The months upon months of speculation have finally come to a close as the Pittsburgh Steelers were awarded a fourth-round compensatory draft pick based on 2020 free agency.
Officially the 141st pick in the draft, the Steelers will now have eight picks in the 2021 draft. The Steelers first four selections will all be their regularly awarded picks while the final four will all be as a result of the compensatory process or trade. The Steelers fifth-round draft pick was traded to the Baltimore Ravens for Chris Wormley and the Steelers received their seventh-round draft pick. The Steelers sixth-round draft pick was traded to the Miami Dolphins as part of the Mikah Fitzpatrick trade and the Steelers received their seventh-round draft pick. The Steelers received Tampa Bay‘s sixth-round draft pick as part of the Jerald Hawkins trade in 2019 and the Steelers surrendered their seventh-round draft pick.
In order to gain their compensatory pick in 2021, the Steelers had a net loss of three qualifying Compensatory Free Agents (CFAs) from 2020. This means the Steelers could have been in line for as many as three compensatory draft picks, but since there are only 32 picks which can be used, it was only the top 32 that were assigned. According to the projections at overthecap.com, the Steelers were expected to have two selections in the top 32 falling in the fourth round and the sixth round. The other CFA loss from the Steelers was also projected in the sixth round but fell outside of the top 32. Unfortunately, it appears that the Steelers just missed on the second two selections if OTC is correct.
To remind everyone how the compensatory formula works, teams are only eligible for a draft pick if they have lost more qualifying CFAs than they gained. For example, the Steelers lost five CFAs yet only gained two who qualified. The signing of Stefen Wisniewski was not for a high enough salary to qualify as a CFA (within the top 35% of the league), much like the loss of Artie Burns did not qualify due to his salary.
The five free agent losses the Steelers had in 2020 were Javon Hargrave, B.J. Finney, Sean Davis, Tyler Matakevich, and Nick Vannett. The Steelers CFA net gains were Eric Ebron and Derek Watt. The pick the Steelers received was from the loss of Javon Hargrave to the Philadelphia Eagles where he signed a 3-year, $39 million contract.
Notice Sean Davis is on the list as a Steelers loss despite playing 16 games for Pittsburgh in 2020. This is something new in the 2020 CBA. The old rule stated a player must remain on the team’s roster through Week 10 of the NFL season. The new CBA has no such date listed in their expanded covering of the compensatory process other than the Monday following the NFL draft. The fact the Steelers did not get a second compensatory pick leaves open the possibility that Davis did not count in the process after all. The exact cancellation is not known at this time to determine if this was the case.
Only time will tell if the Steelers were able to turn the departure of their unrestricted free agents in 2020 into something substantial. For now, it is the 141st selection in the 2021 NFL draft. Whether it is used for trade or for a selection, it will could be several seasons until we see how much the Steelers benefit from the extra pick.
UPDATE: The NFL is issuing a new compensatory picks list due to a mistake according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. This moves the Steelers pick to 140, but the pick affected did not count toward the 32 picks awarded so the Steelers remain with one pick.
Update: The NFL plans to send a revised list of 2021 comp picks to clubs, fixing a mistake on the original list. The new rule says the #49ers are supposed to get one third-rounder in each of the next three drafts for losing Robert Saleh and Martin Mayhew, not two picks this year.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 10, 2021