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A Letter From the Editor: More of the Steelers draft picks will fail than succeed

The Pittsburgh Steelers are known for growing through the draft, but it is important to know more picks fail than succeed.

NFL: JUL 26 Steelers Training Camp Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NFL Draft is one of the largest sporting events in today’s sports world. And, yes, everyone who knows what the draft is realizes this event doesn’t actually involve sport. It involves selections of players, but more importantly, it involves hope.

Everyone who is a fan of an NFL team has hope during the draft. Even if their favorite team doesn’t have their full allotment of picks, the hope is these new players might be the main part of the equation which leads to a championship.

However, at least in the case of the Pittsburgh Steelers, you realize far more draft picks fail to stick with the team than earn that elusive second contract. In fact, I went back and looked at this for one of my “Let’s Ride” podcasts (which can be heard anywhere you get your favorite podcasts on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings).

In the last 10 years, how many draft picks have earned a second contract with the Steelers?

The Steelers are known as a “homegrown” organization. Building through the draft, not being big buyers in free agency. And there are a lot of factors which dictate whether players are given a second contract, or if they find it elsewhere. The salary cap, and other financials, are obviously a huge player in a team’s decision on players.

What I did was go back to 2013, and see just how many players earned a second contract with the Steelers. I included a franchise tag year as a second contract. Next to the year are how many players were drafted in the entire class.

2013 (9)

  • Le’Veon Bell
  • Landry Jones
  • Vince Williams

2014 (9)

  • Stephon Tuitt
  • Daniel McCullers

2015 (8)

  • Bud Dupree

2016 (7)

  • Sean Davis

2017 (8)

  • T.J. Watt
  • JuJu Smith-Schuster
  • Cam Sutton
  • Joshua Dobbs

2018 (7)

  • Terrell Edmunds
  • Mason Rudolph
  • Chuks Okorafor

2019 (9)

  • Diontae Johnson
  • Zach Gentry

To me, this doesn’t show the Steelers not being able to draft, but rather the fact many of the players taken in the latter portions of the draft rarely fail to stick around with the team. Sure, there are the Vince Williams and Daniel McCullers type players, but those are the exceptions in this equation.

When looking back at the list of players who stuck around for at least one more year after their rookie contracts, the key was to avoid the 2015 and 2016 seasons where only one player earned a second deal.

Again, there are a lot of factors in this equation (see Javon Hargrave as a part of the 2016 class), but consider this a general warning as the Steelers get ready for the tale end of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and training camp on the horizon.

(Note: The Letter From the Editor article runs every Sunday during the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason.)