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What happened to the Steelers’ 2018 to 2020 draft classes?

Leading up to the 2021 NFL draft now only one week away, let’s look at how some of the Steelers’ drafts played out.

NFL: AUG 09 Preseason - Buccaneers at Steelers Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2021 NFL draft is here! Each of the last fifteen weeks leading up to the draft, we doveinto an NFL draft class starting with the Steelers 2004 NFL draft. In doing so, each player selected by the Steelers was highlighted as to how their NFL career, or lack thereof, took shape. This week, the remaining three drafts will be combined as many of those draft choices are still with the Steelers on their rookie deals.

Part 15 of 15 will highlight the Steelers 2018 to 2020 NFL draft, talking about each class as a whole and discuss the players no longer with the organization individually.

So let’s take a look at the last three years of players drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers:


2018

Still on the Steelers roster:

Terrell Edmunds, Safety, Virginia Tech, Round 1, Pick 28
James Washington, Wide receiver, Oklahoma St, Round 2, Pick 60
Mason Rudolph, Quarterback, Oklahoma St, Round 3, Pick 76
Chukwuma Okorafor, Tackle, Western Michigan, Round 3, Pick 92
Marcus Allen, Safety, Penn St, Round 5, Pick 148
Jaylen Samuels, Running back, North Carolina St, Round 5, Pick 165

Not only are six of the seven draft choices from 2018 still on the Steelers roster, they have all appeared in a significant number of games. The least appearances have been by quarterback Mason Rudolph who has officially logged 15 NFL games. With almost all of these players coming to the end of their rookie deal, it will be interesting to see next offseason how many the Steelers are able to retain and how many are lost to free agency. At this time, Terrell Edmunds fifth-year option has not been picked up, and the Steelers have until Monday, May 3, to make their decision. The only player not technically on their rookie deal is safety/linebacker Marcus Allen as was released and spent part of the 2019 season on the Steelers practice squad, giving him a different contract.

No longer on the Steelers roster:

Joshua Frazier, Defensive tackle, Alabama, Round 7, Pick 246

Not only did Frazier not make the Steelers roster his rookie season, he did not even make the practice squad. Picked up briefly at the end of the season on the practice squad of the Detroit Lions, Frazier was released in January 2019. Fraser was a member of the Birmingham Iron of the AAF, but was placed on injured reserve after the team’s second game. In May 2019, Fraser announced he was retiring from professional football.


2019

Still on the Steelers roster:

Devin Bush Jr, Linebacker, Michigan, Round 1, Pick 10
Diontae Johnson, Wide receiver, Toledo, Round 3, Pick 66
Justin Layne, Cornerback, Michigan St, Round 3, Pick 76
Benny Snell Jr, Running back, Kentucky, Round 4, Pick 122
Zach Gentry, Tight end, Michigan, Round 5, Pick 141
Isaiah Buggs, Defensive tackle, Alabama, Round 6, Pick 192
Ulysees Gilbert III, Linebacker, Akron, Round 6, Pick 207

With nine picks in the 2019 NFL draft, the Steelers have had eight players appear in games for the black and gold. Additionally, the seven members still remaining with the Steelers have been on the 53-man roster their entire careers with the exception of time spent on the Reserve/Injured List. Unfortunately three members of the seven players remaining in Devin Bush, Zach Gentry, and Ulysees Gilbert, have all spent time on IR with Gilbert missing time during both seasons.

No longer on the Steelers roster:

Sutton Smith, Linebacker, Northern Illinois, Round 6, Pick 175

One of three sixth-round picks in 2019, Sutton Smith dealt with injury throughout training camp and never really got going as part of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Released as part of roster cut downs, Smith was not signed to the Steelers practice squad. Spending one week on the Jaguars practice squad in October, Smith was signed by the Steelers on their practice squad for one day in November. The following week, he was signed back to the practice squad but released six days later. Smith finished the 2019 season on the Seattle Seahawks practice squad and was signed to a Reserve/Future contract. Unfortunately, Smith was waived in late July as teams had to cut their offseason rosters from 90 players down to 80 players for the 2020 season. Smith has not caught on in the NFL since.

Derwin Gray, Tackle, Maryland, Round 7, Pick 219

After spending the 2019 season on the Steelers practice squad, Gray landed back in the familiar spot in 2020. After the injuries to Zach Banner and Stefen Wisniewski, Gray was promoted to the active roster for Week 2. Going into Week 16, the Steelers were extremely thin at inside linebacker and signed Tegray Scales from the practice squad. The corresponding move was the release of Gray, who many believe the Steelers were hoping to get back to the practice squad. Unfortunately, the Jacksonville Jaguars claimed Gray off waivers. Gray signed his exclusive rights free agent tender with the Jaguars this offseason.


2020

Still on the Steelers roster:

Chase Claypool, Wide receiver, Notre Dame, Round 2, Pick 49
Alex Highsmith, Linebacker, Charlotte, Round 3, Pick 102
Anthony McFarland Jr, Running back, Maryland, Round 4, Pick 124
Kevin Dotson, Guard, Louisiana, Round 4, Pick 145
Antoine Brooks Jr, Safety, Maryland, Round 6, Pick 198
Carlos Davis, Defensive tackle, Nebraska, Round 7, Pick 232

Yes, that’s all of the picks still on the team. I’ve noted many times before, the Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 NFL draft has already made franchise history. Even though it was the first year since 1968 the Steelers did not have a first round draft pick, the Steelers had every player drafted appear in a game their rookie season for the black and gold. Not only had this never happened before, the Steelers have never had a draft where every player appeared for the Steelers at any point in their career, let alone their rookie season. With such a strong rookie campaign from a number of their players, the 2020 draft class is looking strong in the early stages. All the players were on the 53-man roster for the entire season with the exception of Antoine Brooks who landed on the practice squad. After being elevated four times throughout the season, twice as a regular replacement and twice as a COVID-19 replacement, Books was signed to the 53-man roster prior to the Steelers Week 13 game, putting all members of the Steelers 2020 draft class on the active roster to end the season.