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What happened to the Steelers’ 2020 to 2022 draft classes?

With the 2023 NFL draft only hours away, let’s look at how some of the Steelers’ drafts played out.

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 NFL Draft is this week! The last few offseasons, 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 the last two seasons, 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. The last two years started with 2004 because Ben Roethlisberger had played the previous year. With Big Ben now retired, we’ll start with the 2011 draft since Cam Heyward is the oldest drafted player on the Steelers from 2022. For players no longer in the league, a lot of the information will be the same while others will be updated where needed.

Part 10 of 10 will highlight the Steelers 2020 to 2022 NFL draft, talking about each class as a whole and discussing 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:

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

I’ve noted many times before, the Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 NFL draft 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, two more players were added to the list as not being on the Steelers roster at this time.

No longer on the Steelers roster:

Chase Claypool, Wide receiver, Notre Dame, Round 2, Pick 49

After scoring 11 total touchdowns his rookie season, Chase Claypool saw similar numbers in receptions and yards in his first two seasons but had a big drop off in finding the end zone. Going into his third year, his first without Ben Roethlisberger as the quarterback, Claypool only had 311 yards through eight games on 32 receptions with one touchdown in 2022. During the Steelers bye week, which coincided with the NFL trade deadline, Claypool was sent to the Chicago Bears for a 2023 second-round draft pick. Claypool struggled to get going with the Bears only having 140 yards in seven games with no touchdowns. More importantly, Chicago Bears did not win a single game once Claypool was acquired which brought their second-round draft pick to be the first selection in the round.

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 but was waived in May. Brooks is currently a member of the Seattle Sea Dragons of the XFL

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

Still having his entire career with a Pittsburgh Steelers, Carlos Davis spent the 2022 season on the Steelers practice squad. Elevated for the Steelers Week 8 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles, Davis played 12 defensive snaps and got his first career NFL sack. Following the season, Davis did not sign a reserve/future contract with the Steelers and is still a free agent.


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
Quincy Roche, Outside linebacker, Miami, Round 6, Pick 216
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. Their second season saw another player not make the roster or practice squad in Buddy Johnson, but after the season the Steelers were able to bring back Quincy Roche of a reserve/future contract. Being the first draft class in the NFL with a 17-game season, Dan Moore Jr. now has the Steelers record of the most starts in his first two seasons with 33.

No longer on the Steelers roster:

Buddy Johnson, Linebacker, Texas A&M, Round 4, Pick 128

Often inactive, either as a healthy scratch or due to injury, Buddy Johnson was placed on the reserve/injured list ahead of week 18 of his rookie season. Despite being a fourth-round pick, Johnson did not make the Steelers 53-man roster in his second season, nor was he signed to the practice squad. Ahead of Week 1, Johnson did land on the 49ers practice squad but was released in mid October. Johnson signed with the Houston Texans practice squad in November 2022 but was not given a contract following the season and is currently a free agent.


Still on the Steelers roster:

Kenny Pickett, Quarterback, Pittsburgh, Round 1, Pick 20
George Pickens, Wide receiver, Georgia, Round 2, Pick 52
DeMarvin Leal, Defensive tackle, Texas A&M, Round 3, Pick 84
Calvin Austin III, Wide receiver, Memphis, Round 4, Pick 138
Connor Heyward, Tight end, Michigan St, Round 6, Pick 208
Mark Robinson, Linebacker, Mississippi, Round 7, Pick 225

The Steelers called on their 2022 rookie class often, but not necessarily early. In the first game of the season, only three players saw the field with George Pickens leading the way with 45 offensive snaps followed by DeMarvin Leal with 17 defensive snaps along with two snaps on special teams. Connor Heyward was the only other member of the 2022 rookie class to see the field to start the season and that was on 22 special team snaps and one on offense. But by the end of the season, all of the rookie class were contributing significantly with the exception of Calvin Austin who spent the entire season on the Reserve/Injured List.

No longer on the Steelers roster:

Chris Oladokun, Quarterback, South Dakota St, Round 7, Pick 241

With the Steelers having one quarterback left from the 2021 season, signing one of the bigger names in free agency in Mitch Trubisky, and being the only team to draft a quarterback in the first round of the 2022 draft in Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh was not an attractive landing spot for undrafted rookie free agent quarterbacks. With this in mind, the Steelers drafted Chris Oladokun with their final selection. Used mainly as an insurance policy in case they were dealing with injury, every quarterback was available for the Steelers throughout training camp and Oladokun did not see the field in the preseason and barely in practice. Released, ahead of the Steelers third preseason game, Oladokun signed with the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad for the season. After the Chiefs were victorious in Super Bowl LVII, Oladokun signed a Reserve/Contract to stay in Kansas City.