The Pittsburgh Steelers were able to draft nine players in the 2021 NFL Draft, and they added eight players who went undrafted. These Undrafted Free Agents (UDFA) are clinging to a hope and a prayer to try and make the roster. However, the Steelers have shown they are never one to turn their backs on a player just because they weren’t an official draft pick for the black and gold.
The Steelers have a long history of taking UDFAs and turning them into starters. Ramon Foster, B.J. Finney, Matt Feiler and Mike Hilton make the short list of players who either turned into starters for the Steelers, or turned their careers into lucrative second contracts.
So, what about the team’s current UDFAs? Are there any diamonds in the rough who could make an impact on the roster in 2021?
First, let’s take a look at the players who were undrafted and signed with the Steelers:
- Shakur Brown, CB, Michigan State
- Calvin Bundage, LB, Oklahoma State
- Rico Bussey, WR, Hawaii
- Mark Gilbert, CB, Duke
- Isaiah McKoy, WR, Kent State
- Donovan Stiner, S, Florida
- Lamont Wade, S, Penn State
- Jamar Watson, LB, Kentucky
There are some promising names on the above list, but how do they rank among other classes in the AFC? The folks at NBC Sports ranked all UDFA classes in the AFC, and here is what they had to say about the Steelers’ group:
8. Pittsburgh Steelers
The most interesting name in Pittsburgh’s UDFA class is Michigan State CB Shakur Brown, whom I had a sixth-round grade on. I thought that was a very reasonable assessment, properly baking in a ding for Brown’s subpar athleticism. At his pro day workout, he ran a 4.6 at 5’10/186, which will likely confine him to slot duties in the NFL.
The good thing is that his feisty game and ballhawking style are strong fits as a nickel defender. In just seven games last year, Brown drew Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson, Indiana’s Whop Philyor, Penn State’s Jahan Dotson and Michigan’s Nico Collins — and ended up leading the nation with 0.7 interceptions per game. The one area Brown struggled: Getting taken over the top by longer, faster, more physically dominant receivers. Moving inside in the pros and getting taken off the field situationally by hybrid defenders will mitigate that.
Brown lacks speed, and he made only 12 starts in college. But man was he impressive in those starts, posting PFF’s seventh-highest CB grade in the FBS last season (82.2) and the highest coverage grade in the Big Ten (84.2).
I also liked Pittsburgh’s flier on Duke CB Mark Gilbert, a former top-prospect who has battled knee problems throughout his career. Worth the flier to see if he’s miraculously done with them. Probably not, but UDFA is the space for dreaming. Once upon a time, Gilbert was in too-early Round 1 mock drafts.
At this point you might be wondering who were the Top 10 in the conference, as it pertains to UDFAs? Here is the list below:
What do you think of the Steelers’ UDFAs? Do you think any of them can make the team and contribute in some way? If so, which players do you have on your radar? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.