The 2021 NFL draft is now only seven weeks away. Each week leading up to the draft, we are going to dive into an NFL draft class starting with the Steelers 2004 NFL draft. In doing so, each player selected by the Steelers will be highlighted as to how their NFL career, or lack thereof, took shape. As we get to more recent years, some will be combined as many of those draft choices are still with the Steelers.
Part 8 of 15 will highlight the Steelers 2011 NFL draft where the only player who played last season is still on the Steelers.
So let’s take a look at the seven players drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2011 NFL draft:
Defensive tackle, Ohio St.
If you don’t know what happened to Cam Heyward since being drafted by the Steelers in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft, I have to seriously question your status as a Steelers fan. The Steelers defensive captain, Heyward has been a Pro Bowler the last four seasons while also earning All-Pro honors in 2017 and 2019. Had Heyward been classified as a defensive tackle rather than defensive end earlier in his career, the Pro Bowl numbers may have been even higher. At this moment, Cam Hayward is the only player on the Pittsburgh Steelers who is under contract through the 2024 season.
Offensive tackle, Florida
Marcus Gilbert was the Steelers’ starting right tackle right out of the gate when he was drafted in 2011. When Gilbert was healthy, he was the starter every game he appeared for the Steelers except for one his rookie season. Unfortunately, between health concerns and a four-game suspension for violating the league performance-enhancing drugs policy, Gilbert was traded to the Arizona Cardinals in 2019 during the offseason for a sixth-round draft pick which the Steelers used on another Gilbert—Ulysees Gilbert III. Unfortunately, Marcus Gilbert has yet to play for the Cardinals as he landed on Injured Reserve his first season in Arizona. After opting out for the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gilbert is still under contract with the Cardinals for 2021.
Defensive back, Texas
Some players just can’t catch a break when it comes to establishing their NFL career. Defensive back Curtis Brown seemed to be one of those guys as his three NFL seasons all ended with him landing on the Reserve/Injured List. After appearing in 12 games as a rookie, Brown landed on IR in late December. The following season Brown managed 15 games before landing on IR again at the very end of the season. In 2013, Brown tore his ACL it was placed on IR in November. After being waived in the offseason, Brown spent a training camp with the New York Jets in 2015 but did not make the roster. In all, Brown played 34 games for the Steelers with no starts and had one pass defensed, one forced fumble, and 49 tackles.
Defensive back, The Citadel
When it comes to the Steelers drafting cornerbacks, Cortez Allen creates quite a cautious tale. Showing promise through his first three seasons which included 11 starts, four interceptions, one touchdown, 23 passes defensed, three forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery, Allen appeared to be on track for solid career with the Steelers. But after signing a five-year, almost $25 million contract with the Steelers in 2014, things were never quite the same. Even with two interceptions, Allen’s performance was shaky and he was benched partway through the season as the Steelers went with Brice McCain. In 2015, Allen only played in one game before landing on injured reserve and being released in the offseason only two years into his contract. Allen was never picked up by another NFL team.
Linebacker, Fresno St.
Another player who struggled with injuries in Pittsburgh was linebacker Chris Carter who landed on injured reserve towards the end of his first two seasons. Playing three seasons in Pittsburgh, Carter appeared in 29 games with four starts but only had 16 tackles and a fumble recovery. Failing to make the team in 2014, Carter bounced around the league between four other teams through 2017. Never getting another start in his career, Carter spent time with the Indianapolis Colts, Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens, and Washington Redskins.
Failing to make the Steelers roster his rookie season, Keith Williams was not signed to the Steelers practice squad following training camp. Several weeks later, Williams landed on the Buffalo Bills practice squad and did appear in two games in 2012. After getting cut by the Bills during training camp in 2013, Williams played several seasons in the Arena Football League from 2014 to 2017.
Running back, Texas Tech
Tearing his ACL during training camp, Baron Batch missed his entire rookie season with the Steelers. Making the 53-man roster in 2012, Batch appeared in 12 games where he had 25 carries for 49 yards and a touchdown along with four receptions for 31 yards. Released in November, Batch landed on the practice squad for the Steelers before being promoted back to the active roster. In 2013, Batch was cut during training camp and retired from the NFL. Currently, Batch is an artist based out of Pittsburgh.