebacker Devin Bush in the previous draft, and let’s just say I was prepared to read a bad report card or two.
I was also prepared for the angst that would result from the Steelers not being able to measure up to their AFC North rivals on draft weekend—including the Ravens, a team that had 10 picks to Pittsburgh’s six. Baltimore would also get to draft six players by the time the Steelers picked two.
Sure, enough, the Ravens drew universal praise. They were in-need of a linebacker. Boom! Patrick Queen, linebacker, LSU, first round (28th, overall). In the second round, it was that guy the Steelers should have taken (said many), J.K. Dobbins, running back, Ohio State (55th, over all—or six picks after the Steelers passed on him). Baltimore even had four selections in the third round—talk about finding great value in a draft that was considered to be deep at so many positions.
Anyway, I realize I’m going to come off as a total homer, but the Steelers couldn’t worry about “winning” or that their closest rivals probably would. All they could do was utilize the resources they had as well as they could.
That’s a matter of opinion. What they did do, though, was select six players from six different positions, positions that the Steelers needed to add depth to heading into the draft. If all the stars align, and every single draft pick actually makes the team, Pittsburgh will head into the regular season in much better shape at wide-receiver, outside linebacker, running back, guard, safety and defensive line than it was entering the draft.
If the Steelers can achieve such things—or even come close—they’ll likely win something far more tangible than post-draft praise in 2020.