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Early Steelers draft picks who didn’t finish their rookie contracts

Rookie deals that didn’t work out.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

When Keeanu Benton signed his rookie deal with the Steelers last week, he made a tiny bit of history. He’s the first player drafted 49th overall to receive guaranteed money on the third year of the deal. It seems like a safe bet. After all, how many Steelers 2nd round rookies are cut before their rookie deal ends? Let’s look at the most high profile draft picks who failed to finish out their rookie contract.

Senquez Golson - 56th overall, 2015

A little more than 3 months after the Steelers drafted him in the 2nd round, Golson had season-ending surgery on his shoulder. 12 months later, he suffered a Lisfranc injury that would cost him the entire 2016 season. 364 days after that, Golson suffered his third season-ending injury during camp, causing the Steelers to finally waive him. He never played a down in the black and gold.

Sammie Coates - 87th overall, 2015

Coates very limited action his rookie year, sitting behind Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant, and Darrius Heyward-Bey on the depth chart. In 2016, he climbed to 3rd on the depth chart, due to Bryant’s season-long suspension. But in week 5 against the Jets, he broke a finger and needed stitches in-game. That injury seemed to affect the rest of his season, as he only recorded 2 catches in his final 9 games. The following August, Coates needed knee arthroscopy, forcing him to miss half of training camp. The emergence of rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster allowed Kevin Colbert to trade him to Cleveland in September, 2017 for a 6th round pick.

Dri Archer - 97th overall, 2014

The fastest player of the draft (4.26 seconds 40 at the combine), but never found a role in the Steelers offense. He went from 50 offensive snaps his rookie season to just 3 in 2015. In November of that year, Pittsburgh waived Archer, replacing him with Jacoby Jones.

Curtis Brown - 95th overall, 2011

Brown landed on IR in 2011, 2012 & 2013. He played in only 7 games in that time. In March of 2014, he was cut, along with Larry Foote, in a move that analysts said helped Pittsburgh retain Jason Worilds, Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller.

Kraig Urbik - 79th overall, 2009

Urbik was considered one of the top guards in the draft, but he found himself behind Ramon Foster on the depth chart his rookie year. Kraig was waived before the start of his second season.

Limas Sweed - 53rd overall, 2008

Even before his infamous drop, Sweed was sitting behind players like Mike Wallace and Shaun McDonald on the depth chart. During minicamp in year 3, Sweed injured his Achilles, forcing him to get season-ending surgery. He was still battling injuries a year later, when Pittsburgh waived him in September, 2011.

Bruce Davis - 88th overall, 2008

Pittsburgh asked Davis to convert from a defensive end to a 3-4 outside linebacker. The transition was difficult for him. Davis was inactive most of his rookie season, and waived before week 1 in 2009.

Alonzo Jackson - 59th overall, 2003

Another DE who shifted to OLB in the 3-4, Jackson could not get on the field. He appeared in 9 games in his first two seasons, contributing mostly on special teams. Pittsburgh cut him prior to the 2005 season.

Scott Shields - 59th overall, 1999

The safety from Weber State had four interceptions his rookie year. But in year 2, Coach Cowher named veteran free agent signing Brent Alexander the starting free safety. Pittsburgh cut him in June of 2001.

Jeremy Staat - 41st overall, 1998

Staat was mainly a special teamer his rookie season. He appeared in all 16 games in 1999, but looked overmatched by most offensive linemen. He was released before the start of training camp in 2001.

Jamain Stephens - 29th overall, 1996

Stephens was admittedly a project player from the start. He managed to start 10 games in 1998. But he infamously failed the conditioning test on the first day of training camp in 1999. Bill Cowher cut him three hours later.

Huey Richardson - 15th overall, 1991

Richardson appeared in only 5 games his rookie year, earning 2 tackles. He wasn’t big enough to play defensive end, so the Steelers made him an inside linebacker. When Cowher became head coach in 1992, he traded Richardson to Washington for a 7th round pick. Apparently, if Washington wasn’t willing to trade, Richardson would have just been released.

Darryl Sims - 20th overall, 1985

Sims is considered one of Pittsburgh’s biggest draft busts of all-time. Although he appeared in all 32 games his first two seasons, he never became a starter on the defensive line. He moved on to Cleveland in year 3.

Gabe Rivera - 21st overall, 1983

The player who Pittsburgh chose instead of Dan Marino. He earned 2 sacks in his first 6 games, but in October of his rookie season, he was paralyzed in a drunk driving accident.

Kyle Chrise is the host of “What Yinz Talkin’ Bout.” New episodes are released every Thursday. Check out the latest episode below: