Jason Worilds, Marcus Gilbert, Le’Veon Bell, Sean Spence, Senquez Golson, Sean Davis, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Diontae Johnson, Alex Highsmith...and Dermontti Dawson; what do all of these former Steelers draft picks have in common?
I had no idea who any of them were when the Steelers selected them in the second or third round. Judging by the Internet comments and phone calls I read/received after Pittsburgh made some of these picks, I doubt you were familiar with some of them, either.
What, you say you had Johnson, a third-round pick out of Toledo in the 2019 NFL Draft, fourth among receivers on your own personal big board? I’m not talking about you, someone who obviously bathes in draft knowledge.
I’m talking about the rest of us; the casual draft fans who read all the big boards, all the mock drafts and have a general idea of what the top 50 or 60 prospects are by the time the real thing rolls around. Some of us do this because we find it interesting but in a casual way—not in an “I can tell you the designer of the suit Man No. 4 was wearing in that one scene from Gone With the Wind” kind of way. Others do it because we have to prepare for a live BTSC contributors mock draft on the Steelers Hangover podcast and don’t want to look foolish in front of the other BTSC contributors (I will protect the identity of that person, but I can assure you he isn’t left-handed and/or kind of bald).
Anyway, once you get past those first 50 or 60 names, things get kind of fuzzy for the casual fan. Maybe that’s why Day 2 of Steelers draft weekend—the day teams make selections in the second and third rounds—is always so damn frustrating.
I have a theory as to why, and it has to do with so many prospects who spent months being mocked in the first round still sitting there by the time Pittsburgh makes its first and/or second selection on Friday night. Maybe the Steelers head into the second round in need of a receiver, but they take Worilds, an outside linebacker/EDGE from Virginia Tech, instead. I didn’t know who Worilds was when his name was announced as the Steelers’ second-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. I knew who Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate was, however. My brother also knew about the Golden one and couldn’t have dialed the phone faster the moment he heard Pittsburgh skipped over him to take Worilds.
I remember the “huh?” sentiment that flooded all of social media the moment the Steelers selected Golson, a 5’9” corner from Mississippi, in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. True, Pittsburgh needed cornerback help—when didn’t it in those days?—but who the heck was Golson? Sadly, people are still asking that question about Golson to this very day.
Fortunately, they’re not asking that about Smith-Schuster, the gem of a receiver the Steelers selected out of USC in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. In retrospect, Smith-Schuster was a first-round talent, but in a draft where so many teams needed defensive backs—a record 19 were taken by the end of the second round—he represented great value when the Steelers called his name at the end of Round 2.
Maybe the Steelers would have taken Smith-Schuster even if the draft board wasn’t picked clean of cornerbacks by that point—this was still an era when the team needed cornerback help. That’s the thing about these big boards. Ours most likely differ from theirs, and I’m sure that contributes greatly to so many social media “WTF!” moments on the second day of the draft.
Do you know who was the all-time poster child for Day 2 excitement for yours truly? Limas Sweed, a receiver the Steelers picked in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft. Sweed, the Texas product, spent months as a first-round prospect, and for him to fall to the Steelers in the second round, well, that offered great value. I was at a friend’s party when another friend heard the news that Sweed was coming to Pittsburgh; to this day, I can still see the huge grin on my friend’s face the moment he found out.
And, to this day, I can still feel myself smacking my head in disbelief when Sweed dropped that sure touchdown in the 2008/2009 AFC title game.
The best example of the “Who the bleep is that guy!” second/third-round moment that actually turned out great was the selection of center Dawson, a second-round pick out of Kentucky in the 1988 NFL Draft. I don’t have to explain Dawson’s Hall of Fame legacy—it’s well known and well documented—but hopefully it will be a great reminder to not get so upset next Friday night if you don’t know one or both of Pittsburgh’s draft choices.
But probably not.