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What happened to the Steelers’ 2019 to 2021 draft classes?

With the 2022 NFL draft only one week away, let’s look at how some of the Steelers’ drafts played out.

Chicago Bears v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The 2022 NFL Draft is a mere week away. Last offseason, we dove into a Steelers NFL draft class starting with the 2004 NFL Draft and outlined a successive draft each week. In doing so, each player selected by the Steelers was highlighted as to how their NFL career, or lack thereof, took shape. Each year was outlined with the last three draft classes all combined into one since a large number of the players were still with the team.

Since it worked last season, and since a lot of the research has already been done, let’s look back at they players from these drafts yet again, this time looking at two different years, on separate days, each week leading up to the last week of April. For players no longer in the league, a lot of the information will be the same while others will be updated where needed.

Part 16 of 16 will highlight the Steelers 2019 to 2021 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:


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
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 six 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. All players are entering their final year of their rookie contract except possibly Devin Bush as the Steelers have a few weeks to decide on his fifth-year option.

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 signed with the New Orleans Saints following the 2021 draft but was released in late August. Smith caught on with the Las Vegas Raiders practice squad in mid November and was signed to the 53-man roster after being elevated several times and is under contract for 2022.

Isaiah Buggs, Defensive tackle, Alabama, Round 6, Pick 192

Buggs made the Steelers 53-man roster all three seasons in the NFL. After the injury to Tyson Alualu in Week 2 of 2021, Buggs was the starting nose tackle for the Steelers through the next eight games despite being credited with six starts due to the Steelers opening in a different defensive package. But after Week 11, Buggs fell out favor and was not active for the remainder of the season. Released prior to Week 18, Buggs landed on the practice squad of the Las Vegas Raiders.

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 for 2021 but was waived in late August. Gray was claimed of waivers by the Tennesse Titans but failed to make the 53-main roster. On and off the Titans practice squad in 2021, Gray signed a Reserve/Future contract with Tennessee for 2022.


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
Carlos Davis, Defensive tackle, Nebraska, Round 7, Pick 232

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. After losing one player for 2021, three other players in McFarland, Dotson, and Davis spent part of the season on the Reserve/Injured List.

No longer on the Steelers roster:

Antoine Brooks Jr, Safety, Maryland, Round 6, Pick 198

Antoine Brooks landed on the Steelers practice squad to start his rookie season. 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. Getting the first crack at the nickelcornerback position for the Steelers in training camp in 2021, Brooks was injured and was waived/injured at the end of August. Ultimately released at the beginning of September, Brooks Landed on the Los Angeles Rams practice squad. Promoted to the active roster ahead of Week 10, Brooks was waived at the end of January but resigned to the practice squad for the Super Bowl. Brooks signed a Reserve/Future contract with the Rams for 2022.


Still on the Steelers roster:

Najee Harris, Running back, Alabama, Round 1, Pick 24
Pat Freiermuth, Tight end, Penn St, Round 2, Pick 55
Kendrick Green, Center, Illinois, Round 3, Pick 87
Dan Moore Jr, Offensive tackle, Texas A&M, Round 4, Pick 128
Buddy Johnson, Linebacker, Texas A&M, Round 4, Pick 128
Isaiahh Loudermilk, Defensive tackle, Wisconsin, Round 5, Pick 156
Tre Norwood, Defensive back, Oklahoma, Round 7, Pick 245
Pressley Harvin III, Punter, Georgia Tech, Round 7, Pick 254

With nine picks made in the 2021 NFL draft, the Steelers had eight players make the roster and appear in games for Pittsburgh their rookie season. With six players starting games for the Steelers their first season, not including punter Presley Harvin, the 2021 rookie class was utilized more than any other in franchise history. Additionally, running back Najee Harris was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2021.

No longer on the Steelers roster:

Quincy Roche, Outside linebacker, Miami, Round 6, Pick 216

Failing to make the 53-man roster his rookie season, Quincy Roche did not even get a chance to land on the Steelers practice squad as he was claimed off waivers by the New York Giants. In his rookie season in New York, Roche appeared in 14 games with three starts with 38 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and a forced fumble.