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Grading the Pittsburgh Steelers 2016 Draft class: Postseason Edition

The Pittsburgh Steelers had a draft class unlike some of the previous classes, one where several players were major contributors in Year 1. Time to take an honest look at each player drafted in 2016.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

There are some people, those NFL Draft experts and analysts, who like to slap grades on draft classes just minutes after the final selection of the 7th round has been announced.

Talk about idiotic.

Throwing a grade on a group of individuals who have never played a snap in the NFL, let alone with their particular team, is laughable, but those who write those articles have a job to do. Nonetheless, the grades don’t stop there. They grade them at each quarter of the season, and obviously after the season has ended.

Although I feel grading new players even after just one season is a bit too knee jerky for me, it is more realistic than heaping grades when these young players haven’t had a snap under their belts at the professional level.

This past weekend I was doing some google searches to find some grades to compare, and came across several grades for the Steelers overall draft class, but particularly Artie Burns.

Those who frequent this site know what was said when the Steelers saw William Jackson III get taken a pick before them by the Cincinnati Bengals and fans thought the team got flustered and picked Burns.

Burns’ grade from several media outlets ranged from a D to a B-, but nothing higher. In their words, he was the epitome of a reach pick. As for the Steelers’ overall draft class, later picks salvaged them from the bottom of the barrel, but most agreed the class was a middle-of-the-road group.

I wonder if they still think that after Burns, Sean Davis and Javon Hargrave all did more than just play, but started and were extremely impactful on the team’s defense. With that said, I wanted to take the time to look at each rookie’s 2016, and give them a grade, along with an overall grade.

Time to get out the red pen and do some grading...

Round 1: CB Artie Burns

The prized pick of the 2016 draft started slow with an injury which kept him out most of training camp, but when inserted into the starting lineup he did nothing but improve steadily. He still has a lot of work to do, but to say he silenced his critics with his play is an understatement, in my opinion.

Grade: B

Round 2: Safety Sean Davis

The versatile defensive back from University of Maryland was able to start the season in the slot for injured cornerback Senquez Golson, but after a demotion he worked his tail off and eventually started over Robert Golden. From there you saw Davis’ confidence and talent show on a weekly basis, and there is a reason why he was named the team’s rookie of the year.

Grade: A

Round 3: DL Javon Hargrave

No one wants an injury to lead to them seeing more playing time, but Cameron Heyward’s injured pectoral muscle was just what the doctor ordered for Hargrave. After looking overmatched and overpowered early in the season, Hargrave started to show what he was capable of from a pass rushing standpoint later in the season. His play was good enough fans might be salivating thinking about Stephon Tuitt, Hargrave and Heyward anchoring the defensive front next season.

Grade: B+

Round 4: OT Jerald Hawkins

Hawkins was told not to declare early for the NFL Draft. Rather, he was advised to stay at LSU for another season. He left anyways, and was the 4th round pick for the Steelers. Unfortunately a torn labrum in his shoulder ended his season, but expect big things from a healthy Hawkins with a year under his belt in 2017. He could be the swing tackle the team was missing in 2016.


Round 5: No Pick

Round 6: OLB Travis Feeney

I wish I could say how Feeney performed in his time with the New Orleans Saints, but the speedy and athletic linebacker was snatched off the practice squad for a reason. It was unlikely Feeney did anything more than play special teams or the occasional sub package role in the black and gold, but you still have to wonder “what if”.


Round 7: WR Demarcus Ayers

Ayers, from Houston, was thought to be nothing more than a return specialist to potentially take punt return duties away from Antonio Brown. Brown continued to perform those duties in 2016, but Ayers showed he is capable of much more than fielding fair catches. In fact, he looks more like the latest smaller, but shifty, wide receiver to come from the wide receiver factory which is Steelers headquarters.

Grade: B

Round 7: ILB Tyler Matakevich

There were some who were more excited for the man they call “Dirty Red” than they were one of the top three selections. Matakevich made the team, but solely as a special teams player. He never really got a chance to show his stuff on the defensive side of the ball, outside of the occasional goal line situation, but with a year under his belt he could make a move depending on the future of Lawrence Timmons.

Grade: B


This draft class was solid. Nothing more, nothing less. They got three bona fide starters with their first three picks, but after that was a mixed bag of goods with surprises and disappointments. Nonetheless, although this class wouldn’t get an ‘A’ from me, yet, they are much better than the typical Draftnik post-draft grades.

Overall Grade: B

Let us know your grades for the 2016 draft class below in the comment section.